CBC: Transit challenge proves difficult for some councillors

From missing buses to being packed like sardines, councillors experience life by bus

Robyn Miller · CBC News

With a few days left in a weeklong transit challenge, some Ottawa city councillors are expressing their frustration with a system in which getting from point A to point B isn't always easy. 

Free Transit Ottawa issued the challenge to rely solely on transit for a week and 17 councillors accepted

The advocacy group says the goal is to draw attention to parts of the transit system that need improvement and to encourage discussion between elected officials and the general public.

Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower is taking the challenge one step further by committing to taking the bus for an entire month. 

He made that promise to a friend during the election campaign and said it's been going OK — except for what happened on Tuesday.

Gower's four-year old Boxer had a veterinary appointment at the Alta Vista Animal Hospital.

"To take a bus there, it's multiple connections, it would have been a long time. I took the car," said Gower, who added his dog would have been too big for the bus anyway.

"But it's a good reminder that if you are relying solely on the bus it can be very difficult to get around the city."

Packed like sardines

Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury said he's been taking the bus since he was three and knows the obstacles of using public transit. 

Thursday morning he was riding on Route 12 to get downtown and said there was no more room on the bus.

"We were like sardines at Bradley [Avenue] right in from of the Wabano Centre, going towards the Rideau Centre," said Fleury.

"We have capacity issues on some of our routes that need to be addressed if we want to increase our ridership."

Fleury added that in Vanier, those customer experience improvements are especially necessary because the area won't directly benefit from light rail transit. 

I'm late, I'm late

Somerset Coun. Catherine McKenney already lives downtown and is able to walk most places, but even with a five minute bus ride she had to scramble on Thursday when her Route 85 bus didn't show up on time. 

It's an issue McKenney said she hears almost daily from constituents.

"It certainly does give you an indication of what happens when a bus is late," said McKenney, adding she has it easy compared to some.

"I don't ever have to make a connection, I don't have to pick up kids at daycare, I don't have to do groceries, all of the other ways that people have to move around on transit, that isn't my experience getting to work and back."

'Flunked' the challenge

Gloucester-South Nepean Coun. Carol Anne Meehan also "flunked" day four of the transit challenge, admitting that she took her car to get to a morning appointment.

"It would have taken me an hour and a half by bus to get here to the Humane Society and it took me 15 minutes by car, so given a choice, what would you do?" Meehan asked her followers in a Twitter video.

Participants are completing daily surveys, plus a longer one at the end of the week.

Free Transit Ottawa plans to crunch the data and present their findings on Monday.

Catherine McKenney