Two board members, Sam Boswell and John Redins, were fortunate enough to be invited to represent the Ottawa Transit Riders at the big Light Rail Transit opening day festivities on September 14, 2019! It was a thrill to be included in such a momentous event and a nice acknowledgement that the city recognizes what we’re trying to do and is interested in working with us and our members.
The launch festivities were set up in the open space at Tunney’s Station, right on the other side of the turnstiles, and there were about 400 people in attendance, ranging from RTG executives and construction contractors, past and current mayors and councillors, and regular citizens. The event was well put-together and featured the Eagle River Singers opening the event; Albert Dumont, elder and spiritual advisor for the Algonquin, Kitigan Zibi Anishinabeg, performing a very moving blessing; and then speeches from Councillor Allan Hubley, Mayor Jim Watson, and Caroline Mulroney, Ontario’s Minister of Transportation.
After all the speeches, a commemorative plaque was unveiled and then the system was ceremonially turned on with a countdown from the crowd...with the literal pushing of a giant button on stage, a voice came over the speakers announcing that the Confederation Line was now turned on and ready to serve customers! It should’ve been cheesy but it was fun; it’s nice to see Ottawa moving into the 21st century and joining all of the other cities that already have light rail or subways. After a short sound and light show, the crowd was moved (in colour-coded groups) to the actual train ride portion of the morning.
The train experience was smooth, fast, and honestly quite fun; after hearing so much about this system over the past few years, it was quite amazing to actually be on one! The ride took guests from Tunney’s Pasture to Blair and back, stopping at each station to let guests see the platform areas (though nobody was allowed to get off). The stations looked clean and bright and each had something individual about it (e.g silhouettes of flying geese at Lees Station) to make it stand out a bit from the windows.
Now that the LRT is launched, we need to renew our calls for OC Transpo to put time, money, and energy into improving the conventional bus transit system; people without access to the trains still need reliable, efficient bus service! And if people near the trains cannot GET to the trains, these shiny new trains will run empty...and that would be a sad state of affairs after waiting so long!
Exciting times in Ottawa transit!