Rivers are integral features in many world cities. The Thames in London and Seine in Paris are focal points of activity. But in Ottawa and Gatineau, the river forms a rather needless dividing line.
Integration, or lack of it, between OC Transpo and Gatineau’s STO is a longstanding issue that’s never been resolved. The logical time to address it would have been the 1970s, when the federal offices at Place du Portage and Terrasses de la Chaudière were built to employ more than 15,000 people. Trudeau’s government wanted more federal workers based in Quebec. But on the local level, no one really figured out how they were going to get there.
It’s been a particularly trying winter for workers at Terrasses de la Chaudière. With the ailing Chaudière Bridge closed to buses, the simple act of crossing the river from Ottawa has become an incredibly convoluted matter.
Under normal conditions, OC Transpo routes 8 and 88 link the Transitway with Terrasses de la Chaudière via Chaudière Bridge, with the 27 and 40 providing an alternative via Portage Bridge. Now the 8 and 88 drive to the foot of the closed bridge, then turn back to cross Portage Bridge — an amble around LeBreton Flats that adds approximately 10 minutes to journey times. Unlike before, these buses now stop at Place du Portage, leaving commuters a good walk short of their original destination. To rub salt in the wound, the 27 and 40, which terminate at Terrasses de la Chaudière during the morning rush hour, start at a completely different location in the evening.
If OC Transpo and STO were better co-ordinated, the problems caused by the closure of Chaudière Bridge would be eased.
STO buses also cross the river, but to just a few stops on Wellington Street, instead of the Transitway. What’s more, because OC Transpo and STO buses run from different stops, passengers have to choose which system they want to use before they begin their journey, rather than being able to take advantage of which bus arrives first.
The National Capital Committee recently launched a study into better integrating the two systems.
Let’s hope it understands this doesn’t necessarily need heavy investment, just better communication and some common sense.
In Istanbul, Turkey, the transit system crosses the Bosphorus Strait to connect parts of the city in two continents, Europe and Asia. Surely we can manage the same across a medium-sized river between two provinces.
John Holmes is a writer for various publications in Canada and the U.K. He’s never had a driver’s licence, and has relied on public transit all his adult life; firstname.lastname@example.org