Barrhaven residents sound off over 'unreliable' route 95

Fed up Barrhaven residents left in the cold by what they describe as poor, unreliable route 95 bus service held a community meeting Tuesday night to voice their frustrations.

Changes to community's primary bus route prompt sardonic #LifeOnThe95 hashtag on Twitter

Around 80 people attended a meeting Tuesday night to voice their frustration about what they say is poor bus service in Barrhaven. (Jean Delisle/CBC)

Fed up Barrhaven residents left in the cold by what they describe as poor, unreliable route 95 bus service held a community meeting Tuesday night to voice their frustrations.

I'm tired of being stranded at Fallowfield.- Robert Finkle, Barrhaven resident 

Last December, the city introduced new winter service adjustments to OC Transpo on several routes including the 95, which serves the bustling southern suburb of Barrhaven.

The changes were billed by the city as a move to "improve service in growing communities," but some Barrhaven bus riders say they've done nothing but make service worse. 

"I'm tired of being stranded at Fallowfield [Station]. I'm asking for your help," said an exasperated Robert Finkle at the town hall meeting.

"What they introduced in December is not working. I waited 45 minutes to get on a bus. That's crazy," another attendee said.

Around 80 people attended the meeting, including one woman who took aim at the city's planning department, pointing to the rapid development in the south end as the cause for the transit mess.  

"It's been very poor planning all along. I don't think the city planned for this," she shouted. 

#LifeOnThe95 sparks debate

But what helped spark the meeting on Tuesday was a social media campaign started by Amanda Bernardo.

In January, the Half Moon Bay resident began chronicling her complaints on Twitter under the sardonic hashtag #LifeOnThe95.

The posts caught the attention of Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder, who calls the situation "not acceptable."

Bernardo told CBC Radio's Ottawa Morning she chose to live in Barrhaven because the neighbourhood is more affordable for first-time home buyers like herself.

"Unfortunately, for me to live closer to the downtown core was not something that I could consider. So I don't think I anticipated how long the commute was going to take me. It is something that I am now slightly regretting," she said.

"But at the same time I don't think it should be something that deters people from living in one end of town from the next. We're all taxpayers, and we should be getting that same type of effective service, no matter where you live."

'I actually dread the bus ride home'

Many complained the commute from Barrhaven to downtown and back can take well over an hour each way — and that's on a good day.

Robert Finkle, who also lives in Half Moon Bay, said getting home from downtown can take up to 90 minutes some days on the new 95 route.

Robert Finkle said his commute can take an hour-and-a-half some days after the city tweaked the bus schedule in Barrhaven. (Joe Lofaro/CBC)

The route, which replaced the 177, was introduced to better serve the growing community of Half Moon Bay.

But since it came into service, riders like Finkle said the route is often cancelled or takes too long to get to every stop.

"I actually dread the bus ride home because I don't know how long it's going to be, or if I'm going to be outside in the elements for a long time," he told CBC News. 

Melissa Newhook said she has lived in various communities and said the current situation facing commuters in Barrhaven is worse than that facing residents of Kanata and most of Orléans. 

"It's one of the fastest growing areas anywhere in the city, and instead of giving us an express [route] like we had asked for, we got an extended 95 with all its problems," Newhook said. 

Residents were asked to put their concerns in writing on large maps in the meeting room. (Joe Lofaro/CBC)

Councillor wants answers

Barrhaven Coun. Jan Harder said there has been a "dramatic increase" in the number of residents griping about the 95  in recent months. 

"It's nonsensical what's happening here," she said in an interview.

"The bus is entirely full, the drivers pass them, buses are missing, there's no schedule, they're sending small buses."

She asked OC Transpo officials not to attend Tuesday's meeting to avoid it turning into a shouting match, she said.

Instead, staff will share feedback from residents with OC Transpo so the transit agency can find a solution.