Ottawa Municipal Election 2022 For this election cycle, the Greenspace…
Copyright 2022 © Jay Chadha
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If you have ever taken the public transit system, chances are you have seen how unreliable and difficult it can be. Buses don’t show up or are late, routes don’t take you where you need to go, commute times are long, and it can be unaffordable for many. It seems the issues are even worse in Barrhaven. If you want to go from one side of the community to the other, it could easily take you 50 minutes by bus compared to 10-15 minutes by vehicle. If you want to travel from Barrhaven to Kanata for work, that commute time could easily be an hour and a half each way.
One of the first orders of business for the new council will be overhauling the transit system. It’s been a long time since all routes have been looked at and how OC Transpo can better serve all parts of Ottawa.
The city continues to grow outwards, and those who live in the suburbs are finding it difficult to get around by public transit. In Barrhaven West, Stonebridge and Half Moon Bay easily come to mind. Some of these communities have only one or two bus routes serving these neighborhoods, whereas others only see a few buses a day during the week, and no service on weekends.
These communities are seeing rapid growth with many families moving into the neighborhood. Teenagers rely on public transit to see their friends and get to school or work. Parents rely on the bus system to bring children to daycare and get to work. For young families or single individuals who don’t have a car, they rely on public transit to go shopping and get around their community.
Commuter habits are changing and people are relying more on the public transit system to get around their communities. The days of people relying on buses only for school and work are over. As we reimagine the system, we must not cut back on current main routes, yet instead expand our localized routes.
We need to make it quicker to get from the Marketplace shopping district to Costco. We need a more reliable system for those who live in Old Barrhaven, Stonebridge, or Half Moon Bay. We need better routes to get people from Barrhaven to other parts of Ottawa, whether it be Kanata, the Merivale corridor, or Hunt Club.
It’s a complex issue that needs experienced heads at the table. I’ve worked at OC Transpo for the past 20 years. I started out as a bus driver and now serve as a Program Manager for rail operations, Employee Management (I am currently on a leave of absence to run for city council). I’ve seen the inner workings and how things are run. I’ve seen what works and what doesn’t. I’ve never been in a position to fix the system myself, but as city councillor, I’d work with other councillors, city staff, and OC Transpo management to make it more reliable and affordable for all.
We have an incredibly dedicated group of people at OC Transpo who work each and every day to serve commuters across Ottawa. They are eager to provide a system which works better for all. As elected officials, we need to ensure that we give OC Transpo all proper resources that are required to run a reliable, affordable and accessible service.
Nobody knows the system better than those who work there. We hear the concerns and frustrations every day, and we experience them too. I believe the City of Ottawa needs to work more collaboratively with those at OC Transpo. I’d like to see someone from the company sit on the Transit Commission to ensure someone with the skill set is involved with decision making.
If elected to city council, I’d also advocate to sit on the Transit Commission myself to make a difference for transit riders across the city. I believe my experience and knowledge of the inner workings will help rebuild a system which can benefit all.
We need to hire more bus drivers, get more buses on the roads, and ensure hundreds of routes aren’t cancelled a day. Trip Cancellations create a ripple effect of problems for commuters which make their travel time stressful.
We need to redesign bus routes to put an emphasis on localized routes while not cutting back on the existing main routes.
The pandemic has changed commuters travel habits and ridership levels are still only about 50 per cent of what we saw before March 2020. . The implications are long lasting and we need to pivot.
While some Barrhaven West candidates have said we just need to redeploy resources, a solution isn’t that easy. OC Transpo has said we need more buses and drivers on the road.
I’m happy to see new drivers join the company. They will be a great asset to the company. Like in many fields, it’s incredibly difficult to find drivers. We need to think outside of the box at more innovative ways to hire.
Issues with the bus system along with light rail transit breakdowns have made many people lose trust in the system. We cannot encourage people to use public transit if it’s not easily accessible. We need to give them a system which works, a system which is affordable, and a system which is fast.
