'Furious' mayor announces emergency transit fix
Friday morning marked another miserable commute for OC Transpo passengers
Mayor Jim Watson has announced several immediate fixes for Ottawa's problem-plagued transit system, including an infusion of cash to get some cancelled bus routes back on the road.
On Friday, Watson announced $3.5 million will be added to OC Transpo's budget to boost service levels.
The mayor has ordered transportation services manager John Manconi to put 40 buses that were retired back into service next week on routes including the 39 in the east, the 257 in the west and the 75 in the south — all of which have faced chronic issues since the changeover to LRT on Oct. 6.
We're not happy with it, the passengers aren't happy.- Mayor Jim Watson
The city will add an additional 19 buses to the fleet in January 2020.
It also plans to deduct $2.8 million from the October payment to the maintenance arm of Rideau Transit Group, the consortium that built the Confederation Line.
The LRT contract calls for the city to pay out about $4.5 million monthly to Rideau Transit Maintenance over the next 30 years. Similar deductions will be made until the performance of the system improves and stabilizes, according to the mayor.
"We're the clients, we're not happy with it, the passengers aren't happy," Watson said in an interview Friday afternoon.
"[RTG has] been told if they don't get their act together and fix the problems that are continuing, as we saw today, there will be another $2.8-million deduction."
He promised further improvements to transit as part of the 2020 budget for OC Transpo, which will be tabled next Wednesday.
Miserable morning commute
The announcement comes after the Confederation Line service was disrupted from 5:30 a.m. until 8:40 a.m. Friday by separate problems east of the downtown tunnel, according to OC Transpo's timeline of events.
Fare gates were also stuck open at several LRT stations, but anyone who took advantage of the free ride faced a long wait for a train.
Friday marked the 12th disruption of more than half an hour in less than four weeks.
Watson said his stomach sank when he heard the CBC traffic report Friday morning.
"It just made me sick," Watson said.
'Furious' since early October
The mayor said he has taken the train about 15 times at different times of day, and has only encountered one minor door issue.
"When the system is working, it's beautiful, but when it's not working, it's miserable," he said.
He said he's been "furious" about the performance of the line since the second week of operation, when it became obvious the problems weren't going away.
But he said he wanted to work with staff and the contractor before expressing his feelings. He said he let loose on Monday during a meeting with RTG executives and city staff.
"We've put a lot of money into this project, we've had a lot of great expectations and great promises," he said.
"The buck stops with me as the head of the organization, but in turn, I'm putting pressure on the service provider."
Watson first hinted at the service improvements Friday morning on Twitter.
1/2 To say I am furious with the poor performance of our LRT system is an understatement. Both RTG and RTM will be held to account for the problems that have frustrated our very patient transit users.—@JimWatsonOttawa
2/2 I'm meeting with the City’s senior leadership this morning and will provide the public later today with a plan to fix the system on a short and longer term basis. In the meantime, I apologize for the awful experience so many residents have experienced over the last few weeks.—@JimWatsonOttawa
With files from Laura Osman