COVID Silver Linings


City officials in Ottawa, Canada, probably won’t admit it, but the timing of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a blessing for them. People are focusing on health and not the city’s under-performing light rail system.

The multi-billion dollar project was opened to the public with great fanfare in September, and the breakdowns started almost immediately. News reports showed hundreds of commuters marching together down city streets after yet another train breakdown. There were no buses available.

From trains breaking down in the snow, to the system shutting down when doors jammed, it seemed like a new problem every day. Drive-time radio shows reported on the delays and the number of trains in service, which never seemed to be the number necessary to handle rush hour traffic.

Ottawa citizens were ready to storm city hall demanding to know when the system would work as advertised. It was suggested transit authorities and politicians should resign since they seemed incapable of fixing the problems. The the pandemic hit.

I have no idea if the trains are running these days. Everyone I know is working from home these days. There are no commuters, or so few that they probably fit on one train. And the city usually managed to keep one train running in each direction.

News reports are filled with information on the pandemic, both locally and worldwide. Nothing is business as usual. No-one is thinking about light rail.

City officials should be though. Once the “crisis” is past people will be heading downtown once again. If the trains don’t work, they will be more than upset.

I don’t think a mere pandemic will be considered an acceptable reason for not fixing something that should never have been broken in the first place. What else do engineers and transit experts have to do these days?

They’ve been given a chance to get it right. If they don’t, metaphorical heads will roll.

I wonder if the politicians understand that?



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