Opinion — Transit talk
Comprehensive considerations for the planet
For those of us who live in urban centres, the private car is an indulgence this planet cannot afford.
Cars need roads that must be constantly upgraded, expanded, and maintained (very expensive for taxpayers in this climate especially). They also require parking spaces (yet more asphalt instead of greenery or housing) and traffic control. Every car needs fuel to operate, plus steel, plastic, glass, toxic batteries, etc. to function. And though we seem to be pinning our hopes on electric vehicles, their assault on the environment is not significantly less than those powered by gas. After a few years of use and expensive maintenance, most cars and their batteries end up in landfill. In other words, all aspects of private car operation contribute to our climate crisis.
We taxpayers pay for roads and parking spaces on those roads as well as upgrades to and maintenance of them. Our major routes are very noisy, treeless, and polluted. Those who cannot afford to live on leafy residential streets are assaulted by the cacophony, danger, and contamination of cars, trucks, and buses; residents, who can barely afford to rent housing, let alone own a vehicle, are dependent on public transit.
Ottawa’s public transit is, to understate the case, unreliable, inefficient, and very expensive. It should not be surprising that as fares increase, riders decrease.
If Ottawa invested more in upgrading and improving public transit services and less in maintaining our massive maze of roadways, our city would be much more attractive and livable, and the savings to the environment and the city coffers would go a long way to supporting better and ultimately free public transit.
Ottawa has declared a climate emergency with promises to make significant changes to mitigate the harmful pollution of vehicles. The electrification of buses, trucks, and taxis, combined with free, reliable, convenient public transit, would render most private vehicles obsolete.
A Sandy Hill take on electric vehicles
The future of the automobile looks undeniably electric. With recent declarations from U.S. President Joe Biden that the “great American road trip is going to be fully electrified” and mandates from the Trudeau government for automakers to sell completely electric fleets by 2035, more car-owners are plugging into the idea of going electric.
But how does this global trend toward electric vehicles (EVs) look in Sandy Hill? IMAGE set out to find answers.
There are currently two public EV charging stations in Sandy Hill, one at Laurier Avenue East and Russell Street, and another at Daly and King Edward Streets. Installed in March 2022, both stations are marked as owned by FLO, a manufacturer and network operator of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations; they are listed on the City of Ottawa’s EV webpage. However, a representative of FLO confirmed that these stations are owned by Envari, a subsidiary of Hydro Ottawa Holdings, Inc.
According to the City, the charging station locations are chosen based on public consultation. That includes “a particular focus on inner-urban neighbourhoods which have a higher population density and areas with a greater number of rental households, multi-unit residential buildings, and lower levels of household income,” says Mitchell House, project manager with the City’s Environmental Program.
Seeing as Sandy Hill fits much of these criteria, it’s probable we’ll see more stations installed here in the future. House says Sandy Hill residents (and all Ottawans) will have the chance to provide feedback as part of the City’s upcoming Electric Vehicle Strategy.
One user of the public EV charging stations in Sandy Hill is Thomas Ducellier, a neighbourhood resident who recently purchased a 2022 Chevrolet Bolt EUV. He’s using the public station until he has a more powerful EV charger installed at home.
A challenge he sometimes encounters is people not respecting the public charging station parking. “I once found a moving truck blocking two EV charging spots,” says Ducellier. The City only recently installed “Parking only for EV” signs at the two stations in Sandy Hill, a move that will hopefully prevent similar such mishaps in the future.
Ducellier notes that the price for charging stations is set by the companies that own them. Users are billed based on time or at a flat rate, rather than the amount of electricity consumed. This is seen as unfair because EVs charge at different speeds, with some able to charge more quickly despite using the same amount of power.
As Ducellier puts it, “[the federal] government has largely privatized public EV charging infrastructure.” A much-preferred method, he says, would be what’s done in European countries, where users are charged per energy consumed. A Government of Canada website says it is “developing requirements” to allow for this model of pay-per-use charging.
As for apartment buildings in Sandy Hill, a representative for Homestead Land Holdings (property manager of the Sandringham and Balmoral buildings on Range Road), confirmed that they have two charging stations available for use by residents in both buildings. According to the Globe and Mail, one-third of Canadians live in multi-unit residential buildings that don’t have charging stations, so having easy access to EV chargers is a must for these so-called ‘garage orphans.’
Though there are some challenges for early EV adopters, overall, these inconveniences seem to be worth it. As Ducellier declares: “I’m very happy to own an electric car—I’m not going back!”
Do you own an EV and live in an apartment or condo building? Have you used the FLO stations in our neighbourhood? Please contact IMAGE at firstname.lastname@example.org.