building the post-car city: Liveable Ottawa policy proposals

The city has provided a set of preliminary policy proposals for the Official Plan review.

I really like them.  The language is clear, and the overall message is about how to plan and build a post-car city.  This is something I have been asking for as a core theme from the city for a while, and it is great to see the planners really understand this.

It doesn’t get any clearer than this language and graph in the Affordability section, right on the second page of the document:

It is estimated that the annual cost of travel in Ottawa is as much as $2.9 billion without including personal travel costs and as much as much as $4.8 billion when the costs of travel time and auto ownership/use and transit fares are included. The largest proportion of these costs is attributable to the private automobile. Therefore, as the graph below shows, the best way to keep the cost of transportation affordable for both citizens and government over the long term is to find ways to reduce the use of private automobiles.

preliminary-proposals-car-chart

Emphasis mine.

(You can also point to the above chart any time a private car user talks about other modes “paying their fair share”.)

We as citizens have a few jobs:

1) Reward these proposals by sharing them, talking about them, telling council we like them (including at tonight’s Liveable Ottawa consultation).

2) Do everything we can to have the actual final plans reflect these proposals.

3) Just as importantly: HOLD COUNCIL TO THESE PLANS.  Every time council makes a decision, we need to remind them that citizens asked for these principles and citizens supported these proposals.  Every time council makes a decision that goes against these planning principles, we need to hold their feet to the fire.  Write them.  Go to meetings.  Get media coverage.

There are a few parts to “why didn’t council follow its own plans”?

a) The councillors are not experts on the plans

b) The councillors are not experts on the planning process

c) The councillors are not planners

d) General principles get lost in the details of particular cases that appear before council

We need to support the voice of the city’s already good planners, push against the bad ideas of the city’s traffic engineers, and remind council again and again that it has to follow its own planning guidance.

There have to be consequences to not following their own guidance: media attention and citizen questions.  Ultimately, lost elections, lost council seats.  Otherwise they will just continue as they have, defaulting to the suburban city / traffic engineer mode we’ve been operating in for decades.

So:

  • Answer the survey (go to ottawa.ca/liveableottawa – it’s on the top right)
  • Tweet what you like about the proposals to #liveableottawa (the city really does track every tweet on this hashtag)
  • Blog what you like about the proposals, and tag with liveableottawa
  • Let your councillor know what you like about the proposals
  • Email planning@ottawa.ca with what you like about the proposals
  • And then when the plans are finalised, keep repeating the same steps for relevant council decisions over the next five years: contact your councillor, contact the planners, go to council meetings and consultations, tweet and blog.