Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

Decentralizing Presto Card Sales

- December 11th, 2014

Not only are Presto cards getting a redesign, they could pop up in stores and vending machines one day in Ottawa.

A Presto report for the Metrolinx board of directors, which is meeting today, says the agency has been experimenting with selling pre-loaded cards at some grocery stores in Hamilton. Transit users can also add funds to their cards at the stores.

The Toronto Transit Commission plans to offer pre-loaded Presto cards in its transit pass vending machines at two stations as part of a pilot project.

As for the redesign, Metrolinx says its new cards will have braille and larger fonts.

By the way, if you regularly fly from Ottawa to Toronto’s Pearson Airport it might be a good idea to stash a loaded Presto card in your wallet. It’ll be much cheaper to take the new rail link downtown Toronto if you’re paying with Presto. Still a good chunk of change, but cheaper than cash.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at

Meetings Scheduled Between City And NCC

- November 24th, 2014

Dr. Mark Kristmanson, National Capital Commission CEO, John Baird, minister of foreign affairs, and Russell Mills, NCC board chair, arrive at a press conference at the Lester B. Pearson building in Ottawa, Ont. on Feb. 3, 2014. Darren Brown/Ottawa Sun/QMI Agency

No one knows how this spat between the city and National Capital Commission will play out but it’s the first time during the western LRT work that there is some serious doubt about the future of extending rail past Tunney’s Pasture.

Even Mayor Jim Watson said the entire second phase — which formed the cornerstone of his re-election campaign — is in jeopardy if the western LRT can’t cut across federal land the way the city wants it to.

That would effectively stymie two western lines: One to Algonquin College and another to Bayshore Shopping Centre.

Watson pulled no punches in a scrum with reporters today. He (again) criticized the unelected makeup of the NCC board and slammed it for making a decision in secret. He wonders why the federal Conservatives don’t like the city’s transit plans and he suggests LRT should be a ballot question for Ottawa voters in the 2015 federal election.

The discussions between the city and the NCC will continue.

I had a chat tonight with Mark Kristmanson, CEO of the NCC. He has two meetings scheduled with the city next week, including a meeting with city manager Kent Kirkpatrick.

The analysis the NCC did on the city’s LRT info will likely be part of those discussions.

“We obviously have very different understandings about the data and western light rail,” Kristmanson said.

As for Watson’s allegations the NCC is operating in secret, Kristmanson said the board had to meet in-camera on LRT because it involved land issues and proprietary information.

“I’m reluctant to get into a process struggle over this,” Kristmanson said.

Kristmanson likes that Watson brought up the need for discussions with local stakeholders and board members. It sounds like it’s something Kristmanson been wanting to pursue even outside the western LRT issue.

But the relationship between the NCC and city is now called back into question after what seemed like some very good months of co-operation and softened rhetoric.

For example, the two sides worked well together on the bus shuttle route to Lansdowne Park. And Kristmanson, who has only been on the job since February, has seemed to impress folks at City Hall.

So, now we wait to see who will budge on western LRT. The NCC seems to have a lot of the leverage. As always.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at

Transit Advocates Have Mused About The Rail Corridors

- September 29th, 2014

I had a chance to talk today with David Jeanes, past president of advocacy organization Transport Action Canada, after hearing Mike Maguire’s proposal for commuter rail on existing rail corridors. Jeanes is a bit of a frequent flyer at City Hall on transit issues and he has participated in several transit consultations over the years.

I was really only interested in one question: Is Maguire’s plan feasible?

“We think it’s feasible just like the O-Train was feasible back in 1997,” Jeanes said.

The O-Train was launched in 2001 as a pilot project on an 8-km stretch of an existing freight track. Today, it’s hugely popular. Frequency of trains will increase by this winter.

“We have always said there was opportunities to do that out to Gloucester and out to Kanata and farther south,” Jeanes said.

Jeanes said Transport Action has been advocating for the use of existing rail corridors for decades. He didn’t think regulatory challenges, such as running O-Trains on tracks primarily used for Via and freight trains, would be a significant. He also thinks Via would be open to the discussion.

That said, Jeanes said he was in no position to comment on if Maguire’s plan is good since Transport Action doesn’t take sides politically.

As an aside, Maguire said he has been getting advice from Friends of the O-Train (a group of transportation enthusiasts) on his rail proposal. Jeanes, a member of the Friends of the O-Train, said he has spoken to Maguire about the plan over the phone but there have been no face-to-face meetings since the start of the election campaign.

Maguire’s plan and Watson’s plan are completely different. Maguire’s commuter rail idea has major challenges, which I note in the article.

