Once again, development planning in the city of Ottawa proceeds with insufficient regard for climate change and public transit.
Newly announced plans to upgrade The Ottawa Hospital (TOH) include adding a four story parking garage to the site. This parking garage will be built over an existing lot and the Queen Juliana Park. It will also remove an important section of the Trillium Line Multi-Use Path. This could make it harder for TOH patients and staff to access the train line.
It is beyond ludicrous that the City is talking about a four story parking garage in 2021. Transportation is the largest source of greenhouse gases in Ontario and private cars account for over 80% of it. There is no way to meaningfully reduce those emissions without getting people out of cars and onto public transit. Electric cars are a false solution – as personal vehicles they require a far more resources per person than buses and require constant expansion of roads and parking lots into green space.
Planning must make taking a car less convenient and public transit more convenient
If moving the hospital to another location like Tunney’s Pasture (as some residents have advocated for and the NCC previously recommended) will not be considered then a simple, straightforward approach is to strictly limit spaces for parking, and redirect the money towards making transit more reliable and accessible. Here, the first thing is to address the problem caused by the distance between the LRT stop to the hospital. The City should explore ideas like shuttle buses, a covered moving sidewalk, covered/heated bus stations on-site and work with OC Transpo to increase the number of direct bus routes to the hospital campus.
Hospitals should not be dependent on parking fees to shore up their budgets; the federal and provincial governments should step up to ensure we are addressing and reversing the health impacts of pollution and climate change, not letting healthcare be indirectly funded by it.
In the spirit of enticing people to take transit more often, not to mention as a gesture of thanks for their work this past year and a half, the City might consider providing free bus passes to all hospital staff. This would complement an idea we have advocated for: free transit for those on ODSP and social assistance. Getting to medical appointments, like vaccinations, should not be accompanied by concerns over whether the fare is worth the trip, having exact change, dealing with ticket transfers, or malfunctioning cards and scanners. Taking the bus should be easy and accessible; once it is, we’ll likely see more transit riders and less pollution from cars.
By Donald Swartz, Nick Grover, and Josh McEvoy