Amilcar Doesn’t Want to Divert Staff to Answer Questions from Councillor Lo

ABOVE: Screen capture from the Ottawa Transit Commission meeting, April 12, 2023.

In the aftermath of last week’s LRT failure, Councillor Wilson Lo brought forward a motion at Thursday’s Ottawa Transit Commission meeting to have 67 questions answered about the system shutdown.

Vice Chair Cathy Curry asked if there was a better way to get responses to Councillor Lo's questions than a written report. Councillor Curry appeared concerned that it would take too much time for OC Transpo staff to respond in writing. OC staffer Matt Pieter, manager of rail systems, told the committee that getting all the information together would take approximately 100 hours. Curry then inquired about the cost, to which Amilcar responded that staff in her office would have to “do it (answer Lo’s questions) rather than move forward with the investigation that we have ongoing.”

Chair Glenn Gower asked about a possible compromise to Lo’s request and pointed out that there will be a root cause analysis of the previous January 4, 2023 O-Train outage. Gower said this report would likely answer several of Lo’s questions. Lo responded that he could wait for the upcoming report and withdrew his motion.

Councillor Jeff Lieper expressed his support for Lo, stating that he would reintroduce the motion if the upcoming report did not answer Councillor Lo's questions. He also lamented that OC Transpo staff needed to respond to inquiries from councillors.

Amilcar angrily responded that she and other engineers at OC Transpo cannot just “pick and choose some questions” because there are “processes to follow.” Amilcar said it is possible she will not be able to get any report on the failure out in May because it is “very technical.”

Amilcar then gave an update on OC Transpo services, mentioning that Para Transpo is getting smart card readers that accept mobile phone wallets, Presto, and credit cards. Regular OC Transpo service has 48 recruits beginning training this month and 38 additional drivers next month. This year's goal for new drivers is 360, plus 20 new Para Transpo bus operators.

It was announced that Line 1 of the LRT will have partial closures on the weekend of April 29-30 and again from May 6-7. The closure will affect service from Hurdman to Lyon stations. The shutdown is so crews can undertake maintenance to prevent water infiltration. R1 buses will run in the affected areas of the line during the closure.

ABOVE: Outtake from OC Transpo's performance report presented at Thursday's Transit Commission meeting.

A separate presentation on performance showed that ridership is up to 80% of the pre-pandemic level on Para Transpo service and continues to grow steadily. However, on-time service delivery for Para Transpo was 91% compared to 97% for regular buses and O-Train service. Ottawa’s public transit usage across the board was only at 63% of pre-pandemic levels in February and will likely be at 70% by the end of the year.

After the presentations concluded, Councillor Tim Tierney voiced concern about the continued LRT outages, including last week's stoppage. He asked when the city could expect a diesel-powered recovery vehicle for the LRT system. The OC staff did not provide him with a definitive answer. Tierney pointed out that there have been several times in the last two years when a fuel-powered recovery system would have been highly beneficial.

The Regulatory Monitor and Compliance Officer (RMCO), Sam Berrada, gave his yearly presentation on the state of the O-Train Confederation line. Councillor Lo noted the previous report of unfinished inspector training and asked if this had impacted the safety of the LRT system at any point. Berrada replied that any employee working on the LRT in any capacity who is not fully trained would pose some degree of risk to the system’s safety.

The Transit Commission is scheduled to meet again on Thursday, May 11, 2023.