Ottawa Sun: Transit challenge: 17 Ottawa councillors ride the bus for a week

By Ananya Vaghela, PostMedia

Seventeen city councillors are choosing to only use public transit this week, but the mayor is not one of them.

The remaining five councillors have either declined or have not acknowledged the challenge.

An email from Mayor Jim Watson’s office said his busy schedule “makes it hard for the Mayor to frequently use public transit.”

Jenna Sudds, councillor for Kanata South, is taking the bus this week to understand the problems first-hand.

“The most frustrating experience is the unreliability and/or the crowding of the buses on the way home,” said Sudds.

She has been working with OC Transpo to set up a survey to compile riders’ transit experiences.

Kirsten Pulles, an organizer for the group behind the challenge, wants to highlight the importance of accessible transportation services.

“We felt that the decisions made at city hall are made by people who don’t really take transit,” said Pulles.

Pulles said the majority of the councillors were excited to participate, but some councillors have felt pressured into joining.

In an email, Beacon Hill-Cyrville Coun. Tim Tierney said he is now participating in transit week. His initial concern was that accepting the challenge would also mean supporting the policy of free transit due to the group’s name, Free Transit Ottawa.

Eli El-Chantiry, the councillor for West Carleton-March, said he declined because he is “off-site all week.”

Scott Moffatt, councillor for Rideau-Goulbourn, said he wants the focus to stay on those participating over those who are not.

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney knows the challenge does not entail experiencing transit exactly as residents do but said she appreciates the opportunity to replicate some of it.

“It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that our local transit system serves many, many people,” said McKenney. “Oftentimes, it’s people who are disadvantaged.”

Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower and his team are all participating together. Gower’s commute to city hall Monday morning went smoothly but late night meetings promise to make the challenge feel like one.

Since being elected, Innes Coun. Laura Dudas has not been frequenting the city’s bus routes as she once did but this week allows her to get back into it.

The five councillors who are not participating:

Jan Harder, Barrhaven

Eli El-Chantiry, West Carleton-March

Rick Chiarelli, College

George Darouze, Osgoode

Scott Moffatt, Rideau-Goulbourn

The 17 councillors who are participating:

Matt Luloff, Orléans

Laura Dudas, Innes

Jenna Sudds, Kanata North

Glen Gower, Stittsville

Theresa Kavanagh, Bay

Keith Egli, Knoxdale-Merivale

Diane Deans, Gloucester-Southgate

Tim Tierney, Beacon Hill-Cyrville

Mathieu Fleury, Rideau-Vanier

Catherine McKenney, Somerset

Jeff Leiper, Kitchissippi

Riley Brockington, River

Shawn Menard, Capital

Jean Cloutier, Alta Vista

Stephen Blais, Cumberland

Carol Anne Meehan, Gloucester-South Nepean

Alan Hubley, Kanata South

Catherine McKenney