A pair of Blackburn Hamlet residents are fed up with what they call shoddy transit service and are circulating a petition to ask OC Transpo to make changes.
Residents Jean Clark and Erica Fraser started the petition to Ottawa’s transit commission a few weeks ago. It had over 60 signatures as of Nov. 18.
Clark told OttawaStart.com there is not enough service between her community and downtown.
Blackburn Hamlet has two bus lines. Local route 128 runs through the hamlet and terminates at Blair. Route 94, a major feeder line, runs along Innes Road.
— Laura Dudas (@laura_dudas) November 7, 2016
Clark said her daily commute consists of taking the local route to Blair, then transferring – which she calls a relatively painful process. Commuters who want to get downtown have to worm their way onto busy feeder routes – “usually packed to the gills,” Clark said.
They can also cough up the premium fare for an express bus, until Jan. 1, when the express buses will become “connexion” routes and stop charging a premium fare.
She said the 94 is not an option for many residents, as the walking distance to a stop makes it a non-starter.
Added up, she says her mornings are up by five minutes and her afternoons take 15 to 30 minutes longer. For her, the afternoon commute means waiting for a packed feeder route such as the 91, which she calls a cattlecar, or a 94. Sometimes she is able to take the 24 Beacon Hill.
OC Transpo said its data shows demand is being met on the major feeder routes, which are supposed to run every two to five minutes and shouldn’t leave passengers behind.
Clark said the schedule is unrealistic and is often wildly out of sync.
“The 91 runs in batches often. Often two or three in a row then nothing for 20 minutes,” she said.
She told OttawaStart.com the problems go back to 2006, when route 94 was created to serve Innes Road. At the same time, a route that ran through the hamlet was eliminated.
In 2009, two buses, including the only express route, were merged into one local route 128.
“I’ve been able to witness over the years the degradation of bus service.”
The petition calls for afternoon Orlèans express buses to make a stop at Highway 174 and Montreal Road so Blackburn commuters can transfer to route 128.
OC Transpo doesn’t think that’s a good idea.
“OC Transpo has evaluated the second suggestion, and does not recommend diverting afternoon express service to the Highway 174 / Montreal Road stop, because of the additional travel time that that would add for the majority of customers on these routes,” said an emailed statement attributed to Pat Scrimgeour, director of transit customer systems and planning.
The councillor for the area, Jody Mitic, declined a request to be interviewed for this story.
Clark’s petition also called for express premiums to be waived at Blair, until she found out about the connexion changes.
Perhaps it’s a short-term pain for long-term gain. When the Confederation Line is up and running in 2018, Blair will be the first stop in the east end.
Until then, Clark says commuters in Blackburn Hamlet are considering whether to keep their bus passes or start driving into work, as some of her neighbours have already done.
The petition will be circulated for the next two weeks and will be presented at the next transit commission meeting on Dec. 5.