ELECTION 2018

Bus route changes a hot election issue in Innes

Residents in some east Ottawa neighbourhoods are so frustrated by recent bus route changes that the issue has become one of the top complaints that candidates in Innes ward hear about at the door.

High school students have hard time getting a bus home from jobs and after-school activities

Candidates running in Innes ward say students have struggled to make it home from after-school jobs or activities since OC Transpo changed routes on Sept. 2 2018. (Stu Mills/CBC)

Residents in some east Ottawa neighbourhoods are so frustrated by recent bus route changes that the issue has become one of the top complaints that candidates in Innes ward hear about at the door.

Life has become especially inconvenient for high school students in Chapel Hill and Blackburn Hamlet, as they try to keep up jobs and after-school activities, the candidates say.

"It's a toss up now. It was traffic and the road network, but now it really is transit and the lack of local routes in the area. A lot of residents are really upset," said candidate Tammy Lynch.

On Sept. 2, OC Transpo modified many routes in the network to prepare buses to feed into the new light rail system, which is now delayed and not due to open until the new year.

Students can only catch the bus at the bell

High school students seem to be having an especially hard time getting home, said Sandra Schwartz, who is running for re-election as Ottawa-Carleton District School Board trustee in Zone 12.

"Kids aren't able to actually get to their workplaces, or participate in after-school activities, or even before-school activities," she said.

The problem appears to be route 28 in Blackburn Hamlet, which saw the frequency of evening service reduced on Sept. 2, and route 131 in Chapel Hill.

Thousands of high school students in Ottawa receive Presto passes through the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority instead of riding yellow school buses.

Schwartz said the inconvenience of the new routes and schedules in her area means parents are now left picking up their teens.

Service is being reorganized in this part of Orléans. (City of Ottawa)

Not ready for rail

Resident Margo Jeske went to a round-table event with the candidates on Wednesday, and spent the evening at a table focused on transportation issues.

She commutes to the University of Ottawa, and feels let down by OC Transpo bus service in the lead up to light rail.

"They told us they wouldn't denigrate it. And for our local area in Chapel Hill, already we can't connect with the local bus to the highway anymore," said Jeske.

Candidates are looking forward to light rail arriving at Blair Station, but not everyone will ride the train, they say.

"And, in some respects, the recent cuts to the transit system have made it even more difficult for people to envision getting on the transit system in the first place," said Laura Dudas, a candidate for the council seat.

Some may already have chosen to ditch the bus.

Candidate Donna Leith-Gudbranson, meanwhile said residents are even remarking that the roads are busier during the morning commute in recent weeks.

In a statement, OC Transpo said it is considering small adjustments to the fall service changes and will provide information on this review when it is done.