Ottawa

Riders don't want to be 'held hostage' by LRT

After the longest delay yet struck Ottawa's $2.1-billion LRT network on Thursday, riders are saying they expected more.

Some say they didn't expect such a string of problems in train's first 4 months

LRT riders frustrated by repeated delays, problems

3 years ago
Duration 0:58
After a broken power line disrupted LRT service for 15 hours this week, commuters say the delays are frustrating, especially in the winter weather. 

A rider named Vic stands inside Parliament station, explaining that delays with Ottawa's LRT have affected his commute to work and home, when a chime from a loudspeaker interrupts.

A train's been delayed because of a jammed door up the line at Rideau station, it announces. 

"Not again," he says. "Speak of the devil."

Four months after OC Transpo launched its light rail network, following several missed handover deadlines, the train has seen problems with jammed doors, track switches, weld cracks on rails, the on-board computer, and most recently the overhead electrical cables.

Nicole Lessard was among the hundreds stuck waiting for a replacement bus to the east end Thursday, after an 80-metre power cable was pulled down.

The resulting shutdown was the Confederation line's longest yet, and it took Lesard twice as long as usual to get home.

"It sucked. Big time," she said.

People wait for buses at Hurdman station on Jan. 16, 2020, after an overhead wire broke and caused serious delays on the eastern portion of the Confederation LRT line. (Hugo Bélanger/CBC)

Even though officials frequently say every new system will have unexpected growing pains, Lessard didn't expect Ottawa's network would have to work out those sorts of kinks.

"I'd expect that maybe 20 years down the line, but it's so new and it took so long to get it going, I was kind of expecting it to run a bit smoother," Lessard said.

Patrick Larkin, another rider, was more blunt.

"It's a joke," Larkin said. "I think people are just kind of held hostage by it."

Working well 'overall,' says Watson

On Friday, politicians and transit officials sat down for another media briefing to explain the latest issue, the latest search for a root cause.

Even Peter Lauch, the CEO of train builder and maintainer Rideau Transit Group, was called in to field questions. 

Mayor Jim Watson once again apologized to riders.

"Overall, I think the system is working well, but we're having too many incidents that are affecting too many people in a negative way," Watson said.

"When you have an issue like we had yesterday that affects a large portion of the system, then obviously I'm not satisfied."

Rideau Transit Group chief executive officer Peter Lauch was called in to answer questions about the latest delay to plague Ottawa's $2.1-billion Confederation light rail line. (CBC)

Just rhetoric?

For Larkin, those sorts of comments are now just mere rhetoric.

"You can't keep saying the same thing every time over and over and over," he said.

Another rider, Christina Chaar, said she wouldn't want to be in Watson's position. 

"I'm sure it's not easy to continuously have to sell this to people, because obviously it's not working that well," she said.

Still, Chaar is willing to give OC Transpo the benefit of the doubt that they're working hard to fix things.

She said she's trying to stay optimistic that ongoing transit issues won't affect riders so personally that they "can't even function in regular life."

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