Transpo: A Capacity Crisis As Ridership Falls


Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has a $41-million hole in the OC Transpo budget.

How to fill that crevasse? Make efficiencies. Find new sources of revenue. Provide an outstanding service.

Now there are myriad reasons for this deficit not the least of which was a pandemic that paralyzed the world. Those come along about once a century so the city can be forgiven for not seeing that one coming. Virtually no one else did so why should Ottawa be an exception?

But something else is occurring. X (Twitter) is full of people complaining about insufficient capacity on buses and trains. Half the people waiting at an LRT station being left standing on a platform waiting for the next train that is packed as well. Same goes for buses … when they show up. People crammed onto those vehicles. Or buses just passing, stuffed. Not so good with a new Covid variant afflicting people left and right in the U.S. Our time is coming.

Transpo Lawsuit: Let The Buyer Be Snared: BENN

So how to deal with this?

Create a better road transportation system (buses use the roads, too … so do emergency vehicles). Get after the National Capital Commission to build interprovincial bridges in the east and west end plus make plans for a new Alexandra Bridge. Then, perish the thought, follow through on those plans unlike what happened a few times with an east-end bridge or countless times at LeBreton Flats. Put light rail on the Commanda Bridge. The lack of bridges is backing up traffic so far into the city that it is jamming traffic in places such as the Ottawa river parkway and in the downtown core.

How do you expect a bus to be on-time (and on-budget) when it is stuck in a traffic jam? And one other thing. How about giving some of the construction workers who act as traffic cops some training on traffic management. One person in the middle of the Champlain Bridge (for days) with a slow-and-stop sign does not traffic management make when only one lane is open on the bridge. Traffic was backed up for kilometres flying in the face of NCC promises of two lanes open.

And the Commanda Bridge? It carries on its best days 7,500 pedestrians and cyclists but light rail would carry about 82,000 passengers a day. Heavy rail even more. That way commuters can enjoy the view.

Ottawa is in the midst of a transportation crisis and we can’t let a $1-billion piece of infrastructure be wasted on Kitchissippi Councillor Jeff Leiper’s strident bike lobby when it can be converted to rail (by the city’s own figure) for about $40 million spread among myriad levels of government. Chicken feed compared with the billions squandered on a light-rail line that doesn’t work.

All this is to say that creating a successful transit system in this city with lousy rail, lousy roads, lousy bus service is not achieved by piling up useful buses at the Manotick Yard like cord wood to be sold or scrapped.

You look at the system carefully, decide where there are needed efficiencies and plan accordingly. Broad bus and train slashes with little thought result in a dissatisfied ridership and even less revenue coming in. At present, OC Transpo says it has a capacity problem? How do you deal with a capacity problem by taking buses off the road?

Consider Light-Rail Class-Action Suit: THE VOTER

The City of Ottawa has woefully and carelessly given OC Transpo the worst reputation in North America for running a transit system. There’s a very good chance that once riders get a taste of the new down-sized OC Transpo, they’ll buy a car. Many people would like to get to work on time. Their bosses would like it, too. An inefficient transit and road system makes for an inefficient city. And that results in business going elsewhere.

Smart efficiencies make for a better OC Transpo. Leaving passengers in the rain, the snow and the cold can grow that $41-million deficit very quickly.

OC Transpo and the city, have through their own incompetence, created a monstrous transportation and transit crisis. The system could not possibly have a worse reputation. The transit company has a world-wide reputation for stupidity.

You don’t attract more riders by making the service worse. And right now, through Transpo’s and city blistering incompetence, transit is facing a capacity problem in the face of low ridership.

How do you do that? By gruesomely bad management.

Ken Gray


Digital illustration on front by AI generator Bing Image Creator.





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4 Responses

  1. Ron Benn says:

    Ottawa is suffering from a variety of transportation problems. OC Transpo is a subset of those problems.

    OC’s challenges are spread across a range of time frames. LRT capacity is likely short term (measured in weeks) to mid term(measured in months) in nature.

    Why is it taking so long to swap out the axle/hub assemblies? A lack of parts is a likely answer. How long until the manufacturer can produce enough to get the full set of two unit train sets? Something that a prudent councillor might ask, so long as there isn’t a confidentiality clause embedded in the agreement.

    As for longer term solutions, redesigned axle/hub assemblies. Several years last we heard.

    Much longer term solutions like bridges and more road capacity? That requires the courage to acknowledge that politics and ideology are key constraints. And therein the problem lies. A lack of courage for those in positions of power.

  2. Bruce says:

    Two points to make here.
    First one is what does a new or expanding employer look for in a city? One of the KEY items is a good reliable transit system. Fail that grade and gone is your new employment.
    Secondly Is this the right time to be buying electric busses? “just asking”

  3. Kosmo says:

    OC Transpo has reached the big times, Yogi Berra had some of sports greatest quotes (some of life’s greatest quotes) and if one of my hero’s was still alive today, I’m sure his latest Yogi Berra…isms would read ‘’ nobody takes OC Transpo anymore cuz the buses are always full’’

  4. The Voter says:


    That’s brilliant!

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