I know this isn’t my usual style, but when I read in the newspaper today that OCTranspo is inundated with complaints, I feel like coming to their defence.
I have a very short acquaintance with the Ottawa buses, although I have lived here since 1977. In fact, until last December you could count the number of times I have ridden the buses on the fingers of one hand. But in December I was stricken with an affliction that required me to go several times to hospitals and doctor’s offices, and since I had given up my car two years ago, I had no other way except to take the buses (taxis these days being understandably very expensive, now that taxidrivers are, at last, on a living wage, thanks to the activity of their vigorous union).
I was nervous when confronted with reaching the Ottawa General hospital, but beforehand I phoned one of a few numbers I found for OCtranspo, and asked them how would I get from downtown Slater street, where I live, to the General at such and such a time on such and such a day. A very helpful woman looked up the timetable for me, told me which bus to catch, at which time, and said it would get me there, with a change at Hurdman station, at exactly 10.01 (or some such time).
I caught the bus, having taken the precaution of asking the driver if he was going to Hurdman, where the second bus pulled up in less than a minute, and I was deposited in the grounds of the hospital at 10.01 on the dot.
Later I had to take buses to other hospitals and offices, and each time I phoned the same number for advice, was given the facts by cheerful, polite people, and the bus got me there as promised, on the dot.
I had to go to the airport, and having had this success with the buses, when someone told me an OCTranspo bus ran to the airport, the fare was the usual $3.25, and by taking it I could save on the $30 taxi fare that I usually paid, I could hardly believe my ears.
But once again my informant looked up the timetable for me, told me to be there to catch the 97 Airport bus at 12.58 (or some such time) and exactly half an hour later the bus would deposit me at the airport, which it did, arriving on the dot, just as the schedule promised. On each of these journeys the bus didn’t delay even a smidgen of a minute, but collected its passengers, and then whizzed along rapidly on its way to its destination. On the way back, I had to wait about five minutes for the bus to leave, and then I was delivered on Albert street, close to my house, after all along the way observing the driver deal courteously and expeditiously with a bus that at times became crowded with women and their baby carriages, old people and their ailments, and teenagers hiding behind their earphones.
My conclusion on the basis of this experience is that Ottawa has a wonderful bus service --- I am now able to understand how it has been given such warm accolades over the years (as I remember) by bus service professionals from across the continent --- with polite officials and drivers helping people at every stop, on time almost invariably, and keeping to a schedule which seems designed to deliver passengers in the shortest time possible.I think this is worth saying, because I never remember hearing anything good being written or said about the service by the Ottawa public in all the time I have been here. Even in today’s newspaper the report says that 2,344 complaints have been received, an average of 75 a day, against five interventions favorable to the drivers. Some of these whingers should try being a driver for a couple of days….