Citizen transit commissioner holding informal transit chat after commission meeting cancelled
OTTAWA -- Residents who have questions or concerns about the state of public transit in Ottawa will have an informal chance to discuss those issues during a virtual meeting set up by a citizen transit commissioner.
Sarah Wright-Gilbert says she made the decision to host a Zoom meeting to discuss transit after commission chair Coun. Allan Hubley announced the cancellation of the May 20 Transit Commission meeting. It was the third transit commission meeting in a row to be cancelled during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Hubley said the meeting was cancelled because of a lack of substantive or time-sensitive reports that needed to be approved, which has been the case for other committee meetings. Wright-Gilbert has criticized the decision, saying the commission's job is also to provide oversight and direction to OC Transpo.
In a response to CTV News, Hubley insisted transit issues are still being discussed at City Council meetings, which continue to be held.
"At the first council meeting held during the pandemic the three items that the two Commissioners claim are urgently in need of review were dealt with in the public forum," Hubley said. "At that Council meeting a commitment was made to provide an update at Council next week and well before the proposed Transit meeting would be held."
Hubley said swift decision-making is required during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Decisions are needed quickly and often change or evolve hourly so that does not lend itself to waiting for monthly meetings."
Hubley is encouraging residents to reach out to OC Transpo directly or to their city councillor if they have concerns.
Wright-Gilbert says the informal meeting, which she stresses is not officially endorsed or sponsored by the City of Ottawa, is meant to give transit users and other citizens the chance to hear from members of the Transit Commission and raise questions or concerns about OC Transpo, Para Transpo and the LRT.
Anyone interested is asked to register via Eventbrite. Wright-Gilbert tells CTV News the meeting will be limited to 90 participants because of Zoom limits.
Wright-Gilbert says at least three other members of the transit commission, Councillors Riley Brockington, Catherine McKenney, and Theresa Kavanagh, have tentatively registered. She also says Councillors Shawn Menard and Mathieu Fleury have expressed an interest in attending the Zoom call.
"I scheduled the virtual chat on the evening of May 13th (same day as the Council meeting) as I am told there will be some transit updates during that meeting. I will look to relay some of those updates during the transit chat," Wright-Gilbert told CTV News. "I am concerned that the cancellation of Commission meetings gives the impression that transit (and all of its many issues) is not a priority for the City."
Items to be discussed include those in the letter Wright-Gilbert and Brockington sent to Commission Chair Coun. Allan Hubley earlier this week, such as the budget deficit facing the City due to declining transit revenues, OC Transpo's COVID-19 response, and what steps Rideau Transit Group is taking to address issues on the Confederation Line LRT, like the air quality at Rideau Station.
On Wednesday, the City announced the entire Confederation Line would be down for maintenance twice in the month of May. First, for the weekend of May 2 and 3, and again from May 9 to 13. The closure is to allow Rideau Transit Maintenance to perform upgrades to the train control software and repair the overhead catenary power supply system. R1 bus service will serve transit riders during that time.
Wright-Gilbert says she will be using the "raise hand" feature of Zoom to allow for questions during the meeting and adds any abusive behaviour will result in a user being removed from the call.