Monday, March 28, 2011

Why OC Transpo optimization isn't just good--it's overdue

I'm sure just about everyone has heard, but this past week OC Transpo released a list of 100 bus routes which are going to be changed in some way under the "optimization project" they've undertaken to make service more efficient. If you haven't heard yet, check the OC Transpo website to see if your route is affected or to get a look at what the changes are going to look like.

The changes are sweeping and fairly expansive. Although OC Transpo says 90 per cent of riders won't be affected by the changes, that ten per cent could be affected fairly significantly, from longer walks to bus stops, limited hours of service, or more frequent transfers. It's not going to be a painless exercise, and I do think we will see at least some changes to the plans. But in theory, optimizing the service might end up being the best thing OC Transpo has done in years.

Frequent riders of OC Transpo know that there are problems with the system right now. Once in a while, the route you're waiting for is ridiculously late; sometimes it just doesn't show up. OC Transpo always seems to be hiring, and despite that, costs associated with overtime are ridiculous--and at their highest this year. Every year, fare increases far outpace the inflation rate, and despite those increases, revenue shortfalls at OC Transpo still force the city to pay more than budgeted (last year, it was a $4.7M revenue shortfall). In my view, the signs all point to one thing: OC Transpo is operating beyond its means. The service is trying to do too much, and hasn't critically examined the system map and made the necessary changes to clean up the spaghetti-like map of routes.

Take, for instance, a look at the image below, from a presentation by city staff via the Ottawa Citizen (click to enlarge):

The image at left is the current, pre-optimization structure of routes. It's a ridiculously complex map of meandering express routes (red) which, for the most part, follow streets that are already served by faster cross-town routes (black). The right image is the optimized map, with express routes bumped off community roads, and black routes moderately re-routed to find a best fit, cutting down on redundancies. This is a fairly small glimpse at a very large change, but serves as at least an example of what the city and OC Transpo are trying to do with the optimization project.

Are all the proposed route cuts appropriate? I doubt it. I do know that plenty of people are upset with routes they use frequently being changed, and I understand that. But I also understand that the system isn't working right now, and something does need to be done to fix it. This optimization project is a step in the right direction.

For those of you with input on the optimization, whether positive or negative, the city is holding a series of public consultations on the following dates at the following venues:

Tuesday, March 29th
5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Presentation will begin at 6:30 p.m.
Ottawa City Hall, Jean Pigott Place, 110 Laurier Avenue West

Wednesday, March 30th
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Presentation will begin at 8 p.m.
Kanata Recreation Complex, Hall B, 100 Walter Baker Place

Thursday, March 31th
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Presentation will begin at 8 p.m.
Nepean Sportsplex, Halls C and D, 1701 Woodroffe Avenue

Monday, April 4th
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Presentation will begin at 8 p.m.
Jim Durrell Recreation Complex, Ellwood Hall, 1265 Walkey Road

Tuesday, April 5th
7 p.m. - 9 p.m.
Presentation will begin at 8 p.m.
Shenkman Arts Centre, Music Rehearsal Hall, 245 Centrum Blvd.


Eric G said...

It's nice to see someone not complaining about this. The system is broken and it's going to be painful for the next, 15 or thousand, years as we transition to LRT.

At least they're doing something to keep it functional now and that means change.

Anonymous said...

Optimization? Yes. The way they are doing it? No.
What makes OC Transpo unsustainable is the express bus service model. Sooner or later they will have to go fully implemented hub and spoke. No time like the present.

Anonymous said...

there is nothing optimized in the new plan. it is insane. ask anyone who uses the bus!
they need major changes, to make things better, but most of the changes being made are making things worse. which will lead to less ridership, not more.
cutting routes?
making routes peak only?
they are hurting so many people.