Letter from Stephen St Denis - rider of route 11

February 20, 2019

To the Transit Commission:

I have a specific and a general issue. I live at Grenon Ave. and Richmond Road, west of Pinecrest. I rely on route 11 to get my groceries, go to church and gym. I depend of the 11 for my physical, psychological and spiritual well-being. You could say it’s my lifeline.

Before OC Transpo took a machete to the route, I had almost door-to- door service to the Metro at Lincoln Fields. Now, my only option is to take the 97 to Carling where the former Wendy’s was, I can either wait for the extra long light at the corner or make a mad suicide dash across Carling. It gets even better. If the mall’s upper level is closed or the elevator is broken, as it is now, I have to wheel across the parking lot and down the hill to the lower level to get to Metro, I ask you, is that a reasonable expectation for someone in a wheelchair in such extreme weather conditions?

By the way, there are no sidewalks anywhere in the parking lot and poor lighting in some areas which is a serious safety issue. Never an issue when the 11 from Bayshore stopped right by the Metro. I am not alone in making this perilous journey. On Sept. 2, the very first day of the change, I saw a senior with a walker moving very slowly down the hill to the Metro right in the middle of road. It was pretty alarming to watch so I caught up to her and coaxed her to the side.

This is an accident waiting to happen. Compounded by winter, it's a nightmare. I have had a couple of close calls because drivers aren’t expecting to encounter a person in a wheelchair. Every day the restoration of route 11 is delayed is putting people’s lives at risk, mostly mine. Do OC Transpo and the City want another inquest or a negligence lawsuit on their bloody hands?   What concrete action is the city going to take NOW GODDAMMIT to ensure this does not happen?

As you know, Route 11 is just one example of many changes across the city that caused havoc for thousands of riders. Routes that have served communities well for decades were torn up. John Manconi may think he is the God of bus routes, but none of us, including him, is infallible or have never made a decision without fully thinking out the ramifications which is why there must be a system of checks and balances. To use an LRT analogy, do you not agree that every train must have safety mechanisms and some kind of central override to prevent it from running out of control? We’ve already seen one train wreck.

To see how poorly this change was planned, transferring at Lincoln Fields station not only involves back tracking, but the 11 leaves 3 minutes before the 97 gets there. Who’s the idiot responsible for this total lack of coordination? So I always have to wait for the next 11 bus. If I do that, which not even OC Transpo's trip planner recommends, a former 5 minute trip to the Metro now takes at least 25 minutes.

By some twisted logic, John Manconi says the route cannot be changed until Phase One of the LRT is in operation. The two events are totally unrelated. The LRT is only coming to Bayshore when Phase Two is completed at least 7 years from now, not 2019!  But John Manconi has dug in his heels proclaiming from on high that any changes in the route network are frozen until just 12.5 km of track downtown is operational. I am also digging in my heels. I will not be a casualty of bureaucracy.

I understand the reasons behind the Delegation of Authority By-Law. I worked at Statcan for 32 years and saw two Chief Statisticians resign over undue political meddling. I have seen the toll it takes on employees. But in a democracy when making important decisions that could potentially impact thousands, final authority should never be delegated. To put it simply, the buck stops with you, the elected officials.

Given that public outcry, according to the Commission’s Terms of Reference[1] below, you had a duty to at least review the changes. There was absolutely no mention of the route changes in the minutes. So what is the purpose of the Commission? Whatever happened to being responsible for providing "client-focused" transit? Shamefully, you chose to bury your heads in the sand and failed in your #1 duty as councillor, to act on behalf of your constituents. It’s time to show some backbone and lift the damn Delegation of Authority By-Law, which is within your power to do so, and get routes such as the 11 back on track ASAP where the LRT is not an issue.

There is too much power in the hands of unelected officials and there needs to be more political accountability. I don't know what makes me madder, the butchering of route 11 or the governance model of OC Transpo that not is in the public's best interest. This is a public system in which Ottawa taxpayers invested $551 million in 2017. We expect transparency and accountability for our money. Is that too much to expect from our elected officials?  

I believe 2019 will be a tipping point. Transit Commission members, do you want to be known as someone who helped shaped that change or be known as resisting a necessary change?

Thank you,

Stephen St. Denis



[1] The Transit Commission is responsible for ensuring the development of a safe, efficient, accessible and client-focused transit system and for providing overall guidance and direction to the Transportation Services Department on all issues relating to the operation of public transit...

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