Written by Brier Dodge, Ottawa Metro
Coun. Stephen Blais is taking every commuter route in his ward this winter to get a first-hand look at recent route changes and schedules through Cumberland ward.
The councillor, who is also chair of the city’s transit commission, had already taken five routes at the end of January, with plans to do four more.
Blais said the idea was spurred by changes at the end of 2016 to routes, including the elimination of the express routes.
“There were some concerns from residents that this might lead to overcrowded buses, it might lead to longer travel times, so we wanted to check out all the routes in the ward to get a first-hand sense of what’s going on,” Blais said.
He said he’s noticed that most people in the community are getting a seat on buses, and most of the transit customers who are left with standing room only are those who are picked up later in the route along the transitway. He’s found so far that buses are mostly on time, but has noticed several things OC Transpo could do to improve service in Cumberland.
“A couple of the routes are longer than I think we’d like them to be,” he said, adding OC Transpo has ordered new buses to arrive at the end of the year, which he hopes will help in implementing some changes.
One route that is fairly long is the 235, which goes through Avalon, and then through Fallingbrook.
“That’s one of the routes that took a good chunk of time because you’re in the neighbourhood for so long,” Blais said. “We’re looking to see if we can divide that route in two. There are drawbacks potentially, in terms of how often the bus might come if you make those changes, but the additional purchase of those double deckers will allow us to make what I think is a pretty substantial improvement to that route.”
He said he also hopes to see improvement south of Brian Coburn Boulevard where there are several new residential developments. Road access doesn’t allow the buses to get into the neighbourhoods yet, but he hopes that will change in the future.
The response on social media has been positive, and Blais said transit users in other parts of the city have been requesting he come out to ride their routes.
“I think it’s important for councillors to have an understanding of the city services that we provide,” he said, when asked if he’d encourage councillors in other parts of the city to test out their ward routes.
Blais planned to continue with another four routes in early February.