This will be a lot of work and it won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take a lot of planning, a lot of debate, and a lot of discussion. But we cannot afford to get it wrong.
While some candidates are proposing free transit for everyone, this is a position I do not support. Nothing is free in life and we need funding to fix the system. People don’t mind paying for a service that works and gets them where they need to go.
I am in support of making transit fares free for more groups of people. We already have it in place for young children and seniors on certain days. Some Mayoral candidates have proposed free transit for those under 17 years of age and that is a commitment I can get behind. We must also look for ways to make the system more affordable for those on reduced incomes.
We have heard the stories on TV of people Ubering to work instead of taking the bus because it’s more reliable, accessible, faster, and costs almost the same price as a monthly pass. This shouldn’t be the case. It’s a concern I’ve also heard at the doors and is something the next term of council must look at.
In about a year from now, our neighbouring community of Riverside South will be served by Phase 2 of light rail transit, which will take the trains from Likebank road to the airport and Bayview station. From there commuters will have the chance to travel east past downtown, or west though Westboro.
This edition of the LRT system will better connect many more Ottawa communities by rail. While it won’t result in trains rolling though Barrhaven, it will mean the rails will be approaching closer to our community.
We need to find a way to get Barrhaven residents from this community to the LRT station in Riverside South. One of the ways to do this would be running an express route or shuttle from various key transit stations in Barrhaven, which would then provide a direct route to the station on Likebank road.
If this was done in a fast and reliable fashion, this could be a game changer for those looking to commute downtown, to the airport, Carleton University, Hunt Club, or anywhere in between.
While we have seen many kinks and flaws with the light rail transit system, it seems like many of the mistakes have been ironed out. Every new system will have some issues at the start and it looks like most of the technical work has been ironed out. We built this system to serve hundreds of thousands of commuters, and we must strive to still do that. Let’s give Barrhaven West residents an accessible way to travel by light rail.
This will mean thinking outside of the box and exploring ideas which OC Transpo has never undertaken before. That will mean looking at other successful cities’ systems to see what works for them. From there we can try to incorporate some of those ideas into our system. We can’t be scared to try new things. I believe some sort of a shuttle system or express routes could be part of that.
I believe we need to put a pause on Phase 3 out to Barrhaven — at least for now. This is a $5 billion project in today’s dollars. By the time shovels are in the ground, it would most likely cost more. Our current ridership numbers don’t justify such an expensive investment, especially when we haven’t even launched Phase 2 yet.
Barrhaven is very lucky to be served by the transitway; it was described as the best in Canada when it was first built. It’s fast and can accommodate many buses on it per hour. We need to prioritize fixing the bus system and from there better utilize our bus rapid transit ways. People don’t care how they get around; they just want it to be fast, reliable, and affordable.
If a time comes when we need to consider light rail transit out to Barrhaven again, I am absolutely in support of that. But now isn’t the time and I’ve heard that from many Barrhaven West voters at the doors. That money can be spent elsewhere on projects such as the Greenbank Road realignment or for a safer crossing on Jockvale.
One of the first things the next term of council must do is seek community engagement. That means asking transit riders what types of routes would most benefit them. We need to ask what would shorten their commute times, what’s making them longer now, and what a reliable system means to them.
Our outgoing council has a history of making decisions which don’t seek community engagement. That is not how a democratic society works. It’s the voters who elect us into office and it’s their voices which count. It’s your voice that counts. City councillors need to remember that.
While this is by no means a one-stop fix, and it will take time, we need a table of city councillors who have the skill set, knowledge, and passion to fix the system. This is work which must start now before our ridership is even more severely impacted. This is a crucial time for Ottawa, and a crucial election for the city.
If you have any questions, concerns, or comments about how to make public transit better in Ottawa, please reach out to me.
Ottawa Municipal Election 2022 For this election cycle, the Greenspace…