Ottawa

1st workday without downtown buses starts as a mixed bag

Commuters in Ottawa came face-to-face with the city's self-described biggest ever OC Transpo service change this morning.

OC Transpo's biggest-ever service change came into effect yesterday

Commuters walk toward the LRT platforms at Tunney's Pasture station on the city's first workday without parallel bus service. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada)

Commuters in Ottawa came face-to-face with the city's self-described biggest-ever OC Transpo service change on Monday morning, as parallel bus service ended and riders shifted from downtown buses to the Confederation Line. 

Riders have reported busier trains with fewer empty seats than in weeks past, when riders had the option of staying on a familiar bus route.

Some say more transfers and a long wait at suburban bus stations added time to their commutes, as the city has been telling riders to expect for months.

"It's more complicated, there are more transfers," said Sandra Kongy, who travelled downtown from Orléans.

 "They should send a couple more buses in the morning, just because there was a long wait at the [Park & Ride]."

Passengers get set to board the LRT at Tunney's Pasture station. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada)

Others say they're pleased with the changes, including Gerri-Gail Stojanowski ​​​​​, who commutes from her home in Nepean.

"I do believe it's going to save me a lot of time, a minimum of 20 minutes," she said.

"As long as the connecting buses work well, I'll have no issues."

Some commuters said the switch from the bus to the LRT would save them time, while others said the new system complicates their trip.  1:28
Passengers wait for an inbound train at Tunney's Pasture station Oct. 7, 2019. ( Francis Ferland/CBC)

Trains busier, but still under capacity

Considering the scale of the changes, John Manconi, the city's general manager of transportation services, said the morning commute went smoothly: fare gates functioned well, no trains broke down and there was a single, two-minute LRT delay at 5 a.m.

OC Transpo said it was aware of 18 cancelled buses of the couple of thousand that hit the roads Monday morning. The transit agency also heard from some riders who were left behind at stops when packed buses passed them by. 

"It's Day 1 of a major bus change, so yes, we had some issues and we're looking into every single one of those," Manconi told reporters at a 1 p.m. briefing.

John Manconi, Ottawa's general manager of transportation services, takes reporters questions about the first commute after OC Transpo's big transition to light rail. (Kate Porter/CBC)

The trains were their busiest yet, as was expected, but they still weren't at capacity, Manconi added.

"I know that seems tight for some of the customers. It's a new experience for them, but that's what mass transit is about."

Each two-vehicle train can carry 600 passengers with 240 seated and 360 standing, or the equivalent of eight articulated buses.

Manconi said the 13 trains are "handling the volume," but OC Transpo could someday add a 14th if ridership rises.

OC Transpo kept old bus routes running for three weeks to give commuters time to adjust to the changes brought on by the opening of the new light rail line. But now, those old bus routes have been changed. Two commuters share how the changes are going for them. 8:24

LRT serves downtown core

The Confederation Line made its debut on Sept. 14, though buses coming from the city's suburbs continued into the downtown core until Oct. 6. 

That three-week transition period has now come to an end, with more than 25 bus routes — some of which have become city icons — renumbered and taking passengers only as far as Tunney's Pasture and Blair stations.

A crowded light rail train leaving Tunney's Pasture at about 8 a.m. Oct. 7, 2019. (Jérémie Bergeron/Radio-Canada)

In total, more than 100 bus routes have changed.

Residents will notice a big decrease in bus frequency downtown, where the number of buses travelling along Scott, Slater and Albert streets will go from more than 150 per hour to fewer than eight per hour, according to OC Transpo. 

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