On Thursday, February 21, Ottawa’s Transit Commission met and Councillor Glen Gower, Ward 6 Stittsville, was present. We would like to share his update from that meeting and how Stittsville will be affected by transit service – at least until the LRT is up and running.
“Ottawa’s Transit Commission met on Thursday morning. I took the bus in and was 9 minutes late due to congestion on the Transitway downtown. STO buses that normally use Wellington Street were re-routed due to the truck convoy downtown.
Being 9 minutes late was not a significant problem for a meeting that spanned over 4.5 hours. The main item on the agenda was the OC Transpo budget for 2019. From a budgeting perspective this is a unique year. The launch of LRT will represent a significant change for Ottawa’s transit system, and the uncertainty around the launch date makes the budgeting and planning process for 2019 extremely challenging.
First the good news: There is significant investment to ensure more buses, more capacity, and more reliability for Stittsville OC Transpo riders. There will be additional trips in the morning and afternoon for the 261, 262 and 263; and improved connections and reduced travel time for route 252. We’ll see more high-capacity buses (double deckers and articulated buses) on these routes. We’ll see fewer delays/cancellations and more reliability in the system overall. This is excellent news for OC Transpo riders and these are upgrades that I’ve been advocating for over the past several months.
The bad news: These changes won’t come until LRT begins. I’ve been saying all along that the current transit system is fragile, and operating at its maximum capacity. Less snow and warmer weather will certainly help the situation, and OC Transpo continues to tweak operations to improve service, but at this point it’s all band-aid solutions until LRT starts.
As OC Transpo head John Manconi said at the meeting:
“Our customers are going through a lot of pain. I need the LRT to get up and running. I can’t be any more candid with you than that. We have had a horrible reliability issue. I’m not making excuses.”
The draft budget that we approved yesterday at Transit Commission will be considered next by City Council on March 6. Highlights of the budget include:
- $5.1M per year in additional funding for investments to enhance transit service in communities across the city;
- Funding to purchase 12 new buses and replace 79 buses that have reached the end of their life-cycle;
- Refurbishment of existing buses to keep them in good condition for customers;
- Bus stops, shelters and customer improvements at Transitway and O-Train stations;
- Traffic studies to improve the reliability of transit services and reduce operating costs;
- Increasing call centre staffing for Para Transpo to improve customer experience;
- A fare freeze until July 1, 2019, at which point a proposed 2.5 percent increase to transit fares would take effect; and
- Seniors 65 and over travel for free on Sundays in addition to Wednesdays, beginning on July 1, 2019.
More notes from the meeting:
- We heard from several delegations who shared their concerns about equity and access to transit in our city. Their input was extremely valuable, and I’m looking forward to working with my fellow councillors and citizen members of the commission to review policies, procedures and data to ensure OC Transpo is delivering equitable and reliable service.
- A fare freeze continues to be in effect until July 1, 2019. There is a possibility to extend the fare freeze further in the year if LRT has not launched by the end of June.
- I submitted an inquiry to OC Transpo staff to clarify what formal or informal policy and procedures are in place for OC Transpo during extreme weather days. Given the service issues we’ve seen on extreme cold days or during major snow storms, I would like to better understand how OC Transpo plans and reacts to these events. I will receive a reply back from staff in the coming weeks and I will share it on my blog.
I took the bus home last night from City Hall after a long day of meetings downtown. I went to catch my 261 bus at Mackenzie King station outside of the Rideau Centre around 4:00pm.
Like every night, buses were lined up on the bridge to ferry commuters home to all points west, east and south. Buses line up front-to-back with just a few inches in between each one.
Last night, the first bus in line had a mechanical problem, and could not move. That meant no bus behind it could move either. Within minutes there were dozens of buses in a growing queue stretching back towards Ottawa University.
In under 10 minutes, the first bus in line was moving again, but that small delay set back dozens of buses, and impacted every commuter leaving downtown towards Kanata, Stittsville and Barrhaven. That short breakdown of a single bus in front of the Rideau Centre probably cost every driver headed to the suburbs another 15 minutes on the trip home.
This is the kind of thing that happens on a regular basis. A bus gets stuck in the snow. A truck parks in a bus lane. A protest snarls traffic downtown.
And these are exactly the kinds of situation that LRT, when it finally launches, will eliminate. But until it launches, we’re likely in for more delays, cancellations, and crowded buses.”
You can read all of Councillor Gower’s remarks on various activities affecting Stittsville at: https://www.glengower.ca/.
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