Bad decisions have repercussions – transit riders pay the price
In a spectacular case of counting their chickens before they hatch, OC Transpo announced last summer that they would be laying off hundreds of drivers in anticipation of the LRT launch. Considering that the LRT is now more than 400 days late, this decision has had serious repercussions.
In addition, last September, OC Transpo cut a number of routes – notably #11, #12, and #28. None of the routes that were cut overlap with the LRT – it appears to be merely a case of OC Transpo saving money on busing to pay for the much-delayed LRT.
As drivers (and other OC Transpo staff) leave, OC Transpo has struggled and failed to maintain an acceptable level of service. Customer complaints are rising; the transit challenge in February highlighted serious deficiencies. Even the head of OC Transpo, John Manconi, admitted that the system was struggling with reliability.
OC Transpo has resorted to offering bonuses and incentives to encourage staff to work overtime.
It is now being reported that OC Transpo spent 30% more on overtime this year than in the year before. From May 2018 to April 2019, they spent $17.3 million on overtime, which is $4.2 million more than the year before.
This does NOT include the additional $6.6 million that the city is spending on incentives and bonuses to encourage drivers to take on the extra hours.
According to my calculations, that is $10.8 million dollars in one year to correct a decision to lay off drivers when it was obvious to anyone at the time that the LRT was not ready for launch.
Just think of the other things that OC Transpo COULD have spent their money on … like online booking for ParaTranspo or restoring routes #11, #12, and #28.
EVERY person in Ottawa has an interest in good public transit. I think Ottawa residents should be asking their councillors why OC Transpo is getting a free pass to spend taxpayer money so carelessly.
Safety at bus stops and on buses
As a regular rider, I’ve seen my fair share of bad behaviour – pushing, shouting, fighting, leering … An eighteen-year-old guest in our house was harassed on a #12 bus two summers ago. Personally I’ve gotten off buses because the situation wasn’t safe, I’ve reported problems to the drivers, and a few weeks ago I had to text a friend to call the police because of a fight in the back of a dangerously overcrowded bus.
I now know that the OC Transpo number to call for help is 613-741-2478
Hollaback Ottawa has been working with OC Transpo to reduce the risks and OC Transpo has signs up telling riders to inform the bus driver if they feel unsafe.
CBC is reporting that a rider complained that a male passenger was harassing women on a bus and the bus driver failed to respond appropriately. According to the article, he initially told the rider that it “wasn’t his job to babysit.” When she persisted, he pulled over and called security, but announced to other passengers that the delay was her fault.
This is worrisome in many ways. Everyone in Ottawa has the right to go about their day without worrying about harassment. People should be able to get from point A to B without being harassed, groped, or bothered.
OC Transpo has a role to play in making sure that riders feel safe while using public transit.
The Globe and Mail recently posted an article noting that data on incidents ranging from harassment to serious sexual assault are often not tracked or end up being mis-categorized. It's tough to fix a problem if you don't know what is going on.
What steps do you think OC Transpo (and the city) should take to reduce harassment?
L'Association communautaire de Vanier, Healthy Transportation Coalition et le groupe des usagers de transport en commun d'Ottawa voudrait vous entendre. Nous vous remercions pour votre temps et considération.
The time is NOW for ParaTranspo online booking
One of the frustrations of advocating for better transit in Ottawa, is that the city seems to have tunnel vision concerning the LRT - claiming that all other issues must wait until the train is running. But not all problems will be solved by the LRT.
Sally Thomas, an organizer with Ottawa Transit Riders, has been advocating for OC Transpo to implement online booking for years.
She has been documenting her struggles with the current system by posting her wait times on Twitter – she frequently spends hours every morning on hold waiting to book ParaTranspo services.
Such poor service is disrespectful. Does the City think that persons with disabilities have nothing better to do than wait on the phone?
After ten years of pressure, OC Transpo is perhaps ready to think about modernizing its system.
ParaTranspo serves people in Ottawa with a wide range of abilities and challenges. But people with hearing impairment, speech or dexterity issues may struggle with the current telephone-only system.
Canada has made a commitment to support a new Strategy for an Accessible Government that will encourage various levels of government to meet and exceed the accessibility obligations required under the new legislation. Accessible transit is a human rights issue. People with disabilities are members of our communities; they need to be able to get around with ease and dignity.
Clients of ParaTranspo pay for service just like everyone else who uses transit in Ottawa – they deserve service that is fair, accessible, and effective.
Some people have expressed concern that people who continue to need telephone booking will get worse service than those who switch to online booking, but advocates of the change insist that freeing up telephone lines will give everyone better service as long as OC Transpo maintains both services. (Which it has promised to do).
A modern booking system that offers both online and telephone options can benefit all ParaTranspo users.
Kudos to new councillor Rawlson King for pushing this issue forward, and to Healthy Transportation Coalition for their support, and of course to Sally Thomas who has been indefatigable in this battle.
What happens next is not clear, but we will keep readers informed as this proposal moves ahead.
This is not just about transit, but here is information for people with special needs on how to access Parliament Hill and surroundings to celebrate Canada Day.
