Stittsville has an official voice when it comes to public transportation in town. That voice belongs to resident Francois Malo.
Ottawa’s Transit Commission is made up of twelve total members, including eight elected and four citizen volunteers. Malo, a member of the Stittsville community for eight years, is one of the four citizen commissioners.
The commission will meet eight times this year. His role is to attend these meetings, consider public transportation reports and make recommendations to the commission based on this process.
“I’m a user. I ride the bus every day to work down town. So I’m there to serve my interest in a sense. And then by doing that, I can make sure that the interest of the ordinary rider is also taken into consideration,” he said.
Malo was appointed in January 2015. Every time there’s a municipal election, there’s a call for volunteers to serve as citizen members on various public bodies in Ottawa. After submitting his application, he was given the choice of police commission or transportation commission.
During the day, Malo works for the Department of National Defence managing internal conflict resolution systems, such as grievances. From air command and control to his current occupation, Malo has served with the Canadian Forces for 33 years.
“I selected the transit commission because I did not know much about transit,” the 52-year-old said. “But I know how to manage complex systems so I felt comfortable. I felt that I could contribute.”
“I was looking for an opportunity to volunteer. You work, come home, do your chores and then what? I was looking for something else to do, something else to turn my mind to.”
To and from Stittsville, Malo uses 262 bus for work every day. He says he’s satisfied with the service he gets but that some of the asked-for changes will only be remedied with increased ridership.
“One of the discussions at the meeting in Stittsville a couple of weeks ago was ‘it would be nice if we had more 96, if it came more often than every 30 minutes’. And the answer to that is ‘we can’t’. You’ll just have to ride the 96 that exists right now more often. Then you can get another 96 every 15 minutes,” he said.
At the same meeting, OC Transpo said that the 96 leaves Stittsville at an average of 34 per cent capacity at peak operating times.
While 96 service may take some time to build a bigger ridership, Malo, having grown up with a subway in Montreal, has a vision for the future of public transportation in Ottawa. It includes fewer cars on the road and light-rail transit.
“Ottawa is behind,” he said. “Once the infrastructure is there, people will use it more often. In a metropolitan city, people travel by transit, they don’t travel by car. What does the city look like 50 years from now? There should be fewer cars going to downtown Ottawa. It should all be transit.”
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