A bad case of the Transit Blues(fest)

Celebrating Canada Day in the nation’s capital is, for some, a sight to behold. This year, the evening fireworks show took place at LeBreton Flats, near Pimisi station. For those of us that are transit enjoyers, it represented an opportunity to celebrate the holiday in an accessible area. 

However, the fun was interrupted by Ottawa police and Canadian Heritage officials, who limited access to the station. Why? With the support of a crowd management consultant, they insisted that the station’s design "does not facilitate the efficient handling of substantial crowds," due to a lack of exits in the event of emergencies. This change left a lot of people with a sense of dissatisfaction with OC Transpo. To make matters worse, train service was cancelled from 8 to 10 p.m., with replacement buses becoming the only longer-range non-automobile option left for travellers.

In a very puzzling series of events, OC Transpo and Ottawa Police Services encouraged people attending the Bluesfest festival (taking place in the same area from July 6 to 16) to take the train to Pimisi station by the municipality. 

After the unexpected restrictions on July 1, passengers were left vexed and confused. Given the proximity of Lebreton to Pimisi station, why was the station usable during a musical festival but not during Canada Day? 

Public safety and transit accessibility are not mutually exclusive. The issue is not that transit travel during Bluesfest was facilitated and promoted; it should be. The point remains that transit should not be favoured only during one-off events, but rather year-round. 

Former city councillor Diane Deans affirms that Pimisi is “really a downtown stop. [It] should be able to accommodate [high volumes of people].” In this sense, demand-responsive transit should be at the forefront of the larger conversation about transportation in Ottawa. The future of transit depends on planning approaches, especially when large groups of people rely on it.

Yasmine Hadid is a student in Environmental Economics and Public Policy (in French) at the University of Ottawa. She has an interest in policy issues related to transportation, sustainability, and environmental management.


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