Funding cycling in Ottawa, Part 2: What Ottawa cyclists can expect in 2015

To continue the story, here is what will be coming down the pipe for cycling funding in Ottawa for the near future…

Some things that we expected (a lot of stay-the-course, stick-to-the-plan ‘balance’), a really nice surprise, and one thing that actually changed between the draft from the mayor’s office and the initiatives that council voted to implement.

All the details are in the documents presented at the June 2 Finance Committee meeting… scroll down to item 6 and click the link to bring up a menu of PDFs on the right hand side. If you know of a more user-friendly way to discover and link to these documents, we’d love to hear about it.

The things we expected

Projects in Ottawa’s transportation master plan, phase 1 (TMP) and/or the Ottawa Cycling Plan 2013 update (“OCP2013”) phase 1 will be funded in manner that will see the plans on track to be implemented. The plans are similar, but not necessarily identical, since they cover slightly different timeframes. The OCP calls for $70 million in spending out to the year 2031, meaning that we’d expect to need about $4M per year to be able to keep up with this very modest plan. If you’d like to see what’s in the plan, you can find it here.

The strategic initiatives budget delivered this… sort of. While $2.04M is identified to fund cycling projects, this has the potential to be basically doubled, since the amount does not include development charges. Development charges are worth a future post all of their own, but, in short, they are a one-time fee charged for new construction, to support growth. However, from what we can gather, developers have some influence over how these fees are used, so matching the cycling funding is not necessarily a sure thing. We are a bit concerned, and will continue to follow this story closely.

Another point to mention about master plans is that they are periodically revisited and revised. This means that projects in today’s “phase 1” that don’t get completed can be pushed forward into a future phase, and so a project can keep getting pushed forward into a future plan indefinitely. It’s worth noting that the vast majority of delegations who spoke at the June 30 Transportation Committee meeting urged just the opposite – to accelerate the TMP/OCP2013 and to implement all three phases of this urgently needed cycling infrastructure as soon as reasonably possible.

A really nice surprise

“Community Connections” was an item in the list of Strategic Initiatives worthy of its own Appendix – see Appendix D in those Finance Committee documents for all the details. In 2015, $2.975 million will go towards completing some of the most urgently-needed missing links in our active transportation network, with a total of $11.6 million being spent over the term of council. Some highlights include the Trans Orléans pathway, announced by Councillor Blais, the Trillium MUP (from Carling to Dow’s Lake), links around the Coventry bridge, connections from Ogilvie to the rail trail, and cycletracks on both sides of Albert.

These community connections were developed based on input from the local councillors, and CfSC was impressed by this thoughtful responsiveness to community needs. It’s a true display of initiative, and we hope to see much more of this.

A small, but meaningful, change

Together with Ecology Ottawa, CfSC called for council to add a plan to develop a “Complete Streets Policy” to the Strategic Initiatives. We would have liked to push for something more ambitious with dollar amounts attached. Members of the Advocacy Working Group put many, many hours into studying the draft strategic initiatives looking for a way to make a case for better funding for cycling.

However, it became clear that this tiny envelope of funds was very constrained, and it wouldn’t be fair, realistic, or successful to ask members of council to sacrifice one deserving project to support another, especially considering that community connections projects are a really nice addition to what was already planned under the OCP. Sometimes, you need to pick your battles. However, since the city is already putting staff time into working on a complete streets policy, formalizing this as a strategic initiative is a low-cost ask. Councillor McKenney moved a motion to make developing a Complete Streets Policy a strategic initiative, and this motion passed.

Our focus now will be on pushing for Budget 2016 to include better and more reliable funding for cycling. We have good reason to believe that there’s appetite on council and in the community to break free from the self-imposed 2% tax increase cap. This would make a little bit more money available to build the liveable city we’d like to see. Stay tuned for the final post in this CfSC budget series, where we’ll discuss how you can participate in making this happen.

In Part 1 of this series, we discussed what the strategic initiatives are, and explained that this is how cycling in Ottawa is being funded in 2015.

Go to Part 3 of the series of 3.

By Heather Shearer, CfSC Board member