Ottawa’s LRT system still partly closed and under repair after freezing rain damage

Stalled LRT OC Transpo trains are seen near Lees Avenue station in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 6, 2023. People who take public transit to work in Ottawa found part of the city's light rail transit line closed to start the week as the repairs continue after last week's ice storm. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Spencer Colby

OTTAWA — As a partial closure of Ottawa’s light-rail transit line continues, several people travelling through the central Parliament station Monday said they were unaware of the disruption — and asking for directions in the absence of OC Transpo staff.

Freezing rain damaged overhead lines last Wednesday night, leaving several trains stuck on the tracks for more than a day.

Even as repairs persisted over the weekend and into the work week, on Monday there was still no word on when the line would be fully operational.

OC Transpo said two trains were removed from the tracks by Sunday evening, but the line is still closed between the uOttawa and Tremblay stations east of downtown as crews work to fix the lines.

Renee Amilcar, the city’s general manager of transit services, said in a memo to the mayor and city council Monday morning that extra buses have been running to get people from the eastern part of the city into downtown.

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At Parliament station, a couple of stops west of the closure, transit rider Samuel Florian-Libock said he was shocked to hear that a portion of the system had been closed all weekend and was still shut down.

“Many people need this (system),” said Florian-Libock, who said he uses the LRT at least five times a week. “They have to speed up the repairs.”

At the station on Monday afternoon, no OC Transpo staff were there to direct confused commuters.

The City of Ottawa and OC Transpo have not responded to questions about how they could better communicate with transit riders.

Laura Shantz said her first thought when she heard about the partial closure and service delay was: “Not again.”

The board member for advocacy group Ottawa Transit Riders said this is far from the first time something like this has happened, and transit users are growing increasingly frustrated with the system.

“If we want people to make transit a first choice instead of the buy-a-car option, then we really need to think long and hard about what could we do (to improve),” said Shantz.

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Many people were sharing pictures of people flooding to the replacement buses on social media, with Coun. Jeff Leiper posting on Twitter that it took him just under two hours to get to work.

Shantz said she is concerned about the issue of accessibility, especially during a five-day delay that is happening in the winter.

She said people who require extra space and are using wheelchairs or other mobility devices may be stuck waiting for prolonged periods of time.

“We need to look at what options we can have that will provide the reliability and the continuity that transit riders are really looking for.”

OC Transpo has said that the replacement buses will be adjusted according to demand.

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