16 June 2011 - Ottawa: The Ford Edsel of citiesEdit
By Ken Gray, Ottawa Citizen
According to Gray, Ottawa is almost exclusively doing its urban planning from a 1950s era playbook. His most telling examples of Paleolithic Ottawa include: a $200 million expansion of Highway 417 that will allow more cars on the road without neccessarily speeding up transit; the decision by the Ontario Municipal Board to allow substantial expansion of the urban boundary thereby requiring more cars to be on the road; and Ottawa's lack of a modern mass transit system, comparable to say Calgary's first light-rail line which began operating in 1981. Ottawa's mass transit response is to dig a tunnel that appears novel, but it is poorly costed, expensive and doesn't go very far. Unfortunately, Gray says that councillors are terrified of doing the right thing - dumping the tunnel and creating a serviceable line - because they fear the political ramifications of another delay (which may make them look even less competent). Ironically, he says, killing the tunnel would likely result in an earlier finishing date. (more...)
11 May 2011 - Local Gas Prices Hit New HighEditOttawa area gasoline prices hit record high levels today. Average retail pump prices in Ottawa reached $1.396 per litre according to GasBuddy.com. This exceeds the $1.36 per litre price set in 2008. The high price reflects the growing demand for oil in a period where oil supply just isn't keeping up.
Economist Jeff Rubin claims high oil prices were the straw that broke the back of the financial sector in 2008. Will it do the same now? "The economic growth everyone is counting on, says Rubin, is powered by oil. And as you’ve probably noticed, that’s getting more and more expensive to burn... That suddenly makes all that government debt very energy intensive. It will take huge amounts of energy, particularly oil, to achieve the growth rates that all the near-bankrupt governments around the world need to even service their debt, let alone repay it."
13 April 2011 - Ottawa's new abnormalEdit
By Ken Gray, The Ottawa Citizen
Gas prices have certainly been plummeting recently. Why just the other day they dropped all the way from $1.31 a litre to $1.24. So what's prompting prices well above the $1.20-a-litre mark? Demand. Emerging economies are using more oil as their standards of living rise. In other words, high gas prices are not an aberration, but the new normal.
Why it's enough to drive you to take public transit. And that, among other factors, is one of the reasons Ottawa is uniquely unprepared to deal with high-priced fuel. While the oil capitals of North America, Houston and Calgary, have environmentally friendly electric light rail running on the surface through their downtowns, Canada's national capital has a labour-intensive bus Transitway powered by petroleum and running on petroleumbased wheels. Thus the high cost. (more...)
By Ken Gray, The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa Citizen City editor Ken Gray suggests an alternative to the City's light rail plan. He begins by saying the planning paradigm needs to be turned upside down: if the idea is to get people onto trains and out of cars why should planners be upset if the train gets in the way of cars. Therefore a costly tunnel is unnecessary. Further he suggests doing the north-south line first since the environmental assessment is already done and then adding additional easy-west lines as money is available using existing right of ways along bus and train routes and where people are. (more...)
By Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen
Here's a few of their visions of the future:
- at least three new bridges spanning the Ottawa River, one exclusively for trucks
- King Edward Avenue expanded to be a six-lane, tree-lined boulevard in Lowertown;
- Grand new buildings replacing the old worn out buildings along Wellington St. which is reconstructed into the Canadian version of Pennsylvania Avenue, with signature national buildings lining it;
- Light rail criss-crosses the city, with a bustling new underground city downtown extending from its stations;
- The Portrait Gallery of Canada rivals Parliament as one of the most popular destinations in the city.
- The cost of energy and transportation goes critical ... You are going to see a concentration of people living in hubs that don’t require significant transportation.
21 November 2009 - Free the Falls ... and nine other projects to transform Ottawa into one of the world's great capitalsEdit
By By Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen
David Gordon, a widely respected urban planner, has been researching Canada's capital for more than 10 years for a book due in 18 months. He says building a great capital doesn't just happen, and it will take another 40 years for Ottawa to become one. He has put together the top 10 things the city must do to get over the hump.
- Build a magnificent First Nation's Centre on Victoria Island as a monument to Canada's first people, and tell the true history of the country, which is not just French and English, but Aboriginal.
- Construct at least three new bridges across the Ottawa River, one for truck traffic to get the 18-wheelers off King Edward Avenue and out of downtown. A great capital shouldn't have massive trucks barreling down its centre and causing mayhem, only a few blocks from Parliament, Gordon says.
- Above all, Gordon says, the Chaudière Falls must be "freed" to wow people. "People have no idea how beautiful those falls are. A hundred years ago, there was a plume of spray from those falls you could see from 10 kilometres upstream," he says.
"The Fathers of Confederation when they came to visit their new capital in 1864, were astonished by the Chaudière. It was a huge boiling kettle of falls, a mini-Niagara with a suspension bridge over it. We have to get the Chaudière back." (more...)
