Ottawa

Transit chair chides commissioners for speaking out about LRT chaos

Coun. Allan Hubley is scolding his fellow transit commissioners for eroding what's left of the public's confidence in Ottawa's beleaguered transit system by voicing their concerns in the media and online.

Public comments 'helping to destroy any remaining confidence our ridership has in the system'

Coun. Allan Hubley, chair of the transit commission, wrote an email to all commissioners Tuesday. (Kate Porter/CBC)

The chair of Ottawa's transit commission is scolding his fellow commissioners for eroding what's left of the public's confidence in Ottawa's beleaguered transit system. 

In an email to all members of the commission Tuesday morning, Coun. Allan Hubley wrote: "Some of the comments made over the past couple of weeks in the media, or on social media are helping to destroy any remaining confidence our ridership has in the system."

Being told to quiet down or only ask questions in private doesn't stand well with me.- Coun. Riley Brockington

Hubley also accused them of distorting news about delays and malfunctions, scaring the public.

Coun. Riley Brockinton, a member of the transit commission, said he believes Hubley is under pressure, but didn't appreciate his comments. 

"At the end of the day, transit commissioners are here to advocate on behalf of OC Transpo bus and train riders, as well as the taxpayers who pay the bills," he said. 

"Being told to quiet down or only ask questions in private doesn't stand well with me."

Coun. Riley Brockington says it's his job to advocate for transit riders, as a member of the transit commission. (Chloé Fedio/CBC)

CBC has obtained a copy of the email, which was part of a long chain in response to a request by some members for an emergency meeting.

Over the past several days and weeks, councillors and transit commissioners have been vocal in the media and on social media about the serious issues afflicting the transit system since the full launch of the Confederation Line. 

An O-Train near the western entrance to the Confederation Line tunnel on Sept. 6, 2019. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Sarah Wright-Gilbert, one of four citizen representatives on the city's transit commission, has been especially vocal on social media about the unreliability of the new LRT, as well as overcrowded buses and platforms.

In a statement posted on Twitter late Tuesday evening, she said the city's problem is not a perception issue, but a real concern about the reliability of the system. 

"To say that comments made in the media and on social media are destroying ridership confidence in the system is appalling and, quite frankly personally distressing. The issues that riders face on a daily basis are the cause not comments made by commissioners," she said. 

She said volunteer citizen commissioners like her are supposed to hold OC Transpo account and represent the interests of riders, as well as promoting the system. She said she can't promote the system in the state it is now. 

"I can't, in good conscience, do that until there is increased transparency, communication and reliability. I will not sacrifice my personal ideals to toe the party line."

City councillors have been calling attention to issues with the line since the first major system failure on Oct. 8.

On Monday, councillors Carol Anne Meehan, Catherine McKenney and Riley Brockington demanded a special meeting of the city's transit commission ahead of its regularly scheduled meeting on Nov. 6, claiming they've been inundated with complaints and want immediate answers.

They also said commissioners have been left in the dark about service delays.

Hubley did not immediately respond to CBC's request for comment, but said in a tweet that the email was "not a cease and desist memo." Rather, it was "an e-mail to the entire commission talking about the upcoming meeting."

The transit commission was originally supposed to meet in October, but that meeting was cancelled because there were no reports scheduled to be discussed.

In his email, Hubley said none of the commissioners complained when the decision to cancel the meeting was made. 

"Our riders and employees need our support right now and we will not subject our employees to a public meeting to be attacked," he wrote.

The next opportunity for commissioners to get an update on the performance of the transit system will be next Wednesday, the same day they debate the transit budget.

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