Reliability is what we expect in our public transit system. This past week our Light Rail Transit system had one of the longest disruptions in service since it opened in 2019. Thankfully after six days of broken wires the LRT was back up and running to full service as of last Tuesday evening. We are all happy to see the trains up and running but what is the effect of an incident like this?
These breakdowns lead to loss of public confidence and future ridership. As a representative of a ward that will have seven new transit stations when the LRT Stage 2 is completed, I want to know how we can avoid these breakdowns and provide reliable service?
The latest breakdown was related to freezing rain that caused arcing on the overhead catenary wire system. Water and electricity don’t mix well especially when it is freezing. Ottawa is a city of extreme weather from hot to cold so we need to know that our transit system can handle these variations. We need to take the appropriate steps to ensure reliable service.
My other concern is the emergency procedures when breakdown occurs, especially for residents who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs. We need to know that accessibility is taken into consideration during such incidents.
As a member of the City’s Light Rail Subcommittee, I will be asking questions on how to implement the 103 recommendations from the Provincial Government’s Report from the Public Inquiry Ottawa LRT Commission. Will implementing these recommendations stop the breakdowns we just experienced? I certainly hope so, as I know how important this LRT system is to our city – it is the backbone of our transit system – we need to look at all options to make sure it has every opportunity to succeed.
We also need to look at our overall transit network and how we can improve it over the next four years until the Stage 2 LRT system is in place. My concern will be to ensure that we do not forget about residents who rely on transit to get around their community, many of whom are seniors and do not have cars. As well, the federal government is proposing that their employees return to the office on a partial basis. This will not return commuter ridership to pre-pandemic levels of ridership, so adjustments in service may have to be made.
I strongly believe in the value of public transit in our city. Public transit is and will continue to be an important part of our city’s transportation system, but it needs to be a positive experience for all. For me, the first step is to restore reliability.