Thursday, June 19, 2008

No Ottawa Transit Commission, council says

City Council isn't likely to take advice from management consulting firm Oliver Wyman about re-establishing a transit commission to manage OC Transpo, according to a story in the Ottawa Citizen today (read more about the initial advice here).

The firm's reasoning for suggesting a transit commission, according to the story, is as follows:
Wendy Turpin, of Oliver Wyman, said interviews with staff at other transit companies suggest Ottawa would be able to "run transit more like a business" if bus and train services were run by a separate commission. She said having the operation managed by a separate commission would also help in recruiting people with expertise in transit to help manage the service.

Which seems like pretty sound stuff. Of particular note was an emphasis on accountability and transparency, but some councillors felt that it would do the opposite; the Citizen quoted Gloucester-South Nepean Councillor Steve Desroches as saying that it "would be a step that muddies accountability". Other councillors, such as Rideau-Vanier Councillor Georges B├ędard, said that an independent commission composed of experts rather than elected city councillors could be useful.

Previously, Ottawa transit was managed by the OC Transpo Transit Commission, but, as the Citizen story explains, it was transferred over to "the regional government administration in an attempt to cut costs and make the organization more efficient".

Personally, I think this discussion warrants more exploration. Unfortunately, council voted against funding a more detailed report on the possibility of the transit commission, so we won't se much more in the immediate future. I will do what I can to explore the pros and cons of establishing one in a future post, however.