On Monday, June 24th, urban councillors – Jeff Leiper, Catherine McKenney, Mathieu Fleury, Shawn Menard, and Rawlson King invited people to attend consultations on Ottawa’s new ‘Official Plan’.
Several members of Ottawa Transit Riders attended.
The event started with presentations from city managers who said some very hopeful things – they talked about making Ottawa a liveable, affordable city even as the city grows. They talked about creating a plan to move ‘PEOPLE, not VEHICLES’ and they talked about how to document consultations and feedback so that residents can be sure that their opinions are being considered.
Then, we were encouraged to move to any of five tables set up to discuss specific topics:
- Active transportation
- Affordable housing
- Climate change
- Certainty in the development process
- Urban boundaries
It was a nice experience to be among fellow citizens who already understand the value of cycling and public transit.
Some information on the city’s Official Plan is available on the website at: https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/planning-and-development/official-plan-and-master-plans/official-plan
Fingers crossed …
Ottawa Transit Riders Talk Transit at the Green New Deal for Canada
On Friday, June 14, Ottawa Transit Riders joined with environmental groups and social justice advocates in the Ottawa launch of the Green New Deal for Canada. An overflow crowd packed into Glebe-St. James United Church to listen to speeches from environmental leaders like Maude Barlow, Avi Lewis, and David Suzuki. It was an inspirational night filled with great discussions about the role that citizens can play in fighting climate change.
Throughout the evening, members of the OTR Board of Directors talked with attendees about public transit and its crucial role in helping to make the planet greener. We heard some great ideas about how to make public transit more affordable, accessible, and sustainable!
If you haven’t done so already, sign up here to become a member of Ottawa Transit Riders.
On June 12, 2019, councillors participated in a rather contentious city council meeting.
OTR Board Member John Reddins attended.
The first item of interest to our members was a proposal from councillor Catherine McKenney (Somerset Ward) to study the merits of ‘Vision Zero’ – “a strategy to eliminate all traffic fatalities and severe injuries, while increasing safe, healthy, equitable mobility for all.”
It is a strategy pioneered in Sweden that has been highly successful in reducing traffic fatalities and creating infrastructure to encourage cycling. Edmonton, Vancouver, and Toronto have already started working towards ‘vision zero’.
In Ottawa, the proposal was sparked by the tragic death of a cyclist on Laurier Avenue right in front of City Hall. Two more cyclists were hurt on Tuesday morning. Vision Zero was also invoked after the Westboro bus station tragedy this past December. It is an issue since residents are at risk of being injured on Ottawa’s roads while crossing streets to get to bus-stops, waiting at bus-stops, or walking/biking to transit stops.
The proposal was defeated.
The second item of interest was a proposal from councillor Diane Deans (Gloucester-Southgate) to reduce transit fares as a way of acknowledging that transit riders are not getting quality service for their fares.
"The very principle of fairness would suggest that we should not be charging full fares for a partial or unreliable system," she said.
The proposal was defeated.
A follow-up motion to freeze transit fares until the LRT is operating was accepted.
Then things got bizarre as the Mayor threw his full support behind the transportation manager who has been at the helm while transit service declines, frustration rises, and costs skyrocket.
“John Manconi is one of the most noble, sensible, competent general managers of transit that we have ever seen in the history of the City of Ottawa and to be casting aspersions on him and our senior staff is an absolute disgrace for political posturing and points,” Watson said before councillors banged their desks in support.
What do you think?
On Friday, June 14th, join Ottawa Transit Riders and many like-minded organizations at the LEAP event to promote the ‘Green New Deal’ at the Glebe-St. James United Church (650 Lyon St S), 6:30 – 9PM
Speakers and performers include David Suzuki, Avi Lewis, Maude Barlow, and MC Jill O’Reilly.
We'll hear about:
- How the climate crisis is impacting our communities
- Who’s responsible for the mess we’re in, and
- How the Green New Deal can build a better life for all
The evening will close with a 'barnstorm' led by 350.org.
We’re going to fall in love with what’s possible. And we’re going to lay out our plan to win — together.
What’s affordable in Ottawa?
Our partners, Healthy Transportation Coalition might be interested in this article on affordable living, rather than affordable housing.
You may have heard the rule of thumb that families should spend no more than 30% of their income on housing, but the author of this article argues that you can’t consider the true cost of living anywhere without calculating transportation costs.
The examples here are all American, but the lesson applies to Canadian cities as well. Families who live in dense walkable neighbourhoods may be able to live without a car or with only one car because they can shop at local places and get most places on foot, by bike, or by transit. Their rent or mortgage might appear high, but other costs are low.
In comparison, families who live in the suburbs of large, sprawling cities might pay less for their homes, but might find themselves paying more for multiple cars and/or spending more TIME in transit.
This is not to argue that one situation is inherently better than another, merely to argue that all costs need to be considered when advocating for affordability. When city councillors are planning and designing new developments, they should be thinking of giving residents as many choices as possible. It may be a choice for many to drive everywhere, but others might like the option of walking or cycling.
Ottawa has a golden opportunity right now to build affordable housing in close proximity to transit – ie the LRT.
We should also be building multi-user systems so that people in far-flung suburbs can walk or cycle to transit hubs.
Let’s keep fighting for a better, more accessible, more people-friendly city!