Mayor says OC Transpo should have run downtown buses for longer after LRT launch
OTTAWA -- Mayor Jim Watson says the city should have run downtown buses for longer when the LRT system opened instead of removing them from the roads after three weeks.
“We should have probably kept the parallel service for another month or two,” Watson told CTV Morning Live on Tuesday.
OC Transpo maintained downtown bus routes for three weeks after the Confederation Line opened on Sept. 14.
“During that three week period, the system worked relatively well,” Watson said. “I think we had a false sense of hope that everything’s going to go alright, and we probably in hindsight should have kept the parallel service for at least another two months.
“Then we would have seen these problems and we would have had a solution.”
The problems plaguing the LRT—including jammed doors, communication and power issues—started after the downtown bus routes were gone, leading to delays for thousands of frustrated commuters.
The problems forced OC Transpo to have replacement buses ready to go at a moment’s notice, at a cost of $95,000 a week.
Watson’s comments came after council voted unanimously Monday evening to issue a notice of default to Rideau Transit Group over the ongoing problems with the system.
The default notice gives the LRT builder until the end of March to come up with a plan to fix the light rail system.
Watson called the notice “the next logical step” in the city’s efforts to pressure RTG into fixing the system.
“We paid good money for this and we’re partners, but they’re not living up to their end of the bargain,” he said.
That notice will be issued on Tuesday, Watson said.
City manager Steve Kanellakos described the default notice as a step toward terminating the city’s 30-year contract with the company.
“It’s a very serious step within the contract agreement. It basically is putting them on notice that we’ve taken the first step to terminate the contract should they not rectify the issues they have not been able to meet,” he said Monday.
Watson said the city has more options if the problems persist.
“We’re not going to outline our legal strategy for the world to see, but there are other finanicl levers that we can pull that will adversely affect their operations significantly.”
He also said that the companies behind RTG—SNC-Lavalin, Alstom and EllisDon—have incentive to restore their reputations, which he described as “in tatters.”
“It’s beyond belief that after six months of operation they have not got their act together.”