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COMMENT: First week of LRT has ups and downs, but an overall success

The O-Train arrives at St-Laurent Station during an afternoon commute this past week. (Photo/Devyn Barrie)

I rode the O-Train and I loved it.

The amazing convenience of stepping off the bus at Tunney’s Pasture and being able to get on a train in a matter of seconds. The trains that reliably come every five minutes and have plenty of room for everyone, unlike buses. The fact you can get through downtown in less than 10 minutes without so much as losing your cell signal in the tunnel.

Yes, the Confederation Line (or Line 1 as OC Transpo likes calling it now) has had some hiccups this past week. On Monday, there was a minor delay at one point during the afternoon commute. On Tuesday afternoon two separate incidents: one immobilized train at uOttawa Station caused a 15-minute delay, while another at Cyrville caused a 40-minute outage for one of the tracks between St-Laurent and Blair (but service continued on the other track/platforms.) As well, commuters fresh off the train during the afternoon commute had trouble getting onto buses at Tunney’s and Blair due to crowding.

These incidents are useful evidence that LRT is a failed experiment — for those whose minds are already made up. To me, they’re predictable challenges that will be ironed out over time.

People, particularly transit riders, are a little on edge right now. Light rail has just opened after a long wait, and we’re now using a system unlike anything else we’ve had in Ottawa before. I probably wasn’t the only one who left earlier than normal for my first rides on the train, because (even though it’s an inanimate object) there is a factor of “earned trust” at play here. I don’t think it will be long until people shake off their uncertainty towards Line 1.

When a brand-new train is delayed by a few minutes, probably nobody thinks of how long the delay would have been under our archaic bus transit system. Unlike Line 1, when your 95 does show up, there likely won’t be room for you on it. When buses run late, they fill up. A double-decker can hold about 90 people. The O-Train can hold 600. Occasional train delays or not, we’re in better shape now by far.

Although the train is open, OC Transpo is still running a full parallel bus service until Oct. 6. That means the transition is still ongoing, so people should reserve judgement until the real changes happen. When Oct. 6 comes around, the entire bus network will be realigned to more efficiently feed into and out of the train line. The city has been saying for some time that the changes will make bus scheduling more efficient, and thus there should be fewer late trips. That’s because the service will be able to reduce crosstown interlining of buses so they have an easier time keeping to schedule (more info on interlining is here.) The city will also spend $5.1 million to add more bus service.

So relax and enjoy the train ride, Ottawa. It’s only going to get better.


Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the publisher and editor of OttawaStart.com. He currently studies math and physics at the University of Ottawa, and holds a diploma in journalism from Algonquin College.