Archive for the ‘Transit’ Category

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

All Quiet On Taxi Fare Increase

- August 14th, 2014

One issue that has died down over the summer is the cabbies’ call to increase fares by 7%.

“There’s not much happening on that issue yet,” taxi union president Amrik Singh told me today.

No meetings are being held with city staff and it didn’t sound like anything was scheduled. It’s hard to arrange meetings in the summer since staff are taking vacation. Singh himself just got back from being off.

I don’t think there would be much motivation at City Hall to mull a fare increase anyway. Mayor Jim Watson and Coun. Mark Taylor, chairman of the committee that oversees taxi licences, have said 7% is a bit much.

Maybe it’s one of those issues that will pop up in the election campaign. But right now there’s not a lot of momentum.

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

Watson Gathers Input On Bus/Train Crash Memorial

- July 11th, 2014

From: Watson, Jim (Mayor/Maire)
Sent: Friday, July 11, 2014 10:40 AM
To: =City Councillors
Cc: =City Councillors Assistants; Kirkpatrick, Kent; Manconi, John; Kanellakos, Steve; Schepers, Nancy; Bowles, Cathy
Subject: Information Memo / Mémo d’information


I am writing today with respect to the approaching time when all will remember last year’s tragic bus/train collision. In the last two months I have consulted with the families involved to determine the most appropriate way to commemorate those who lost their lives last September 18th.

My desire was to find ways to remember loved ones lost in a manner that all families could comfortably share. I believe that a complete understanding and concurrence is necessary, as we do not want to do anything that could put any one family into an uncomfortable situation at any point in time.

The input that we have received, both written and in discussions that some families have had with Ward Councillor Jan Harder and the Chief of Protocol, Cathy Bowles, has led me to conclude that our focus for a lasting memorial can and should be twofold. There was not complete agreement amongst the families on other ideas that have been mentioned.

We learned that the retirement of Route #76 is desirable and this will be done. Similarly, everyone has indicated that a commemorative plaque or marker of some type would be a suitable enduring remembrance. This too will be done and a location will be determined in consultation with the families, Councillor Harder and Councillor Deans.

In addition, we will be flying flags at City facilities at half-mast on September 18th and there will be an observation of a minute of silence in a memorial tribute at a Transit Commission meeting scheduled for September 17th.

I trust this information will be of interest to each of you. I am sure that it was not easy for the families to consider these matters and I have told them how much I appreciate their input.

Jim Watson


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