Short Cuts at OCTranspo

The City recently announced some more OC Transpo route changes.

Most significantly to readers here at WestSideAction, “local” bus services from the west side will no longer travel right through the downtown; nor will east side bus services travel through the downtown to the western part of the core.

This means the No 11 will terminate at the War Memorial / Confederation Square, possibly later being further cut back to ending at Parliament Station (Queen at Metcalfe). A similar fate awaits other local buses like the 14 and 16. The No 85, it was previously announced, will not go downtown when the Confederation Line opens (this December??) but will go Preston-Albert-Booth-Gatineau with a transfer opportunity to the train at Pimisi Station.

I do understand the desire to the City to reap the benefits of the tunnel to get as many bus routes off the downtown streets as possible. And Council has endorsed the step by step conversion of all OC Transpo routes into a stricter “grid plan” with most bus routes becoming feeders into the Confederation and Trillium train lines and the remaining SE Transitway (Hurdman south to Greenboro).

The grid plan makes a lot of sense for commuters and college students. And for long haul travellers it should be quick and convenient.

But I think OC Transpo planners are short changing the local travellers who use the bus for shopping and other errands, and local “in-between” trips between neighbourhoods.

Lets look at some typical downtown destinations for west siders. Taking the 85 to the library? You’ll be out of luck. Or the 85 or 11 to the nearest major shopping centre at Rideau?? Get off the bus and transfer! Going to Ottawa U? Or OLT or ArtsCourt or the Byward Market? Transfers for you too!

For working-age people, accessing the stations may be quick and easy. For the elderly, those with movement impediments like COPD, those with walkers, or concerned about ice and falls … those transfers can be onerous. Now the City will reassure us that the bus brings us right to the Station entrance and then its all indoors.

But for a trip to the library from the west side, the trip time will increase by at least 10 minutes, even at rush hour (and the city always cites rush hour train frequencies, not midday, evening, weekend or night times …).

And that is for one transfer only, assuming your destination is downtown on the Confed Line. But what if it is further east or south? Now we are talking of a bus – train – bus journey with at least two transfers.

Perhaps accessing the tunnel stations will be quick. They are complete enough that OC Transpo could do some real trials and release some data.

Let’s start with the real time measured from the mid-point of the east and west bound platforms, up to street level, for both the quick and agile traveller and the much slower elderly and less agile, during both peak and non-peak periods, for each of the downtown stations. Perhaps transfers will be painless. Or maybe not.

I’ve long thought OC Transpo is too “commuter” oriented. It should take into account their complete clientele spectrum.

Long haul users of the Connection (aka “express”) routes from Kanata and Barrhaven are the big money losing routes, I seem to recall.  The City decided it would be too onerous for those folks to transfer to a bus at Tunney’s only to transfer to one station later to take the Trillium Line south to Carleton, or take the train two stops to Pimisi Station to transfer going north to Gatineau.

Instead, some  “connection” routes will continue from the far west end suburbs to Tunneys, then continue to Bayview, to Booth, and then to Gatineau. Non transfer service is apparently important for the money losing routes.

But transfer-to-make-one-more-stop to get to the Rideau Centre or Ottawa U is exactly what OC Transpo is imposing on their highly profitable west side local transit users.

Somehow I think it is short changing the local transit users.


13 thoughts on “Short Cuts at OCTranspo

  1. The new plan strikes me as a reasonable “spine and ribs” plan used in many localities. It optimizes the use of the expensive spine and minimizes long bus runs in downtown traffic. Not much wrong with that, Habits will change, the plan will be optimized and in the end all will accept…And as a bonus, bus lines will be more easily understood and stop meandering through town.

    1. The local routes (numbers <20) which serve the core now do not "meander" through town. They serve main streets and internally and externally connect downtown neighbourhoods to one another and the rest of the city.

