I don't remember anybody ever saying that Ottawa's transit system needs more lawyers. I thought the point was to add some transit experts, some people with business experience, maybe a regular person or two. We got three lawyers with no transportation-industry knowledge to speak of, and a general-purpose management consultant.
Reevely went on to say that these four individuals could very well prove to be beneficial to the Commission, and that's certainly the case, but they're still not very representative of the Ottawa public, and especially not representative of the transit-using portion of that population.
But the choice of these four individuals as public representatives is not the first bizarre choice Ottawa has made with the Transit Commission. In fact, since the Commission was established, I have been routinely baffled by the decisions made surrounding it.
The idea of a transit commission seemed to come out of nowhere in the last election, but it was actually one of the most pressing recommendations of the Mayor's Task Force on Transportation when they issued their Moving Ottawa report back in June 2007. That report, however, suggested an "arm's-length operating entity" to separate it from the City's bureaucracy.
The Commission Ottawa established, though, was not arm's length. It was formed with eight councillors and remains fully entrenched in the City's bureaucracy. Realistically, with the exception of the four public members, it was different from the previous transit committee in name only. But it was approved (although not universally) during Council's first meeting.
With the Commission approved, the next question was which councillors would be appointed to it. How representative of the city, notably the core where transit dependency is most pronounced, would the eight councillor members be? Turns out, not very: None of the eight councillors were from urban ridings, including suburban and rural councillors. They could certainly be solid contributors to the Commission (and have been working hard on it, no doubt), but the fact remains that few of their constituents are transit-dependent.
Then, this "interim" Transit Commission went on to make all the difficult decisions of the year, accepting the drastic service changes that come with the OC Transpo "optimisation", which included an $82M double-decker bus purchase (Correction: As pointed out by Joanne Chianello [thank you Joanne] in the comments, the double-decker purchase is not yet finalized; it is pending a business presentation likely within the next month. -P.R.). If the public members of the Commission are equal to the councillor representatives, should they not have had some say or input into this decision process?
Finally, we were left with the appointments of the public members. It seemed very strange that after full council failed to name the public members on time, they delegated that decision to the "interim" Transit Commission, meaning the councillors would choose the public representatives that would be joining them. What message is that supposed to send?
These decisions all boggled my mind, and they make me wonder: With its current structure, is there any way the city's Transit Commission can possibly succeed?