Ottawa

Dear councillors who can't hack transit: We're not sorry for you

People who rely solely on OC Transpo to get around Ottawa applaud challenging city councillors to do the same for a week, but are also frustrated that not all of them can handle it.

'It's a little bit frustrating because the rest of us have to make it work,' says bus rider Ivy McKee

Diane Larabie doesn't have a car and relies solely on OC Transpo to get around. She says it defines her life. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

People who rely solely on OC Transpo to get around Ottawa applaud challenging city councillors to do the same for a week, but are also frustrated that not all of them can handle it.

Free Transit Ottawa is behind the challenge and said the goal is to draw attention to parts of the transit system that need improvement, and encourage discussion between elected officials and residents.

Seventeen city councillors have been riding the bus and taking part in those discussions on social media, posting about missed connections, late buses and overcrowding.

One councillor described the overcrowding as being packed like "sardines." Several have admitted to "flunking" the challenge or choosing a car over a bus to make it to their destination on time.

"At least I have a choice … a lot of people don't," Carol Anne Meehan told her Twitter followers.

'Limits the activities I do'

Diane Larabie is one person who doesn't have a choice because she doesn't drive.

"It definitely defines my life. It limits the activities that I do," said Larabie, who commutes from her home in Lincoln Fields to work in downtown Ottawa every weekday.

Her trip isn't so bad, but she said appointments and errands are a different story.

"For instance, I had to cancel a doctor's appointment twice this winter because ... it was like –40 C that day and then the next day I had my doctor's appointment it was freezing rain," Larabie said.

She has to walk about 10 minutes to get to the Transitway, and said paying for a taxi or Uber isn't financially feasible.

Other riders have similar experiences:

Planning life around the bus

Ivy Mckee sometimes goes a week without the groceries she needs simply because she doesn't want to take the bus to get them, she said.

Without a car, Mckee plans her life around OC Transpo.

Ivy Mckee says she walks or rides her bicycle as much as possible to avoid waiting for late buses. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

"I don't agree to do something if I don't think I can get there on the bus. I wouldn't take a job that I couldn't get to on the bus," Mckee said.

"It's not really surprising that they [city councillors] can't use transit for their daily tasks, but it's a little bit frustrating because the rest of us have to make it work."

Transit challenge participants are completing daily surveys, plus a longer one at the end of the week.

People who rely on OC Transpo say bus service shortfalls define their lives. 0:30

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

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