Corrigan: ride on the Ottawa light rail - an unforgettable night

The OC Transpo fleet with 20 buses dedicated to running R1 replacement service when there are significant delays on O-Train Line 1. Unfortunately, they were on New Year’s Eve.

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My wife and I call ourselves senior surfers on Sunday, because we take the O-Train on Sunday to rediscover downtown Ottawa and it’s free for seniors. We’re going to brunch, see the ByWard Market and the Rideau Center, so we wanted to show it to our friends who live in Kanata and Carp and haven’t taken public transportation for more than 20 years.

We would celebrate New Year’s Eve together and this would be a perfect time to ride the rails and rediscover downtown Ottawa, all at the invitation of OC Transpo. We go to St. Laurent Station and drive to Rideau Station, a quick 10-minute run, and then walk to a market rib restaurant. We step back and go back to St. Laurent to see a movie. Finally we go to our house to welcome the new year.

That was the plan, and everything went swimming until we returned to Rideau Station. We were told that the trains were not running and had to take an “R1” bus. It was 6:20 PM and the movie started at 7 PM. Fortunately we were able to board a bus. However, a journey that would take 10 minutes with O-Train took more than half an hour by bus.

Ottawa commuters are used as laboratory rats for Transpo’s processes and tests.

When we arrived at St. Laurent Station and when we got off the bus, our girlfriend, who has a back condition, slipped away and fell flat on her back, soaked in snow pulp. It was 7:15 pm and she was scared, cold and crying. “Is everything alright?” Said the bus driver while we gathered our friend in the mud. Our stoic friend replied, “I’m fine,” while she was raised. She tried to be brave, though soaked to the skin.

But it didn’t make sense to go to the theater now. We went to our place to dry. We were worried about her all evening, although she tried unsuccessfully to assure us that she was doing well. The look on her husband’s face told another story.

We felt terrible. Our friends had put their trust in our suggestion to have a bite to eat in the city and then a movie, but instead they were cast in a local disaster movie. This was the first-year ride for the O-Train, which turned out to be a huge disaster for transit users. Just like the Titanic, this ‘iceberg’ should have been avoided, with proper maintenance to prevent a power outage.

Ottawa commuters are used as laboratory rats for Transpo’s processes and tests. When the passage was originally proposed, we got a line: it would be the best mass transit system in Canada. We have been troubled for years by disruptions, and when that didn’t work, much of that passage was replaced to accommodate light rail. What we got was the Ottawa version of Boeing’s 737 Max. A lot of money goes nowhere. (At least they grounded the planes to find out what was wrong.)

We pay a lot of money to keep buses waiting at parking places for baseball and sports centers to shuttle passengers in case the trains stop. Taxpayers will eventually finance these foolishnesses and when the money runs out halfway through phase 2, they will blame the mistakes of the past. Take some of that money and buy some smarts and experience.

This system is convenient and fast when it works, but instead of driving people to take the train, people are driven away. Let’s hope that OC Transpo no longer needs to tweet one day: “Thanks for your patience.”

T.K. Corrigan is a graphic artist who lives in Ottawa.

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