By Charlie Senack - Barrhaven Independent
As 2023 comes to a close, Barrhaven’s councilors are reflecting on their first full year of office while looking ahead to the future.
For Barrhaven West councillor David Hill, he said his first term as a councillor has been focused on getting to know city staff while looking to move forward with “tricky” files.
“We didn’t get handed an easy hand to play this term of council and we are dealing with complex issues with our waste management systems, our environment investments, Lansdowne, and challenges with our transit systems,” he said. “None of this is easy and there is no easy solutions. We are looking to make the right investments so we can maximize the return for our folks’ tax dollars.”
Barrhaven East councillor Wilson Lo said every day on the job has been rewarding, but sometimes challenging.
“I’ve not had a day where I’m questioning why I’m doing this. I really enjoy meeting residents, talking to people, learning about what worries them. Some people are worried about transit are worried about the cost of running transit. The same topic can generate so many points of view,” he said.
“The repetitive nature of politics means as soon as you’re done managing something once, often you get to do it again right away and you feel like you are better at it,” Lo added. “It’s been like drinking from a fire hose for the last year.”
One of the biggest files for Barrhaven this year has been transit. Commuters habits have shifted over the COVID-19 pandemic, with fewer people commuting to offices downtown.
In September OC Transpo reported its highest ridership seen in three years, with 6.4 million customer trips. That’s still 500,000 trips below the 6.9 million trips expected for the month. In revenue, OC Transpo collected $12.8 million in fares for the month of September this year, but that was below the $15.2 million budget target.
Barrhaven East Councillor Wilson Lo is looking to make OC Transpo more efficient in the community.
To cut costs and create a more efficient system, OC Transpo is looking to implement a route change next spring — the biggest seen in over a decade. It will come into effect once Line 2 of the LRT’s Trillium line opens, connecting Riverside South to Line 1 at Bayview Station.
For Barrhaven commuters it will mean the end of most 200-series buses. Some routes like the 73, 74 110, and 11) will travel to the Limebank road LRT station.
While the route review has not been finalized and some minor changes might be implemented, Hill said he feels it will have a positive impact on Barrhaven transit riders.
“Taking those express buses and re-rolling them into increased local capacity is not only going to allow for people to get around the local community better, it’s going to get Barrhaven to Kanata tech park, Barrhaven to the new Limebank station,” he said.
“For any students who transfer to Carleton University, there is going to be significant improvement for them,” Hill added. “For folks that do commute downtown, the downside is they [might] need to do another transfer at Fallowfield or Marketplace.”
While that might mean another bus, Hill said more frequent local routes will help offset any further time spent commuting.
Route 75 Cambrian will be extended to Cappamore Drive in Half Moon Bay, creating a positive effect for transit riders who live there.
“There are people right now that need to walk over two kilometers to get to their bus stop. This will take that down to about 250 meters,” Hill said.
Barrhaven has recently become a hotspot for crime. The community has seen the highest number of car break-ins and thefts for all of Ottawa this year.
As of Nov. 17, 262 car thefts have occurred in Barrhaven throughout 2023, compared to 205 in Orleans, 199 in Old Ottawa South/the Glebe, and 180 in Hunt Club.
Throughout all of Ottawa, over 1,400 car thefts have been reported in Ottawa this year, with over 40 in November 2023 alone. Hill said he believes the communities numbers are so high because of its easy access to Highway 416, the 401, and its close proximity to Montreal — where many stolen cars are being put on boats and being taken overseas.
“What we are looking to do is to advocate for the provincial task force to give us more support. This is a bigger issue than just what Ottawa Police can deal with. This is an issue that involves organized crime across the country,” he said. “I had a meeting with the Canadian president of the Auto Manufacturers Association about two or three weeks ago to talk about this issue. If organized crime is able to go and defeat these high technical ignition systems, then they need to take ownership of preventing that or including additional safeguards such as tracking software or crypto.”
Hill said a recent safety meeting in Stonebridge attracted over 250 concerned residents. It was attended by Ottawa Police Chief Eric Stubbs and senior inspectors who deal with theft and break-ins.
In Barrhaven East, a new police station will finally have shovels in the ground after planning took over a decade. The development was shelved twice to allocate funding for other projects such as the Vimy Road Bridge. The 218,000 square foot, three-storey facility is estimated to cost $115 million and will be completed in 2026.
“The Ottawa Police Service is moving a lot of their units down to Barrhaven, down to the south facility, and it’s going to become the new headquarters for a [Barrhaven] district when they realign to a new district model,” said Lo. “Local superintendents can then make local decisions based on local needs. Even though this doesn’t mean additional officers for Barrhaven, this means we will have cops coming in and out of the police station. Just that presence alone will hopefully bring some comfort to Barrhaven, especially with the increased car thefts, break ins, and everything.”
As the Barrhaven councillors look ahead, both Hill and Lo said their plans will focus on tackling innovative ways to keep the community growing.
Lo said during this term of council he’d like to get Prince of Wales Dr. between Strandherd and West Hunt Club Rd. widened and improved with cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Barrhaven West Councillor David Hill would like to see the Barrhaven Town Centre development advanced.
“I want to expand the scope of the project right now since it ends at Strandherd. There has been a lot of demand for a while to safely get across the Jock River to Beryl Gaffney Park if you’re not a driver. I want to expand the scope to include that and how Councillor Hill and I can improve safety on the Jock River bridge.”
Lo would also like to see changes with the Nepean Woods Park and Ride, which has seen use drop since the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’ve never seen more than three or four cars on a weekday. I’d love for us to consider disposing the park and ride and redeveloping the land as a mid density, mixed-use community with shops on the ground floor,” he said. “It costs money to maintain the parking lot. It needs to be cleared of snow. There is infrastructure that needs to be maintained.”
Meanwhile Hill said his priorities are implementing new traffic safety measures and advancing the proposed Barrhaven Town Centre development.
“We have an additional million and a half dollars that was added to the budget this year for the library investment,” said Hill. “That coupled with the grants we received from both the provincial and federal governments will be enough for us to this year look at detailed designs and probably to do the land acquisition,” said Hill.
Hill noted the development costs were drawn up before the pandemic began. Since then the cost of projects across Ottawa have seen large jumps in terms of supplies.