Residents living along Scott and Albert Streets turned a public information meeting Monday night on the city's plan to divert buses down their roads into an impromptu town hall to vent their frustration.
The city had invited residents to Tom Brown Arena to learn more about the bus diversions planned during LRT construction in 2016.
The city plans to take the western portion of the Transitway offline beginning in 2016 to convert it into a light rail line, and it's proposing to widen Scott and Albert streets — from Holland Avenue to the west and Empress Avenue to the east — to accommodate the additional traffic.
The city's plans also call for two of four traffic lanes from Holland to Empress to be converted to transit-only lanes while work is being done on the Transitway.
But residents protested the plans, saying it would mean some 2,500 buses would travel the corridor every day, which will increase noise levels and compromise safety, particularly for cyclists and pedestrians.
After considerable public pressure, OC Transpo said it plans to reduce the number of buses along Scott and Albert streets by up to 18 per cent during peak periods by taking empty or "dead-head" buses off the route and along the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway.
But that detour still needs the National Capital Commission's approval.
Dewar says city dropped ball with NCC
Monday's meeting was supposed to provide further assurances to residents that the city was listening, but resident Denis Van Staalduinen bristled at the open-house format of the event, saying it amounted to a "divide and conquer" approach.
Van Staalduinen, a campaign adviser to Jeff Leiper — a candidate for Kitchissippi who is running against Katherine Hobbs in the upcoming election — said he wanted to hear from public officials and gathered the crowd to see if they could find any willing to speak.
"Alright we have a crowd here...now all we need is someone with some expertise...to come up and speak to the crowd," said Van Staalduinen.
Paul Dewar, the NDP MP for Ottawa Centre, said the city could have handled the issue better had Mayor Jim Watson or another city official picked up the phone and called the NCC.
He said while city staff and the NCC staff have been talking, municipal leaders have not engaged.
"So what happened was no engagement, no dialogue so therefore, no alternatives really to what you are seeing," said Dewar.
Van Staalduinen said city officials aren't listening to residents' concerns.
Changes will lead to improvements, says Hobbs
The crowd attempted to call Hobbs to the stage, but by that time she had left to attend a launch party for her re-election.
Earlier in the evening she said the city has implemented some of the residents' suggestions, including new bike lanes, and barriers to protect pedestrians from buses.
She said the two years the buses run along the route will be tough for residents, but said once the light rail project is complete residents will be better off.
"At the end we are getting a complete street and we are getting better cycling paths all the way down to Cumberland Street downtown, completely safe from traffic," said Hobbs.
Hobbs said the city will still be open to minor changes once the detours start and will also be monitoring noise and traffic levels at that time.