Tree. Human. Car.

Tree. Human. Car. The discussion around Ottawa’ Official Plan suggests that we have room for two, but not all three. The Draft Official Plan projects that Ottawa’s population will increase by 40% between 2021 and 2046. In my ward of Alta Vista, opposition to an increase in population focuses almost entirely on the potential loss of trees. It’s a concern we should take seriously, after yet another summer of record-breaking temperatures.



Many people see an increase in population as tantamount to an increase in driveways, parking lots and road widenings, necessitating the chopping down of our trees. So the conclusion is that we must keep the two things we already have in abundance: trees and cars. That leaves no room for new population.

If we eliminated de facto mandatory car ownership in Ottawa, we’d leave plenty of space for trees. We’d also make life more affordable across the board.

It takes a huge leap of imagination, but what if the new arrivals came without cars? What if they were students who don’t really want the burden of car ownership? What if they were seniors who want to stay in their own neighbourhood but need the option of a smaller dwelling? What if they were people who worked in nearby thriving businesses and institutions, and wanted the option of biking to work? Or newcomers with high hopes of a new life in Canada, who have never lived in a car-dependent suburb, and don’t want to start now?



Many people all over the world live prosperous and interesting lives without ever owning a car. If we eliminated de facto mandatory car ownership in Ottawa, we’d leave plenty of space for trees. We’d also make life more affordable across the board.

Many people all over the world live prosperous and interesting lives without ever owning a car.

What would it take to make the car truly optional in Ottawa? In our residential subdivisions, it would mean connecting our street grid, encouraging the presence of small businesses throughout the neighbourhood, and building a variety of housing types so that people do not need to move away from their communities as their life circumstances change.

Tree. Human. Car. If we have room for only two, let’s jettison our dependence on the last one.



~ JANET MARK WALLACE is a regular blog contributor for Walkable Ottawa