OC Transpo's 'biggest service change ever' just 4 days away
Buses to disappear from downtown streets almost overnight
OC Transpo has hooked pamphlets to the grab rails in buses, sent brochures to every home and launched a social media hashtag, all in an effort to tell residents about the massive, system-wide changes coming Oct. 6.
"This weekend coming up, this is the biggest service change ever for OC Transpo customers and for us at OC Transpo," said Pat Scrimgeour, the transit agency's director of customer systems and planning.
Almost every bus route will change, he said, as the bus network is finally adjusted to feed into the Confederation Line, the new LRT track that becomes the backbone of the system.
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No more will the 200-series buses, formerly known as express routes, have direct access to downtown. Instead, they'll drop riders at the Tunney's Pasture, Hurdman and Blair LRT stations.
Some bus route numbers that have been around for decades will be retired or split in two. Route 97, for instance, will travel only from the Ottawa Airport to Hurdman station, while today's western leg will become Route 57 from Tunney's Pasture to Bells Corners.
Downtown to go nearly bus-free
Almost overnight, from Saturday into Sunday morning, buses will be taken off downtown streets.
On Slater and Albert streets, where more than 150 buses have been travelling every hour for decades, there will be fewer than eight per hour, Scrimgeour said.
OC Transpo promises that removing the bottlenecks in the downtown core will make taking transit more reliable — the main criticism among riders who endured light rail construction for years.
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Ottawa's mayor hopes residents who had ridden the train during the three-week overlap period since it opened Sept. 14 have appreciated not being stuck in a bumper-to-bumper row of buses above ground.
But Jim Watson also has high hopes for the downtown once the buses are gone.
"I think you're going to see more people wanting to open a café, a patio on Slater and Albert. Before, you'd never even think about that because you'd be breathing in diesel fumes," Watson said.
The buses that used Scott and Nicholas streets as detours for years will also disappear, and the city will soon remove those bus lanes and start upgrades to those roads.
Consider 'mundane' commute a success
With more than 100 routes changing in some way, Watson expects there to be some hiccups when the new commute begins next Monday.
"I don't want to minimize it, I think there will be some challenges at the terminus stations at Hurdman, Tunney's Pasture, and Blair," he told reporters Tuesday.
OC Transpo has been making tweaks at those busy transfer points, such as moving routes and bus shelters so stops are less congested.
After so many years of planning, Scrimgeour knows what success will look like after Oct. 6 — it will feel mundane.
"I ran into one of my colleagues the other day and we were almost high-fiving each other because his travel experience was mundane," Scrimgeour said.