[Action] Support The 2012 Budget

On Wednesday October 26 draft budget documents were officially received at City Council.

Hurrah! This represents a step in the right direction. But let’s remember the ultimate objective (below).

Here are some extracts from the Mayor’s speech:

As a Council we share an aspiration and ambition for a greener city with a greener development industry. When Council met to decide on its priorities, it focused on the concept of financial and environmental sustainability. In truth, finances and the environment are intertwined.

Starting next year we will provide a Green Express Lane for developments that strive for more.

We will set a tough standard for housing, buildings and renovations to qualify for the Green Express Lane.

For those who strive for more in energy efficiency, set the bar higher on water conservation, incorporate reused materials, minimize waste from construction and demolition and work to reduce strain on our roadways by being close to transit – you will notice the difference.

We will examine and pre-approve the new Better Build techniques we want to give priority to and we will support them.

Builders and homeowners who include these Better Build techniques such as solar hot water heaters, photovoltaic systems, storm and gray water re-use systems will not face barriers, they will instead get express lane service.

Recalling that approximately 2/3 of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in this region are from buildings, enabling acceleration to make the built environment more energy efficient is  important. Bravo.

Most of the remaining approximately 1/3 of our GHG come from transportation, though we often feel that cars are the bigger problem as we sit in traffic or turn up our iPods against the roar.

We might break that 1/3 down into (a) cars & trucks, (b) transit, and (c) active transportation. There are different things to report budgetwise in these different categories though they all fall under a new city initiative called Ottawa on the Move.

Cars and trucks run on roads and the cost of roads to the City is huge and the budget plans to actually triple this enormous number to $340 million over three years. This budget does take a progressive approach though, as the mayor said

We need to take care of the roads we have before we expand further

No new roads now doesn’t mean no new roads later though; keep your eyes peeled over the coming years. Experience shows that with time new roads facilitate more traffic in a cycle that demands yet more new roads. In theory clamping down on cars & trucks – that is restricting road use – will not only reduce GHG emissions but also save the City hundreds of millions of dollars. Yet at the moment we’re stuck with mainly gasoline burning cars and voters who need short term relief from long commute times. We need to keep encouraging the City to look for ways to make headway here. In summary, no new roads is good from a GHG standpoint but eventually we need some breakthrough here.

In transit, in a move aimed at saving $20 million per year, earlier this fall the City “optimized” bus routes. To the extent that this reduces ridership that would be bad. But the Mayor’s draft-budget speech reported ridership up by 6% (questions: is this post route changes? is this due to population growth or downturn in the economy or something else?). The 2012 draft budget devotes two new pots of money to transit: $3.2 million to address growth in ridership; and $2.3 million to add capacity to a handful of routes that have become overcrowded since the optimization. Bus fares are set to go up 2.5% and O-Train capacity is planned to double. These changes in advance of the major light rail project that’s to come make the transit file look like a “wait and see” but with promise in the future.

“Active transportation” means bikes and walking. This is small and this is big. Small in that the majority of people don’t get around by these two means; small also in that neither produce GHG. Big though in their promise and the level of attention they get in the budget. The Mayor again:

We are expanding our park and ride network.

Last year the Riverview Park and Ride was expanded by 210 parking spaces to a total of 365.

We expanded the Fallowfield Park and Ride by 579 spots to a total of 1,665.

Thanks to some entrepreneurial thinking by Councillor Qadri we have an agreement to add 100 Park and Ride spaces at Scotia Bank Place.

In the coming year the Trim Road Park and Ride will expand by an additional 380 parking spots.

Over 2012-2014 we will resurface more than 200 km of paved roads.

Of that 200 km, more than 70 km will see added bike lanes and paved shoulders to improve active transportation.

We will also address 20 km in sidewalk needs.

…Across the city our sidewalks will get a lot of attention they would not otherwise get.

Where last year there was little funding designated for sidewalk renewal, Budget 2012 provides $4 million for improvements.

Ottawa on the Move also advances our cycling network – building on last year’s acceleration of the program.

There is no point in creating cycling paths in isolation of one another. They need to be part of a network. We will be working hard to fill the gaps in our cycling network to improve interconnections and safety so you can get where you are going by bike.

Work on the design to implement a pedestrian bridge over the Rideau from Donald to Somerset will also get underway.

In total, Budget 2012 provides an additional $12.1 million over three years for cycling infrastructure. This funding is on top of the $8 million over four years provided in Budget 2011 and does not include an additional estimated $6 million in new bike lanes and paved shoulders that will be done through Ottawa on the Moves’ road renewal program.

In total, this term of Council will provide the largest financial commitment ever put towards building our cycling city, some $26.1 million in new money devoted over this term.

Gadzooks, that sounds good. We might well be moving beyond our 2% cycle-commuter level toward that mythical/mystical 30% Copenhagen is supposed to have. And think of the jump in sales at shoe stores!

I don’t go into it here because community GHG emissions dwarf those produced by the municipal government (termed the City’s corporate emissions), but the city continues its internal incremental energy efficiency improvements with investments in buildings and fleet.

At the top I warned that we need to remember the ultimate objective and that is a dramatic drop in our GHG emissions. Does this budget achieve that? No.

Does this budget point in the right direction? Yes, moderately strongly.

It’s notable that the draft budget looks to GHG reduction with an eye on economic efficiency. That’s good. As the National Round Table on the Environment and Economy (NTREE) reported recently, delays in investment surrounding climate change only mean we’ll need to spend much more later.

Action: Tell your Councillor and tell the Mayor you like this budget, that you want to see more and stronger initiatives in the future, and with more explicit emphasis on how climate actions now will save in the future.

You can also deliver your message via the public consultation process designed for the budget.

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One Response to [Action] Support The 2012 Budget

  1. Charles says:

    On Nov 7th I followed up this post with an email to my own Councillor Katherine Hobbs, including the following notes:

    Having reflected on the issue a little more I have two additional comments:
    (a) The express lane for environmental building is great but since the built environment is the single biggest contributor to greenhouse gasses in the region (heating, lighting, equipment, etc) and is something with a long renewal timeframe, I hope the city will come up with even more in this direction.
    (b) Bike transport is a small % but demonstrated to be possibly larger in other cities. Ottawa is working on lanes and paths—which is great—but I would like to see better collaboration with the NCC (possibly with their Bixi initiatives).

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