OC Transpo brass sit out Transit Challenge as councillors climb aboard
OTTAWA -- Some of the top figures at OC Transpo have declined to take part in a week-long transit challenge, despite several city councillors agreeing to it.
The second annual transit challenge is being organized by Ottawa Transit Riders, Ecology Ottawa, Free Transit Ottawa, and the Healthy Transportation Coalition. The goal is to have councillors and other high-level transit officials agree to use public transit exclusively for one full week. That means participants will use the bus or the LRT for everything from commuting to and from work, to shopping, personal outings, or anything else outside of emergencies.
The challenge begins Monday, Feb. 17 and runs through Sunday, Feb. 23.
15 of the 18 available councillors have agreed to take the challenge this year.
Councillors Tim Tierney and Laura Dudas are on vacation this week, but said they'd take part otherwise. Councillors Scott Moffatt, George Darouze, Stephen Blais, and Eli El-Chantiry declined to participate, as did the mayor. Councillors Diane Deans and Rick Chiarelli are away from their duties for medical reasons.
Kari Glynes Elliott, with Ottawa Transit Riders, told Newstalk 580 CFRA's The Goods with Dahlia Kurtz she's pleased so many councillors have agreed to take part.
"Some of the councillors who didn't do it last year have agreed to do it this year, and we're really excited about that," she said.
City staff also invited to participate
New in 2020, organizers asked top City staff like Transportation General Manager John Manconi, Director of Transit Operations Troy Charter, and City Manager Steve Kanellakos to take part; however, none of them has said they will participate, something Glynes Elliott called discouraging.
OC Transpo Director of Customer Systems Pat Scrimgeour has agreed to take part in the challenge and is the only OC Transpo official to say yes, as of Sunday afternoon.
"I think a lot of the problems having to do with transit come right down to governance," Glynes Elliott said. "What we really need is to move toward a much more open and transparent government. We need more consultation, we need more communication, and we need more accountability—some accountability—it's hard to have more when you have very little."
Failure is an option
Last year, some councillors who took the challenge had to resort to their cars at times because they couldn't meet their obligations using only OC Transpo. Glynes Elliott said she didn't consider that a failure, but rather a successful demonstration of the weaknesses of Ottawa's transit network.
Roughly 100 members of the public have also agreed to take part in the transit challenge.
Organizers will be polling participants mid-week and after the conclusion of the challenge to get their feedback. Last year, participants noted issues such as unreliable bus schedules and difficulty accessing schedule updates as some of the troubles they had while using OC Transpo.
An earlier version of this story said 16 of 19 available councillors were participating, based on a Friday press release. The correct number, according to the Ottawa Transit Riders' website Monday morning, is 15 councillors out of 18 available. Two councillors are on medical leave and two are on vacation. Four councillors declined to participate.