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New transit process rings a bell

I blame the bells at city hall on Wednesday for this week’s transit debacle.


I blame the bells at city hall on Wednesday for this week’s transit debacle.


I was dashing to Slater and Elgin to get the 31 (which is not listed there, or anywhere else it stops downtown, for reasons known only to OC Transpo planners) when I slowed to listen to the chiming of the bells on that drizzling afternoon.


The moment could not have been more auspicious if it had been the white smoke at the Vatican to announce the next pope. This was the day Ottawa’s transit plan was being debated at a joint meeting of the transit and transportation committees. History was in the making.


The 31 roared past. No problem, I thought, there will be another.


Foolish me — I had memorized the fastest route given by the planner and ignored the rest. As I waited for the next 31 to arrive, I pondered the city’s transit future and what I hoped to gain from the adopted plan.
A rain-soaked 15 minutes later, I no longer cared about future transit, I would have settled for a horse.


I got the 33 instead. Why, I don’t know. Desperate people do desperate things. I had this crazy idea the driver would call out the stops and I’d get off somewhere close to my destination and then walk.


The bus was standing room only. Maybe OC Transpo drivers don’t realize this when they decide not to call out the stops, but when a passenger is standing, she doesn’t have a prayer of reading the street signs — if such things existed in the suburbs, which they don’t.


As soon as we exited the Transitway, I had no idea where I was. Lacking the usual commuter survival gear — cellphone, GPS, BlackBerry, gorp — my chances on the outside were slim.


Then, civilization appeared in the form of a drug mart, where staffers let me use the phone to call for help and I could buy bulk chocolate to steady my nerves.


As for my wish list for Ottawa’s transit plan? It doesn’t include a guaranteed seat or a commute that beats the speed of sound. But a homogeneous transportation system that is rational, consistent and can be navigated by the average tourist.


For that, I’ll ring the bells at city hall myself.


 
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