• Council approves 2017 Budget – improving core services and maintaining two per cent tax commitment

    Today, City Council approved the 2017 Budget, focussing on strengthening core municipal services and long-term affordability. The budget maintains Council’s commitment to limiting the property tax increase to two percent.

    The budget also places emphasis on supporting core community priorities such as social infrastructure, safety, the environment, support for the arts and efforts to promote economic growth. Substantial investments are also made in active transportation, improved transit services, and programs that support our most vulnerable residents.

    Taking into account the provincial upload of social services, the city is increasing the level of investment in the Community and Social Services budget by $5.92 million in City money, which is a 3.1 per cent increased investment over last year. This includes the money for the EquiPass, Community Sustainability Fund, and increasing the inflationary funding from 1.5 to 2 per cent for community agencies.

    One of the key social investments is the introduction of the new EquiPass, which provides residents living below the low income cut-off with a 50 percent discount on a monthly adult transit pass. When it comes into effect this spring, a single person will see a $56 savings every month (close to $672 per year) – leaving more household finances for necessities – such as food, clothing and accommodation. EquiPass is the largest one-time increase in financial support for public transit in the City’s history.

    In addition, the City’s ongoing efficiency reviews – which included the recent corporate alignment – helped secure accumulated savings for both 2017 and 2018. The new alignment enabled the City to operate within its means and optimize its ability to deliver programs and services in an effective and cost-efficient manner.

    The budget also includes a 1.25 percent increase in the total amount generated from transit fares and limits the surcharges for water and sewer services to an increase of five percent. In addition to capping the residential property tax at two percent, the transit levy was set at 2.5 percent, and the garbage fee rose slightly by $2, amounting to approximately $72 per year for an urban home assessed at $395,400 and $60 per year for a rural home assessed at the same amount.

    Budget 2017 continues Council’s commitment to strengthen the long-term vision of an affordable, caring, sustainable and prosperous city. City-wide highlights include:

    An Affordable City
    • Limit the proposed tax revenue increase for the City-wide levy to two percent
    • Continue setting money aside to reduce the funding gap for the maintenance of City assets
    • Maintain the Rate-Supported Water and Sewer Charge increase at five percent

    A Caring City
    • Introduce the new EquiPass, a transit pass to assist residents earning below Statistic Canada’s low income cut-off
    • Invest in city-wide safety by adding 24 new paramedic positions and five new emergency response vehicles to maintain our Paramedic Service’s ability to meet legislated response time targets
    • Maintain our $16-million investment in affordable housing and homelessness programs
    • Invest in community agencies currently receiving Community Funding that deliver a wide range of programs and services
    • Improve road safety by expanding the red-light camera program and funding new street lighting, traffic control devices and crossing-guards
    • Strategic investments in parks and recreation infrastructure and support to recreation programming
    • Increase funding for arts infrastructure and programs that support the long-term marketing and growth of our festivals and other arts, culture and heritage projects that will be chosen by the community

    A Sustainable City
    • Continue improving the City’s cycling infrastructure network with a focus on safety and convenience, featuring buffered bike lanes, enhanced cycling crossings and wider sidewalks for pedestrians
    • Invest in measures to protect the urban tree canopy
    • Build the Combined Sewage Storage Tunnel – the largest Ottawa River Action Plan project
    • Rehabilitate the communal well system that serves rural Ottawa

    A Prosperous City
    • Bid on the 2021 Canada Summer Games to bring tourism dollars into the local economy
    • Continue work on the O-Train Confederation Line project
    • Invest $1.75 million to improve and expand bus service for customers in growing areas of the city
    • Invest in transportation infrastructure to support growing neighbourhoods in the west, east and south
    • Support for special events in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary

    For further information on Budget 2017, visit ottawa.ca/budget.

    Quotes

    “Affordability and inclusiveness are the building blocks of Budget 2017,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “That means keeping the property tax increase at two percent, ensuring equitable access to transit for low income earners, and providing assistance to the most vulnerable members of our community. These steps compliment our budget investments in growth, mobility, economic development, safety and the environment – creating a vibrant city and strong local economy.”

    “The City has worked hard to find efficiencies across the entire organization,” said City Manager Steve Kanellakos. “We are creating a dynamic organization that will strengthen our core municipal services to residents and deliver on the Council priorities that enhance the lives of residents and our city’s future.”

  • More transportation choices: Ottawa opens the door to companies like Uber and Lyft, while modernizing taxi regulations

    I’m pleased to tell you that Ottawa has become one of the first Canadian jurisdictions to adopt regulations for Private Transportation Companies like Uber and Lyft. ‎We’ve also cut fees and red tape on the traditional taxi industry in order to allow it to compete and innovate. The new regulations come into effect on September 30.