Important to note, though, that Watson’s LRT blueprint isn’t a slam dunk. The city and NCC are still negotiating over a strip of land along the Sir John A. Macdonald Pkwy. (Watson said Sunday he’s optimistic) and the results of the environmental assessments still have to come in.

And we’re still not sure how, or if, the airport might come into play.

Plus, there is no commitment yet from the feds on funding Stage 2 LRT.

Still, if Watson and a majority of council are returned in the Oct. 27 election, the LRT plan would have a full head of steam.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at

Airport Rail Link Gets Debate Time

- September 23rd, 2014

MIke Maguire, Anwar Syed and incumbent Jim Watson take their seats during tonight’s mayoral debate at Carleton University.

I was happy to see the subject of airport rail service come up at tonight’s mayoral debate at Carleton University. I couldn’t squeeze it into my recap of the debate, so I thought I’d do a little summary here.

Credit to moderator Andrew Cohen for asking Mike Maguire, Anwar Syed and Mayor Jim Watson about the airport after a transit question.

As background, the city is looking into whether a rail spur to the airport off the O-Train (to be rebranded Trillium Line) is feasible under its plan to extend the O-Train to Riverside South. Businesspeople like the idea of a rail line to the airport, the taxi industry has been considering the implications, and it will be up to the next council to decide what to do.

Syed, who has travelled internationally with his job in engineering, likes the idea of an airport link since major cities have one.

Maguire, too, said an airport rail line would be fine to look at, but he said top priority should be improving arterial roads.

Watson said an airport spur can’t hamper wait times for other non-airport customers. He suggested that running a line to the airport wouldn’t be built solely with property taxpayer money. “It has to be affordable and we have to make sure the airport puts money on the table,” Watson said.

I don’t know if this topic will gain much more ground in the election campaigns, but it could be a big decision for the 2014-2018 council.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at

Promotions At OC Transpo Bring New Assistant GMs

- September 5th, 2014

OC Transpo GM John Manconi has been looking at his senior management structure since the latest American Public Transportation Association peer review, which focused on safety.

Looks like we have a few promotions with new roles as assistant GMs. Charter, Scrimgeour and Begin were already kinda-sorta in these roles, but it looks like there’s more oversight responsibility now. I haven’t heard of any terminations in the re-organization, but I’m double-checking and will update here (update 4:07 p.m.: Confirmed, no management terminations). Manconi says the current branch managers are being consolidated into the four areas below.

The changes also reflect Transpo’s move to a bus, O-Train, Para Transpo and LRT operator.

(The chief safety officer and light rail director positions are being recruited).

1. Assistant General Manager, Transit Operations Division – Troy Charter

As Assistant General Manager, Operations Division, Troy Charter will be responsible for ensuring that all service is safe, reliable and consistently meeting customer expectations. Troy will be accountable for all bus, rail and PARA operations, fleet and facilities maintenance and lifecycle, security of passengers, employees and the special constable program including the CCTV program. The Director of Light Rail will be reporting to Troy once the successful candidate is selected.

2. Assistant General Manager, Customer Systems and Planning Division – Pat Scrimgeour

In the role of Assistant General Manager Customer Systems & Planning, Pat Scrimgeour will be responsible for ensuring that service is well planned, that customers are supported and provided the tools and services needed to ensure that their journey on our service is a seamless and satisfying experience. He will oversee planning, reporting and scheduling of all services, customer service, call and sales centres, marketing, Transit technology systems, rail and bus control systems and other business support systems.

3. Manager, Transit Strategic Services Division – Jocelyne Bégin

As the Manager Transit Strategic Services, Jocelyne Bégin will responsible for the department’s strategic services, communications, and business planning. She will oversee the department’s key projects including the transformational program for the Confederation Line, manage the legislative agenda, business planning, employee engagement, and corporate initiatives. All media inquiries, public relations and community partnerships will be managed through her. She will develop relationships with key stakeholders, community partners and industry associations and identify innovation, opportunities for partnerships and improvement initiatives for the department.

4. Chief Safety Officer – Currently being Recruited

The Transit Services Department is required to ensure that the City`s regulatory obligations are fulfilled as prescribed in the Delegation Agreement with Transport Canada. Ottawa’s Light Rail system will be the first self regulated system in Canada and with that comes the requirement to ensure we are in compliance with all elements of the agreement with Transport Canada. We are obligated to develop and implement a regulatory framework for both the security and the safety of the line, enforcement of regulations, develop safety management systems, audits, etc. To achieve all of this, a Chief Safety Officer will be hired with senior management authority reporting directly to the General Manager. The recruitment of this position is underway and we want to have a candidate in place later this year.

Follow City Hall reporter Jon Willing on Twitter at @JonathanWilling and at