The Reconquest Of The City Of Ottawa: An Analysis Of Policy Levers For Increasing Sustainability Of The City Of Ottawa’s Urban Transportation System

1714 words - 7 pages


Ottawa’s suburban residents’ relentless dependence on the personal automobile is the key element hindering improved sustainability of the city’s transportation system. Currently, there is a clear lack of policy levers aimed at decreasing automobile use to, from, and within the city’s downtown core. Rather, policies, or lack thereof, enable individuals to utilize personal vehicles for daily commuting since there are no disincentives aimed at changing the behaviour of commuters to leave the car at home. Here, reconquest and Copenhagenization become truly significant for revolutionizing Ottawa’s streets by weakening automobile dependence through the implementation of traffic and vehicular disincentives. Policy levers that employ toll roads and paid parking coupled with decreased quantity of parking substantially reduce reliance on and utility of the automobile..

Highway 417 is the City of Ottawa’s daily funnel for 92,000 drivers resulting in congestion, pollution, and inefficiency (, 2007). The highway is currently utilized free of charge to commuters while the province funds maintenance, making commuters unaware of the true cost of driving. However, by introducing toll roads “drivers will more accurately link the causes of road costs with prices paid, while making the costs much more apparent to the user and promoting the more efficient use of roads” (Blais, 2010, p. 198).

A toll is a pay-per-use fee and is different from taxes where everybody pays whether an individual uses the service or not. Specific to roads, Blais states that “One of the benefits of road tolls is that they can charge for roads in real time, making the true cost of road use very apparent” (2010, p. 198). She further explains that “Higher prices moderate demand for gas and for travel while investments improve availability of alternatives to car travel. This is smart policy since price signals moderate demand for unsustainable activities” (2010, p. 140). An important opportunity for tax shifting is also created. If the municipal government covers costs through a user fee, then road costs can be removed from general taxation (Blais, 2010, p. 199). To ensure the most efficient system is implemented there are many options for structuring a road toll, including, charging for crossing a boundary, charging for driving within a given area, or charging for use of a linear section of infrastructure (Blais, 2010, p. 198).

The most efficient and presumably successful toll structure for Ottawa would be one that charges individuals when they cross a boundary, or more specifically, when they enter and exit the road anywhere along the tolled stretch. The stretch of toll roads in the City of Ottawa that would have the greatest impact on drivers would be implemented throughout the main portion of Highway 417, Highway 174, and the three main bridges that link Gatineau and Ottawa (Chaudiѐre, Portage, and Alexandra). Specifically, the Highway 417 toll would charge...

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