One of the changes mayoral candidate Jim Watson would like to bring to the governance of public transit in the City of Ottawa is the re-establishment of a semi-independent transit commission to run OC Transpo and the O-Train. He thinks it would help keep politics out of the transit debate, and would mean that councillors whose wards aren't affected by the decisions--such as rural councillors--out of the decision-making process.
When I was first elected in 1991 I was also a regional councillor, and we did have a transit commission—OC Transpo had a transit commission, and I was a member of that. It gives a certain degree of autonomy to those members of the commission to actually run the bus company by doing the right things, as opposed to the political things. The minute decisions start coming up to everyone at the council table, many of whom at the council table do not have transit in their wards because they’re in the rural parts, yet they have a say at the table.
Those councillors not on the transit committee would have some say in public transit, in that they will be a part of the budget process determining the money given to the transit committee and would vote on capital projects and transit plans, but they wouldn't be responsible for the management of the transit utility.
Watson sees the committee as composed mostly of elected city councillors, which he thinks would bring accountability to the commission, as well as a few members of the public. He describes it below:
I think it’s important that we have a commission that’s made up primarily of elected officials, from an accountability point of view, but a minority of people on the commission who are actually not from the ranks of the politicians. I’d envision probably 5-6 members of council, and probably 2-3 members of the public. And you’d probably want to supplement your commission with those individuals that perhaps have strengths that the councillors don’t bring to the table.[...] A bus rider, someone who uses the system; a novel concept, but I think we should have people who understand the system and some of the frustrations of it. Someone who has some expertise in transit planning; Ottawa often acts as a great place for people who have retired from other cities to live here, and they bring great expertise.
Ask Clive Doucet re the O train. He has the best solution re traffic. We need it now and not within 20 years. Ask the public and you will find out that they want the O train.
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