    If a Private Transportation Company like Uber or Lyft want to operate in Ottawa, they’ll be required to follow some common-sense rules:

    • Commercial insurance
    • Police checks for drivers
    • Vehicle inspections
    • 11¢ per-ride licensing fee (to cover the cost of administration)
    • Per-ride fee to support accessible services such as Para Transpo (to be negotiated; in lieu of directly providing 15% wheelchair-accessible cars)

    At the same time, we’ve heard from taxi drivers and passengers that the status-quo is simply not working. That’s why we’re removing several restrictions on the taxi industry to allow it to compete and innovate:

    1. Allow taxi companies to offer reduced fares when rides are booked through an app
    2. Eliminate the $1.50 credit and debit card fee
    3. Reduce the taxi driver license fee by 40% (from $170 to $96)
    4. Waive the taxi driver license fee for accessible taxis (from $170 to $0)
    5. Allow companies run their own customer service training, instead of the $820 standard taxicab driver multi-week course at Algonquin College
    6. Eliminate interior and trunk size requirements for vehicles (more flexibility)
    7. Increase maximum vehicle age from 8 to 10 years (more flexibility)

    I have every confidence that the traditional taxi industry can compete under these new rules, especially as they retain the exclusive right to pick up street hails, use taxi stands and receive payment in cash.

    You may have heard some of the traditional taxi industry’s concerns about the original proposal. Their feedback led to a number of changes to the proposed rules to deal with Private Transportation Company issues such as enforcement, compliance, taxes, and delaying the implementation date for several months.

    The City’s role is not to ban competition. We should set fair rules for all transportation categories, and then allow you, the customer, to make your own informed choices. Ottawa should be a place where competitive, effective transportation options are available for all.

  • City Council approves new vehicle-for-hire regulations

    With the approval of new vehicle-for-hire regulations by City Council today, Ottawa has become one of the first Canadian jurisdictions to adopt regulations for Private Transportation Companies. ‎The City has also adopted a lighter regulatory framework for the traditional taxi industry in order to allow it to compete and innovate with new service offerings.

    “Today’s decision moves our transportation system in the right direction by challenging the status quo and opening up the market to competition,” said Mayor Jim Watson. “Ottawa should be a place where people have access to safe, competitive, affordable, and effective transportation options.”

    “I want to thank the more than 6,000 people who participated in consultations and helped us come up with a smart set of 21st century regulations,” said Councillor Diane Deans, Chair of the Community and Protective Services Committee. “Under the new rules, I have every confidence that the traditional taxi industry will change and succeed in this competitive environment.”

    Effective September 30, 2016, a Private Transportation ‎Company (PTC) that wishes to operate in the City of Ottawa would obtain an operating license similar to that of a taxi broker. Prior to commencing operations and on a regular basis thereafter, each PTC must supply to the City information about its drivers and their vehicles. This will include proof of police background checks, vehicle inspections, and proper insurance. PTCs will pay the same broker fee as traditional taxi companies, while also paying a comparable licensing fee on a per-ride basis.

    ‎The Community and Protective Services Committee met for 18 hours over two days last week to listen to public delegations and discuss the proposed changes. The Committee adopted several motions to amend the staff report, many of which were based on feedback received from the taxi industry. These changes addressed issues such as stronger oversight of PTCs, compliance, enforcement, accessibility, HST, and delaying the by-law implementation date by three months.

    Through its new vehicle-for-hire regulations, the City of Ottawa has modernized regulations for the traditional taxi industry to allow it to compete more freely, while protecting key features on which residents have come to rely. The new features of the taxi regulations include:

    • Allowing taxi companies to offer reduced fares when rides are booked through an app
    • Eliminating the $1.50 credit and debit card fee
    • Reducing the taxi driver license fee by 40% (from $170 to $96)
    • Waiving the taxi driver license fee for accessible taxis (from $170 to $0)
    • Eliminating interior and trunk size requirements for vehicles
    • Increasing maximum vehicle age from 8 to 10 years
    • Allowing taxi companies to determine their own industry-specific customer service training, instead of the $820 standard taxicab driver course at Algonquin College
    • Retaining taxis’ exclusive ability to accept street-hails, together with exclusive use of taxi stands and lanes
    • Retaining exclusive Para Transpo contract, worth about $9-million annually
    • ‎Allowing for nominal cancellation fees and surcharges for premium vehicle options when rides are booked through an app

    ‎The City of Ottawa will enforce the existing by-law until the new regulations come into effect on September 30, 2016.