LRT nightmare launch exposes bitter divisions on transit commission and city council
An east-bound OTrain pulls in to Rideau Station on the Confederation Line of the Light Rail Transit system in Ottawa, ON. (Brenda Woods/CTV Ottawa)
Ottawa’s new and failing LRT system has become an all consuming nightmare for commuters, transit planners and politicians, and there is no end in sight.
On Tuesday alone, the Chair of the Transit Commission Allan Hubley was accused of trying to gag fellow commissioners, Councillor Carol Anne Meehan blasted Mayor Jim Watson on 580 CFRA for being invisible on the most pressing issue the city has faced in years, and Sarah Wright-Gilbert, the citizen Transit Commissioner released a blistering statement saying she would not stay quiet or “toe the party line” as OC Transpo continues to falter.
None of that includes any of the countless complaints that continue to flood in from commuters, about overcrowded, late or stalled buses and trains.
Hubley began the day with a long and extraordinary email to fellow transit commissioners, scolding them for disparaging the system in public.
“The damage that comments about our employees and the transit system as a whole that are being made in the media and on social media are not helping the situation”, Hubley wrote. “We will not subject our employees to a public meeting to be attacked”.
Late Tuesday night, the volunteer citizen Commissioner, Wright-Gilbert, released her response, lashing back at Hubley.
“To say that comments made in the media and on social media are destroying ridership confidence in the system is appalling...and personally distressing”, she wrote. Wright-Gilbert reminded Hubley her role is to keep OC Transpo accountable and that she won’t stay quiet. “I will not sacrifice my personal ideals to toe the party line.”
On top of all this, Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Carol Anne Meehan accused Mayor Jim Watson of being invisible on the issue, speaking on Ottawa Now with Evan Solomon on Newstalk 580CFRA.
“I just want to ask where is Mayor Watson on this”, Meehan asked. “He’s the first one there when there is good news to share. But Jim has been absent on this issue”.