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Calls for more transparency around Ottawa public transit issues continue

Some Ottawa transit users and city councillors say they have lost confidence in the safety and reliability of OC Transpo's system.
2021-08-26 Deans Transit Rally
About 100 people gathered at Marion Dewar Plaza for a demonstration on Wednesday, to express their concerns over recent issues with light rail transit. Photo: @dianedeans

The call for more transparency around Ottawa's transit system is loud and clear at City Hall.

About 100 people gathered at Marion Dewar Plaza for a demonstration on Wednesday, to express their concerns over recent issues with light rail transit, including an axle problem that caused an empty O-Train to slip off the rails near Tunney's Pasture earlier this month, as well as a steering system issue that saw 19 double-decker buses temporarily pulled from the service. (link stories)

Laura Shantz with Ottawa Transit Riders(link) was at the rally and said many transit users are demanding answers from the city.

"We had a lot of people who are really frustrated," Shantz said. "We have a public transit system that works most of the time, but it just keeps breaking."

She said if people are going to rely on public transit, they need better communication from the city in order to rebuild confidence that the system will be there when they need it.

Ottawa General Manager of Transortation Services John Manconi has laid out, through a series of memos to the mayor and city council, the details of an investigation by Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) into LRT problems. The memos explain the findings of RTM's investigation and an update on any affects it's had on OC Transpo services.

But Shantz said, "A string of memos doesn't cut it."

A number of city councillors, including past Transit Commission chair Diane Deans, current commission member Catherine McKenney, and Shawn Menard, have called for an emergency meeting to discuss recent transit issues, since the next scheduled transit meeting isn't scheduled until September 20.

However, that request has been denied by Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and Transit Commission Chair Allan Hubley.

"They prefer to operate by memo, sending memos on a fairly regular basis to members of council and the transit commission, but we're operating in a democracy," Deans tells CityNews Ottawa. "In a democracy, you need to do the business of the public in a public forum. Three months between meetings, especially when you have a system in crisis, is not good enough."

Hubley has said OC Transpo has already responded very professionally to both of the incidents and Watson said the duty of the city is to identify the problem, fix it and get the system up and running again, which it has done.

However, Deans still feels the public deserves more.

"I need to believe that this system is safe and reliable, and that we can depend on it every single day, and I don't have that confidence," Deans says. "That's why I think we can all benefit from a conversation in a public forum."

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