On January 29th, my office hosted our annual ward budget consultation. It was hosted at Mauril Belanger school. We had a solid turnout during another cold night. This document will summarize the comments that we heard. Thank you to all the residents who took the time to come out to our consultation. Topics we heard a lot about were: housing, transit, roadways, parks, rats, climate change and community policing.
For housing, we heard loud and clear that emergency shelters should not be used long-term. Shelters are expensive and it would be a better use of money to redirect these dollars into subsidized housing. More affordable housing stock is a definite necessity.
Some suggestions for increasing the housing stock were providing incentives for private landlords to rent out extra spaces, requesting more funding from different levels of government, and providing more rent subsidies to individuals.
Inclusionary zoning is a helpful tool, and we should look further into innovative models of housing such as co-ops and mixed-income buildings.
We heard a lot about our transit system and its issues. Many residents felt that our transit system is deteriorating. Transit fees continue to increase but without an increase in service. The goal should be to increase ridership, and this will not be done by increasing fares. Some residents thought that parking rates should be increased to subsidize transit fares.
It was felt that the discounted passes, especially, shouldn’t have yearly rate increases.
Many residents agreed that the Presto card should have more flexibility. For instance, a 30-day pass should be purchasable any day of the month. Weekend passes we also said to be desirable.
There was a general feeling that bus route planning could use some improvement. Interlining was an unpopular tactic of bus operation. Measures should be used to evaluate the reliability of service.
Greater transparency would be a huge benefit to OC Transpo riders and ridership. Real-time GPS information is part of this transparency. Others perks for transit riders would be more dedicated bus lanes and traffic lights that favour busses.
We heard about roadways and some pothole frustration. Some residents felt that roadway quality has deteriorated since the 90s. This could be due to an increase in recycled content of the aggregate.
The majority of residents were in favour of increased spending for cycling infrastructure, including more bike racks near transit stops and more attention paid to potholes in bikes lanes.
We should limit the number of new roads being built. When necessary, development fees should cover the capital costs of new roads.
Winter operations are a constant source of budgetary pressure. Residents had concerns about how areas are prioritized and how improvements can be made for next year. More snow clearing resources would be an asset, especially with regard to sidewalk clearing.
New/improved parks were a popular topic. It was thought that we could use more private, unused land as intermediary parks. For instance, there is unused land at Charlotte and Rideau.
Many residents have noticed an increase in the rat population in their neighborhoods and would love to see a financial increase put toward their demise. There is a desire to see rodent-proof waste bins on our streets.
Climate should be top of mind when considering each budget item because it affects so many issues. For instance, electric buses could save transit dollars while combating climate change.
Finally, we heard about crime prevention and the importance of community policing.
Collaboration between Ottawa Police and the community associations are key. An increase in patrolling is necessary in combination with having dedicated community police officers. It is important to address the roots of what causes crime and intervene before it becomes a recurring problem. Street lights and street activity are part of the solution.
Thanks again to our budget consultation participants. We value hearing your feedback. The budget is set to come before council on March 8th. Before that the individual components will be debated at each committee. If you’re interested in participating in the committee debates please feel free to reach out to us.