Vanier residents call for more bus shelters along Montreal Road

Fewer bus stops and not enough bus shelters have Vanier residents feeling left out in the cold when it comes to public spending on transportation in Ottawa.

Advocates say number 12 bus service needs improvement

Trevor Haché and Suzanne Lépine say they want to see more bus shelters and benches at bus stops on Montreal Road. (Laura Beaulne-Stuebing/CBC )

Fewer bus stops and not enough bus shelters have Vanier residents feeling left out in the cold when it comes to public spending on transportation in Ottawa.

The city and its provincial and federal partners are investing billions in public transportation with the forthcoming light rail transit system. But transit users who rely on buses shouldn't be forgotten, say Trevor Haché, vice-president of the Healthy Transportation Coalition, and resident Suzanne Lépine.

The two told CBC Radio's All In A Day that Ottawans using the number 12 bus running along Montreal Road don't get the best service. ​

Lépine knows the North River Road stop on the number 12 route, near Cummings Bridge, well. The stop is right next to the river and the lack of a bus shelter leaves transit users exposed, she said.

"It's a problem. So it's not just unpredictable, it arrives and it's full. So sometimes you wait for the second and the third bus to come by," Lépine said.

"It's a long wait …and often you're freezing or you're wet, or you get hit by the slush."

Vanier needs 'special attention'

The Healthy Transportation Coalition conducted a survey with Vanier residents in September 2017 and asked 170 people living in the area what they would like to see to improve transportation. Overwhelmingly, residents wanted more bus shelters and benches at bus stops, Haché said.

Haché said Vanier has unique needs. The city plans to reduce the number of bus stops on Montreal Road from 23 to 17 to make make buses run more smoothly, and Vanier will also not be a part of or benefit from the new LRT system, Haché said.

Vanier is also one of a few neighbourhoods in the city his coalition has identified as not being walkable and has a high number of residents who can't afford to drive a car.

"We'd like to see the city make bus shelters a priority and investing in public transit everywhere across the city, but certainly Vanier's one of the neighbourhoods that we think needs some special attention," Haché said. 

The organization held a meeting Monday night to discuss how residents can get more involved in the push to add shelters and benches to Montreal Road.

'Think outside the box'

For Haché and Lepine, a regular bus shelter is the ideal, but some bus stops would be limited by space as well as affordability. Residents support the idea of a less protective shelter over no shelter at all, Haché said.

"If you think about older streets — Gladstone, Somerset — there's not enough public space to put the regular bus shelter, they're huge," Lepine said. "So I would like OC Transpo to think outside of the box and to redesign shelters. Maybe we need to compromise on some bus shelters so we can at least accommodate, give an umbrella to people."

Haché said Coun. Mathieu Fleury and city staff attended the meeting Monday night and are open to installing unconventional bus shelters at stops where there's a limit on space.

He suggested, however, that the decision will ultimately be up to OC Transpo.

As Montreal Road undergoes improvements, including an update to aging sewer and water main infrastructure, there's an opportunity to revitalize other parts of the busy street, Haché noted.

Haché and Lépine said they would like to see safe biking lanes on both sides of Montreal Road, wider sideways and traffic-calming mechanisms to make the street safer for pedestrians.

A decision about bus shelters and benches along Montreal Road will be made sometime between April and June this year, Haché said.