Commuters share their stories of life in a post-LRT world

It's been more than three weeks since Ottawa's light rail system has been out of service due to a train derailment — and for those who rely on public transit, it's been a frustrating time.

Confederation Line has now been shut down for more than 3 weeks

This LRT train derailed on Ottawa's Confederation Line on Sept. 19, 2021. The line has been out of service ever since, causing great consternation for regular OC Transpo riders. (Nicholas Cleroux/Radio-Canada)

It's been more than three weeks since Ottawa's light rail system has been out of service due to a train derailment — and for those who rely on public transit, it's been a frustrating time.

The westbound train was carrying 12 passengers and an operator when, on the afternoon of Sept. 19, it came off the rails before entering Tremblay station.

It then travelled across a rail bridge with one of its wheels dislodged from the track.

No one was injured, but the derailment — the second one in six weeks — left the east-west Confederation Line shut down and spurred the Transportation Safety Board of Canada to launch an investigation into what went wrong.

CBC Radio's All In A Day recently spoke to three OC Transpo users about what their experience has been since R1 replacement buses were called into service to replace the the LRT.

Here's what they had to say. Some of their remarks have been condensed and edited for style and clarity.

University of Ottawa student Matthew Cottam says he almost missed one of his midterm exams due to the LRT shutdown, and wishes there was more transparency around the problems facing the Confederation Line. (Submitted)

Matthew Cottam, University of Ottawa student

The past 18 days have been really difficult. The replacement R1 buses really haven't been sufficient. They're really, honestly, not safe to ride. They're frequently late or off schedule. There's often no ability whatsoever to even try to physically distance. You're packed shoulder-to-shoulder in there.

My commute time has easily tripled. I've been late for several classes already in the past few weeks, even when I'm affording myself lots of extra time.

Going into midterm season right now, things are really heating up, and I'm not looking forward to having to continue this.

Sometimes I can't even afford to give myself an extra hour. I have a job as well. I have other classes. I'm finishing up an online class at home and then I'm running to the bus, jumping on that, and then to the R1, which sometimes doesn't come.

I just want things to be transparent and clear, and I haven't really felt that it's been that way. The reliability issues started as soon as the [line] opened up, and they've persisted.

The [LRT network] is an essential service for myself and other students and Ottawa transit riders. And we really just want to see a train that is able to be reliable. 

Miranda Gray relies on public transit to get to work each day and run errands, such as grocery shopping. But with packed R1 replacement buses, she says having any extra bags with you is difficult. (Submitted by Miranda Gray)

Miranda Gray, works in software development

[My commute] is probably 30 minutes longer, and very unpredictable.

I had adjusted [my work schedule] before to get slightly better service. I'm one of the last stops before we get to Blair station, so my bus will be quite full. Before the trains were out, and before COVID, very frequently it would not stop because it would already be a dangerous load.

I have to admit, I try very hard not to note what time it is when I leave the office and when I get home, because it's a depressing way to end the day.

I have a meeting every morning at nine. I have to be somewhere silent, so I had taken some of those quick meetings in an LRT station, which is somewhat quieter. But there's no chance to do that on an R1 bus. 

I do groceries as well by transit, and the problem is there isn't room on the buses for you and your groceries. The last time I went into the office, I took nothing with me because I know the bus is going to be packed shoulder-to-shoulder. One less backpack helps. Three extra bags of groceries does not help.

It's a complicated, wicked problem at this point. I'm committed and I'm stubborn so I'm not likely to walk away in anger, partially because I don't really want to cycle an hour each day to the office in winter.

Christian Hackett, public servant

I used to rely on the LRT to get cheaper access to groceries and more affordable shopping.

Thankfully, my work commute doesn't rely on transit, but right now, because the LRT's down, I have to take either 40-minute walking trips to get to the stores or pay extra for an Uber.

I just won't even take a chance on the buses. I can't afford to take days off because of sickness. And as it's getting colder, we get more vulnerable with flu season.

It's kind of ironic, because I was taking these longer-distance trips to save money on groceries. But I'm having to pay more for driving service apps [now]. It's a complicated time, to say the least.

I've seen first-hand how crowded these buses are. I do get sicker in the fall. I'm double-vaccinated so I'm not as concerned with getting sick with COVID-19, but I still would rather stay healthy.

Lucky for me, we don't have any snow on the ground yet.


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