Public transportation woes in Ottawa


OC Transpo bus 4067
Image via Wikipedia

OC Transpo doesn’t have enough drivers or busses to make the public transit system work and the busses we do have aren’t large enough to meet demand. We need to address this issue in the short, medium and long terms. The municipal vision for a light rail system is a start because it gives us a glimpse of the long-term vision, but it leaves us with a broken system for the next 20 years. Further, even this long-term vision needs better documentation and communication.

Short term questions

The only major short-term question that I want addressed is:

  1. How do we propose to get people around Ottawa over the next three to five years?

Medium and long-term questions

There are lots of medium to long-term questions that need to be addressed now. They include:

  1. How do we propose to “grow” the transportation system as the city grows?
  2. What forms of transportation are we considering besides light rail and how are these forms of transportation going to work with light rail.
  3. Are we putting aside land now so that we don’t have to expropriate later?
  4. How are developer’s plans going to fit into this transportation plan, and what will their role be in making transportation sustainable and usable?

Other important “vision” questions that have an impact on transportation and that we need to ask are:

  1. How do we make in-fill work so that the nature of neighbourhoods only changes for the better?
  2. How do we make “satellite communities” like Kanata, Stittsville, Orleans and Barhaven work? If there were enough jobs in these communities people could choose where to live based on where they are employed and that would address many of the transportation woes but that isn’t happening.
  3. How do we have satellite cities and not kill the inner core of the city?
  4. Are we really committed to bicycles and walking as transportation initiatives? If so, how is that being reflected in the current planning? When a developer plans a development are they required to set aside space for walking and bicycling that meshes with the rest of the transportation systems?
  5. How will any real public transportation plan function without a strategy for dealing with public toilets?
  6. How will any real public transportation plan function without mechanisms for helping people move “things” (groceries, bags, strollers, walkers, etc.) around?

Are municipal planning folks addressing these questions or are they being ignored like the “elephant in the room”? What forms of consultation are being carried out and with whom?

Suggestions for immediate remediation of transportation woes:

My immediate suggestion is to have the mayor and council insist that OC Transpo publish the following reports on their web-site:

  1. The number of bus runs that are missed by day of the week, time of day and by route number.
  2. The number of bus runs where the busses are too full to pick up all the passengers that want on the bus, by day of the week, time of day and route number.
  3. An analysis of the service patterns by neighbourhood highlighting trends (higher or lower levels of service by neighbourhood).

These reports should be published electronically and be posted to the city website. The data should be explained and available as data elements so that consumers can analyse it and look for trends. In that way, citizens can use the information to help decide where in the city to buy their houses and MPAC will be able to adjust the assessed value of the homes in the underserviced areas downwards to help offset the lack of service.

Finally, OC Transpo should find a way of notifying users who are waiting at bus stops when their bus runs have been cancelled or delayed.

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One thought on “Public transportation woes in Ottawa”

  1. As an update to this post, the proposed budget for Ottawa includes money to hire about 40 new drivers. It also includes a 2.5% increase in fairs. It won’t solve all the problems, but it is a start.

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