CTV: Majority of Ottawa City Councillors pledge to use only public transit this week

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The majority of Ottawa City Councillors have committed to travely solely using public transit for the entire week.

The challenge comes from the rider advocacy group Free Transit Ottawa. 17 of the 23 councillors officially registered for the challenge, with one seat currently vacant.

The group wants councillors to get a first-hand experience on what riders go through daily.

River Ward Councillor Riley Brockington accepted the challenge. He says he was left standing on the curb twice Monday morning.

"Today two full buses wouldn't stop," said Brockington.

"I certainly feel their pain."

Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Carol Anne Meehan also signed up, but found it to be a difficult challenge on day one.

"I was up for it but I had a 7:30 meeting in Barrhaven I could not get a bus to, so I drove my car," said Meehan

"And then there was no place around there to leave my car all day."

Meehan said she wanted to take the bus, but found out quickly what riders are up against.

"OC Transpo then said they were behind schedule today because of the weather, so I had a 10 o'clock meeting," said Meehan.

"All snowballed in together taking the bus wasn't an option today, I would have been late."

In addition to five city councillors turning down the invitation, Mayor Jim Watson also declined, citing his busy schedule as not allowing for only using public transportation. Other city councillors tell CTV it wouldn't work logistically, or they were too busy.

Organizer Kirstin Pulles tells CTV, rejecting the challenge highlights the very need for change, as it's recognition that the system now just isn't working.

Capital Ward Councillor Shawn Menard agrees.

"That's just underscoring the feeling that people have taking transit every day," said Menard.

"And people have big jobs and they have to take transit sometimes as well."

"That's what we need to consider when we're making decisions around transit for the people who have no option," said Somerset Ward Councillor Catherine McKenney.

"We're listening to those examples and we're doing something about it."

Transit Commission Chair Allan Hubley says he's not in favour of free transit, but he will be trying routes all year to help find ways to alleviate the issues.

"It's not just transit week, it's transit year," said Hubley.

However with back-to-back meetings across the city, Hubley say riding OC Transpo today was not possible.

"A day like today I couldn't, I had two meetings in Kanata, coming here for a meeting at noon, then I have to be back in Kanata for 3," said Hubley.

"That just doesn't work with the transit system the way it is today which is one of the reasons I wanted to be transit chair to fix these things."

Free Transit Group will meet with city councillors Monday afternoon to discuss the experience ahead of the 2019 transit budget discussions.

Catherine McKenney