22 October 2009 - Ottawa: She ain't pretty, she just looks that wayEdit
By Ken Gray, The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa exists in a "picturesque setting [that] hides disregard for the water, earth, and air that sustain us." But "...from our 21st-century environmental perspective, sadly, this is a dirty city in ways that matter."
"As of late this summer, this city had poured 964 million litres of sewage and untreated storm water into the Ottawa River, more than double the year previous because of heavy rainfall, something we should expect more of as global warming continues."
"The urban area of this city has about the same development density as suburban Toronto. We're just too spread out. Why? Well, because our municipal governments of the 1970s and '80s decided to jump the Greenbelt to create communities such as Barrhaven, Kanata and Orléans. The suburban model is, by definition, not particularly dense, but add the Greenbelt to the mix, plus vast open spaces and parking lots and you get an urban area that has suburban density. That's very wasteful and environmentally degrading."
"...the superhighways 417, 416 and 174, plus the major arterial roads leading from the suburbs, are extended by the Greenbelt, which was created in part to protect an environmentally sensitive area. But by building suburban development across that green space, we lengthened commutes from the suburbs, which resulted in the Greenbelt causing the production of extra tonnes of greenhouse gases. Oddly, the Greenbelt's interaction with the automobile is environmentally degrading."
"...an ancient Athenian quote [was] brought to my attention by a reader in a letter to "The Ottawa you want." "We will leave this city not only not less, but greater, better and more beautiful than it was left with us." To accomplish that, we have much to do. (more...)
4 October 2009 - Children's garden wins special design award Edit
By Maria Cook, The Ottawa Citizen
Beyond an arched cedar gate in Old Ottawa East lies a luxuriant new public garden, planted with sunflowers, lavender, parsley, pumpkins, tomatoes and more. This is Ottawa’s first Children’s Garden, located at 321 Main St. at the corner of Clegg street in Robert Legget Park.The organic garden, created by community volunteers and children, has won a special jury award in the City of Ottawa’s 2009 Ottawa Urban Design Awards, presented Monday evening.
“The garden is imaginative and uses delight and whimsy in defining a community space,” wrote the jurors.
“This project breaks-down the barriers and professionalism in planning,” they wrote.
“It involves a community taking ownership of its open space through successful engagement — a sentiment we need more of.
“This project demonstrates that a park can capture the imagination of children through proper dialogue, inclusiveness and clever educational programs, without building a traditional play structure.”
The awards celebrate projects built in Ottawa between September 2007 and September 2009 that exhibit urban design excellence. (more...)
27 September 2009 - City must fix 'cracks in its armour'Edit
By Kathryn May, The Ottawa Citizen
Ottawa has "cracks in its economic armour" that must be fixed before mapping a vision for a new "sustainable" nation's capital into the next century, warned Rob Abbott, one of Canada's leading sustainability experts, at the region's Choosing Our Future conference.
But Abbott said the time is also ripe to question whether existing institutions are up to the challenge and whether they should be reformed to deliver that vision.
He worries that after all the resources put into planning, "we won't spend enough time on whether it can be done with our existing bureaucracies and governments." He said planners and politicians too often think the vision is so "captivating" that people will make the necessary changes themselves to get there.
"I think we need less planning and more organizational and institutional reforms, so plans have the potential to take root," he said. "Too often we get a plan, but don't deliver. Why? I think we need to contemplate a refreshed view of what these organizations need to look like. We are in a new century, we're facing new issues, new opportunities and new risks. I think we are deluding ourselves if we think the same basic approach will allow us to prosper." (more...)
26 August 2009 - Ottawa is big on green talk, but small on results: DoucetEdit
By Patrick Dare, The Ottawa Citizen
The City of Ottawa talks a big strategy about being a green city and saving the environment, but little progress has been made in the last decade, says Councillor Clive Doucet.
He was reacting Tuesday to a report at city council's planning and environment committee titled Refresh the City's Environmental Strategy. That document uses inspiring phrases to describe the city's environmental vision. Goals are "a green city," "development in harmony with the environment," "a focus on walking, cycling and transit" and "clean air, water and earth."
But Doucet says the strategy was created in 2003 and "nothing significant" has been done for the environment since then. (more...)
17 July 2009 - Rebates are out of style Edit
Editorial, The Ottawa Citizen
The most clumsy way for governments to encourage green behaviour is to send out cheques to people who buy approved products. It's an approach that smacks of the haphazard, feel-good tactics of the 1990s. We ought to be able to come up with something better in 2009.
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty does deserve credit for taking action, even if that action is inefficient and outmoded. His announcement of rebates ranging from $4,000 to $10,000 for electric cars will probably get at least a few more of these cars on the road, sooner. Those are substantial rebates that might make a serious difference, especially to someone already considering an electric car. (more...)
