Ottawa Transit Commission discusses issues

By Pam McLennan, Epoch Times
February 19, 2014 Updated: February 22, 2014

Diane Deans, chair of the Transit Commission, said Wednesday that Ottawa is “laying the groundwork for a world class transit system” with the O-Train expansion that started in April 2013.

At the Transit Commission’s monthly meeting, Deans explained that the Presto card system also began in April and there are currently 140,000 cards in active use.

The Special Constable program was renewed for five years to “provide frontline law enforcement and customer service,” which is part of the 10-point safety plan, said Deans, and the Confederation Line now has names for the new LRT stations.

Deans also indicated that an independent peer review to assess OC Transpo’s safety has been arranged for March 20-21 by National Alliance of Public Transportation Advocates (NAPTA), a North American public transit association.

Deans is invited to speak at the 22nd Congress for the New Urbanism, to be held in Buffalo, New York, in early June, on OC Transpo’s change to an LRT system. The Transit Commission approved funding for Deans to attend the congress, and asked that she report relevant portions of the conference to the commission.

OC Transpo general manager John Manconi talked about the implementation of the Safe Stop program that allows riders to ask the bus driver to let them off between stops during the evening hours. The program now starts at 7 p.m. instead of 9 p.m.

Manconi indicated that OC Transpo is working on an online incident reporting system for rider feedback. The new system will provide metrics for the number of instances of violence or harm to riders and drivers. Information gathered online will be shared with police while maintaining privacy issues.

Details of Transpo’s safety and security system were also presented, in which 48 special constables are assigned to zones to inspect and enforce fare payments and enforce provincial, municipal, and federal legislation in all OC Transpo’s facilities and property. All new buses will have security cameras that feed into the communication centre when an alarm is triggered.

The commission’s report on fourth quarter 2013 was discussed by Manconi. Although there was a “slight dip in ridership,” the numbers show that 97 percent of the ridership goal was reached. The drop in numbers was attributed to the elimination of jobs in Ottawa/Gatineau, government downsizing, and other factors not related to OC Transpo service during the time period. 

“There is a direct correlation between ridership and employment levels both up and down,” Manconi said.

He also indicated that on-time performance dropped slightly, which was caused by weather, such as heavy snowfalls in December 2013 and construction that slowed morning and evening commutes.

There was some discussion of the reported metrics on buses arriving early. Manconi said that OC Transpo is working to identify routes most prone to running early so the areas can be reduced. 

Marianne Wilkinson asked OC Transpo to look at ways to increase ridership during off-peak times such as making sure there are service lines that go to senior centres and medical offices, which will help the aging population that uses the bus system.

Rainer Bloess said he doesn’t like the integrity of the data on buses that are running ahead of schedule. Manconi said the commission will work to get the same kinds of data that other transportation systems gather and to make the changes requested.