Back On Track?

Did you know Ottawa gets snow in the winter? And sometimes freezing rain? Of course you did.

Do you know who apparently didn’t know that? The people who run our transit system.

That has to be the explanation. The people in charge cannot possibly live here. Nor can they be aware of the weather we have had every winter as long as I have lived – and probably for thousands of years before that.

That complete ignorance would explain why our light rail system has had problems in its three years of operation. It isn’t designed for winter weather – and no-one seems to know how to fix it.

Today, in theory, for the first time in a week, the train will be running as scheduled. Freezing rain last week caused a breakdown, leaving some trains stuck on the tracks, and consequently some sections of the system had to be closed. Attempts to put the line back in service apparently made things worse. In the meantime, there were replacement buses, which lengthened the commute for anyone working downtown. If you could get on one – there weren’t enough of them.

Ottawa residents have been through this before. Last winter. And the winter before that. And the one before that, the first winter of LRT operation. The train is probably running more days than not; it just doesn’t feel that way.

With a two billion dollar LRT expansion underway, taxpayers are concerned that the new line will suffer the same problems as the current one. Confidence in transit officials and their statements is probably at an all-time low. Even politicians seem more trustworthy.

At least we haven’t had a major snowfall recently, which would add to the transit woes. Not only does the train not like the snow, but neither do the buses.

A few years back Ottawa committed to using articulated buses on many routes. They hold more people than the older style, so you need fewer buses and drivers. This should mean a cost savings without service reduction. Everybody wins. Until it snows .

The articulated buses get stuck in the snow when they try to go around corners. This year the transit operator is prepared and that won’t happen. If a heavy snowfall is predicted they will pull the buses off the road as a precaution. That’s about a third of the bus fleet.

You would think before spending millions on these buses someone would have asked how they performed in winter, especially in the snow. Maybe they did and ignored what they were told.

Their next plan is to buy more electric buses. I suspect those will have winter problems too – batteries don’t like cold.

When climate change is on many people’s minds, public transit is a green option. But only if it works.  With Ottawa’s transit system, the people in charge, the so called experts, appear to not know what they are doing

I suppose the possibility exists that these people are smarter than we thought. Maybe they know something about climate change that the rest of us don’t.

Maybe they are gambling that, as the planet warms, Ottawa will no longer have cold and snowy winters. The trains and buses work fine in warmer weather, and perhaps that is what Ottawa will have in the not too distant future. .

That couldn’t be it, could it?


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