13 July 2009 - Ottawa on track to break trail on green power Edit
By Mohammed Adam, The Ottawa Citizen. West Carleton farm poised to become massive solar hub.
As controversies over green power projects erupt across Ontario, Ottawa is quietly leading a revolution in solar farming that will soon make the nation's capital home to one of the largest solar-energy plants of its kind in North America.
A 200-acre farm in West Carleton is about to undergo a $100-million investment that will see 300,000 silvery solar panels installed there. Once this solar farm becomes operational at the end of the year, it's expected to generate about 20 megawatts of electricity, enough to power 7,000 homes during peak hours. It will be Canada's largest photovoltaic plant, one that converts sunlight directly into electricity. (more...)
4 July 2009 - Councillor offers parks for wind turbine tests Edit
By Brendan Kennedy, The Ottawa Citizen
Graham Findlay may have been denied the chance to operate a small wind turbine in his backyard, but his efforts have inspired his local councillor, Kitchissippi Councillor Christine Leadman, to suggest that the city should try out small-scale wind projects in its urban parks.
“I think it would really be a great opportunity if we could look at piloting something in an area where the (bylaw) variances are not going to be an issue and people can see how these things operate,” Councillor Leadman said, adding that she would like to see infrastructure money for two parks in her ward — McKellar Park and Parkdale Park — go toward renewable energy initiatives, such as wind turbines and solar panels.
“Why not be innovative and start with our own facilities?” she said. (more...)
3 July 2009 - Ill-prepared for the post-oil economy Edit
By Susan Riley, The Ottawa Citizen
There was a time when politicians claimed Canada would become a world leader in clean, green technologies -- that our educated workforce, abundant resources and entrepreneurial spirit, coupled with inspired government policy, would revitalize our economy and help save the planet.
No one talks that way anymore. How could they, with straight faces? We have ceded leadership on climate change to U.S. President Barack Obama, and, to a lesser extent, the Europeans. It will be other countries that profit from the inevitable revolution in manufacturing, energy production and lifestyle choices that a green economy will bring. Not Canada. (more...)
3 July 2009 - Province says no to backyard wind turbineEdit
By Brendan Kennedy, The Ottawa Citizen
The city’s first application to put up a small wind turbine in a residential area has been denied by the Ontario Municipal Board, and the Ottawa man behind the proposal says he is giving up the fight for his backyard power generator. “It’s an opportunity lost to try something new,” said Graham Findlay. “I guess people ran away from that opportunity out of fear — fear of the unknown.” ... Ontario’s Green Energy Act, passed May 14,2009 makes no mention of residential wind turbines such as Findlay’s. But it does say that Planning Act instruments, including zoning bylaws, will no longer apply to renewable-energy installations. (more...)
13 May 2009 - Bigger Isn't BetterEdit
By Peter Victor, Special to the Ottawa Citizen ... It is time to rethink the old idea that the solution to all our problems lies in the incessant expansion of the economy. Rich countries like should explore alternatives, especially if poorer countries are to benefit from economic growth for a while in a world increasingly constrained by biophysical limits.
Some deny or simply ignore these limits and argue that economic growth in rich countries is necessary to stimulate growth in poorer ones. Others say that with "green" growth we can expand economic output as we reduce the demands we place on nature through more efficient production, better designed products, fewer goods and more services, compact urban forms, and organic agriculture.
While these measures may well help in a transition they are an unlikely prescription for the long term. What is required is a radical rethinking of our economies and their relation to the natural world.(more...)
16 January 2009 - Ontario's electric car infrastructure will use "cell phone" business plan Edit
By: Brian Jackson, ITBusiness.ca
The Province of Ontario has partnered with a California-based company that will develop a plan to provide an infrastructure for electric cars. Instead of filling up at the pumps, drivers will be topping up batteries at "charge spots" or swapping out depleted batteries at battery replacement centres.
Ontarians could soon be paying a monthly bill to power their cars with clean electricity instead of paying at the pumps to fill up on gasoline, the government revealed in an announcement yesterday.
Premier Dalton McGuinty announced the Province is partnering with Palo Alto, Calif.-based Better Place LLC to create a province-wide grid that could conveniently power electric cars. Drivers will pay to charge up their car batteries in the same way they pay for their mobile phone bills – through a combination subscription-based system, and pay-per-use model. "Commuters will be able to buy miles for their car like they buy music for their iPods or minutes for their cell phones," McGuinty said at a press conference in Toronto. "That's an idea with the power to re-shape our province." (more...)
Better Place is partnering with Bullfrog Power, Canada's only retailer of 100 percent green electricity, to provide all of the renewable energy needed to power the Better Place network.
Watch press conference announcing the partnership by Premier McGuinty.