      The "meanders" will arive with the new routing system: too many left turns, too many connections being broken between local downtown routes. In case you haven't noticed, the only parts of the core that the LRT will directly serve are the office downtown, Rideau Centre, and U of O. Lebreton to Tunney's if you expand your sense of the core. The LRT is not a practical way to get from Wellington West to the Glebe or Old Ottawa South to New Edinburgh.

      OC Transpo and the City have engaged in mission creep. LRT was meant to replace the surface buses running through downtown along Albert and Slater, most of which is carrying people to and from the suburbs.

      Since LRT doesn't, and never will in our lifetimes, serve the urban residential core, those bus routes and bus-to-bus connections are still vital. But somewhere along the way, OC Transpo and Jim Watson got the idiotic idea in their heads that they need to get as many buses off all downtown streets – not just the central Transitway.

      This complete destruction of the local core bus network in downtown Ottawa is one of the dumbest transit planning policies I have ever seen. It is breathtaking in its stupidity.

      Can anyone explain why this city hates its own core residents so much?

    2. Living in the core, I wouldn’t have a problem with “spine and ribs” model if riding one rib wouldn’t cost the same as riding two ribs and entire spine. Give me zone based fares and I’ll consider riding the bus again.

  2. Nothing more detested to local/regular users than the need to transfer and they will definitely be short changed by being forced onto LRT. Sneaky tactic to achieve higher usage numbers for LRT.

  3. I remember before “optimization” I could ride all the way from the west deep into the east without transferring. Now with LRT the buses will no longer travel to many spots, (including the Main branch of the library), and the LRT will be OK just to get to The Rideau Centre/ Market. After that it veers off to places I very seldom go. For me it really means more walking which sometimes is impossible, making some destinations inaccessible to me. Yay!

  4. I remember living in Montreal in 1966 when the metro was introduced and it cut travel times to the core for most commuters. Unlike the old Montreal bus system which was based on a hub and spoke system, the current Ottawa bus system most bus routes now go to thru the Core clogging it up and increasing route times. For example: the number 11 bus takes 40 minutes to travel from the Core to Woodroffe , due to the large number of stops. With the LRT this travel time will be cut in half even with a transfer at Tunnies Pasture. So overall I believe the LRT will reduce route times for most commuters.

    As far as local routes are concerned it is my belief that they have too many stops already increasing route times. For example: when I lived in in the McKellar Park area, local route times were so long due to the many stops, I found it quicker to walk a Km to the Dominion transit station than take local routes which went downtown. The large number of route stops maybe good for 80 year olds in poor health but are less good for the rest of us who want shorter route times and could use the exercise.

    It would be cheaper and more energy efficient for the City to contract with Uber to serve local routes in off peak hours than run mostly empty buses in off peak hours; dare I say reduce Green House gas emissions.

    1. HI Don- I’m the COPD guy that Eric wrote about. When my breathing is bad I can’t walk a long ways between transfer points. I don’t care if a route takes more time as long as it entails the least amount of walking for me. If I’m going to the back of The Rideau Centre I take a bus that lets me off at the back. Ditto for the front. I can’t always walk all the way through the Centre without numerous rest stops. I’m glad you can use the exercise but I’d rather spend time than energy and I’m certainly no where near 80. If all the local routes had less stops it would deny me access to some of my favourite destinations and I’m not ready to be housebound just yet.

  5. In the news today, effective 02 September, the #11 travelling west will end at Lincoln Fields rather than the current Bayshore. Sad situation for those who depend strictly on local routes.

  6. While I understand the concern about transfers, you fail to recognize that most major transit systems have some sort of bus-rail or bus-rail-bus connections and still manage to work just fine (actually far more efficiently then our current system). Transfers aren’t the devil, but in the past OC hasn’t always done them very well so I get why our riders are skeptical.

    But I do have to correct one notion you mention – that grid based transit is geared towards commuters. That is simply not the case – grid based transit is all about making it easier for local users to access more areas of the system easily. I would strongly suggest taking a peek at Jarrett Walker’s blog – Human Transit. He frequently discusses the vast improvements to a system grid based transit can bring, and the outrage people have about it until they actually see how much faster they are able to get around.

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