Mayor urged to focus on Ottawa’s transit needs before those of region
Mayor Larry O’Brien’s ideas for regional commuter rail could be on a collision course with the city’s own pressing transit needs.
On Wednesday, O’Brien will meet with 15 mayors from neighbouring communities to discuss the potential of building a transit system that stretches across city boundaries, but Metro has learned that a transit committee meeting scheduled August 15 will focus only on Ottawa-specific solutions, without reference to the inter-regional plan.
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While O’Brien envisions using existing track to bring commuters from towns as distant as Brockville, Rockland and Pembroke into Ottawa via train, speculation is that senior management will propose to build the Strandherd bridge, extend the O-Train to Leitrim Road, add Park n’ Rides in the city’s south end, create new transit hubs and develop better access to the South Keys transit station.
That approach has backers on council, who believe transit needs within city limits should trump regional plans.
“We have nothing on the table right now,” said River ward councillor Maria McRae.
McRae believes O’Brien should be focusing on Ottawa first and saving a regional plan until the city’s own solutions are developed further.
Coun. Clive Doucet, one of O’Brien’s harshest critics, is onboard with the regional plan because he wants to see fewer roads built. But even he doesn’t think such a project would significantly help residents of Ottawa.
A regional plan is only one of several areas the city must focus on which includes providing a residential network and building an urban spine, he said. “The urban transit system is already on hold,” he said.
At least one transit group supports O’Brien’s plan, but doesn’t see it as the solution to more pressing issues, such as the downtown Ottawa bus congestion.
David Jeanes of Transport 2000 sees the regional idea as a parallel effort to what city staff are currently working on. He thinks parts of a regional service could be set up quickly and would reduce the amount of cars on the road. “These are the cars travelling the greatest distance,” he said.