By Aya Helal
April’s Transportation Committee meeting saw discussions revolving around making Bronson avenue safer for cyclists and building a Glebe parking garage. Ecology Ottawa was happy to see the Transportation Committee approve changes designed to make Bronson Avenue a safer route for cyclists, although it is worth mentioning that implementing these changes didnt pass without resistance. On the other hand it was discouraging to see the Transportation Committee approve a $9.5 million Glebe parking garage despite city staff presenting the Committee with a less expensive and more environmentally friendly alternative.
At the Transportation Committee meeting held on April 3rd, the changes that city staff recommended to make Bronson Avenue a safe route for cyclists were discussed. The proposed changes include painting new lines, adding signage, widening crosswalks in addition to adding traffic lights, and it is worth mentioning that these changes were proposed after the death of Carleton University graduate student Krista Johnson. Ecology Ottawa would like to express its support for Bronson Avenue being made safer for cyclists and pedestrians and congratulates the work of the city staff responsible for these recommendations, but would also like to emphasize the importance of ensuring the safety of cyclists and pedestrians on all of Ottawa’s streets.
Despite the unanimous approval, it was disconcertingly apparent that these changes were not received without resistance. In fact, despite city staff explaining that the changes would not clog traffic, city councillors were very concerned that these changes may slow traffic along Bronson Avenue. Furthermore, vice-chair of the Transportation Committee, Kanata South City Councilor Allan Hubley showed discontent that Bronson Avenue would receive cyclist and pedestrian improvements, emphasizing that smooth flow of private automobile traffic should be prioritized on arterial routes and that Bronson Avenue should be considered an exception considering Carleton University’s proximity. Take a look at this ARTICLE for more information on discussions that surrounded the changes to be implemented on Bronson Avenue. It is worrisome that private automobile flow is more of a priority to Councillor Hubley than ensuring the safety of all road users. His attitude leads one to ask if another fatal tragedy must occur before councillors act to implement Complete Streets city-wide?
The Transportation Committee saw city staff recommend a very positive proposal to implement City-Wide Parking Performance Program which would aim to increase parking meter rates when demand exceeds capacity. Ecology Ottawa would like to highlight that this approach would likely encourage residents of Ottawa to consider alternative modes of transportation. Not only will will incremental pricing for parking rates have positive implications on encouraging active transportation, but as city staff argued that implementing this approach would render the need for building a Glebe Parking Garage no longer necessary, saving the city $8 million in costs and deterring car traffic. Despite this sound argument, it was disappointing to see that a decision to approve the recommendation to implement performance pricing program was tabled for further discussion and consideration in a future meeting. Ecology Ottawa would like to see this proposal come back for discussion in an upcoming meeting, but we regret to inform you that the Transportation Committee earned itself a big thumbs-down for approving a motion to invest an extra $8 million to build the parking garage bringing the total budget of the garage to $9.5 million. This zeal with which councillors insist on ensuring enough parking space for private automobile users causes one to ask why the same zeal is not found for improving active transportation infrastructure when the latter clearly has environmental and public health benefits for Ottawa’s residents, in addition to saving the City of Ottawa money, as pedestrians and cyclists cause far less wear and tear on our roads.