Ottawa

OC Transpo failing to communicate during LRT delays, commissioner says

A citizen member of Ottawa's transit commission is concerned OC Transpo's handling of communications surrounding LRT delays will erode public trust in the new system. 

Passengers got scant information during Thursday's delay, Sarah Wright-Gilbert says

A train pulls into St-Laurent station on Ottawa's Confederation Line on Sept. 14, 2019. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

A citizen member of Ottawa's transit commission is concerned OC Transpo's handling of communications surrounding LRT delays will erode public trust in the new system. 

Sarah Wright-Gilbert told CBC that on Thursday it took her about 45 minutes to get from Tunney's Pasture station to Blair station on the Confederation Line, a trip that normally takes her between 20 to 25 minutes. 

She said OC Transpo didn't provide updates on their website or social platforms until at least an hour after the problem began. 

"There's not a lot of trust left in the transit system, and as a result I think that if we continue with this lack of communication we will see a further erosion in the ridership numbers," Wright-Gilbert said. 

Communications protocol

Now, she's asking OC Transpo to provide commissioners with a detailed overview of their communications protocol for LRT delays.

It's been two weeks since the much-anticipated Confederation Line opened to the public. During construction, transit users became fed up with bus cancellations and breakdowns as the aging fleet chugged toward the light rail finish line.

"The public have put up with a lot," Wright-Gilbert said. She noted that during the first significant LRT delay, which occurred the first Tuesday after the launch, OC Transpo did a great job of updating customers. 

Blair station along Ottawa's Confederation Line. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Wright-Gilbert said the topic of the communication surrounding the Sept. 17 delay arose at a recent transit commission meeting, but the feeling was there had been an overload of confusing information. In the case of Thursday's delay, things have swung too far the other way, she said.

"They're not communicating anything, and that leaves customers frustrated, and to be honest with you, not trusting in the system," she said. 

OC Transpo acknowledges delay

In a statement attributed to Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo​​​​​​'s director of transit customer systems and planning, he said: "We recognize that in this instance there was a delay in issuing the alerts via social media and our website." However, Scrimgeour said passengers at stations and on trains were provided with "the most up-to-date information" during the delay.

The transit agency "will continue to work to improve our communications and ensure alerts are communicated to customers as soon as possible," he said.

Wright-Gilbert's formal commissioner's inquiry is expected to be discussed at the next meeting of the transit commission on Oct. 16. 

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