Massive Bus Route Changes Coming In Spring

By Charlie Senack

Sweeping changes are coming to Barrhaven’s public transit system that aim to reduce travel time for commuters while providing better connection routes.

A report presented to the city’s transit committee on Nov. 14 showcased a draft of the new proposed route changes. They won’t be implemented until the LRT Trillium Line is launched in spring 2024 — at the earliest.

The drastic overhaul of Ottawa’s transit system, the biggest seen in over a decade,  is expected to save OC Transpo $10 million. It will all amount to about 75,000 fewer hours of service across the city.

Barrhaven east councillor Wilson Lo, who used to work as a bus operator and then in communications at OC Transpo, said he is mostly pleased with the proposed route changes. He said they are needed after commuters travel patterns changed following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“As much as we want to go everywhere for everyone, there is a balance in how much that service costs,” Lo told the Barrhaven Independent. “I’m happy with what they’ve focused on, like how to get to Carleton [and] how to bring more service to the Citigate shopping area where Costco is.”

What are the changes?

Connexion Routes 270, 271, 272, 273, 278 will all be removed.

Route 73 will be expanded from Tunney’s Pasture to the future LRT station at Limebank via Leikin. This will mean residents in communities along Cresthaven and Leikin will gain a full-time transit connection to Fallowfield Station. Route 74 will remain unchanged, but will now also head to Limebank.

Route 110 from Kanata will travel down Strandherd instead of Fallowfield, then take Chapman Mills and Earl Armstrong, before heading to Limebank Station. It will replace part of route 99.

A new all-day Route 117 will go from Citigate to Limebank, replacing part of Route 171. Route 119 — also running all day — will travel from Barrhaven Centre and Limebank via Borbridge and Spratt.

Route 170  has been revised and will drive from Citigate to Fallowfield Station via Jockvale and Laming Street. A revised Route 173 will take commuters from Citigate to Fallowfield Station while traveling down Kennevale, Sherway and Foxfield. A new Connexion Route 275 will bus from Halfmoon Bay to Tunney’s Pasture, replacing the current Route 175.

Route 75 service to Gatineau will be replaced by new connecting Route 13 from Tunney’s Pasture, and limited service on Route 199 will be removed.

Route concerns

Lo said he has concerns with a lack of daytime service west of Woodroffe and north of Longfields, including for students at St. Mother Teresa High School. He believes there are poor connections to Baseline Station at Algonquin College, and thinks there is likely a need to retain some express services to Tunney’s Pasture until Phase 2 of the Confederation Line opens.

Barrhaven East Councillor Wilson Lo

One of the biggest negative impacts for Barrhaven residents under the route change proposal is with the lack of connections between communities in Old Barrhaven and Marketplace. This will cause headaches for commuters who live near Sherway and Larkin.

Lo said combining the proposed 173 and 117 routes could solve some of the problems.

“You can add a two or three minute drive to bring service back to Mountshannon,” he said. “There are some locations where the travel time is still long, in fact it’s gotten longer to get to the LRT. Residents along tartan have noted that the 273 is being canceled, and their alternate route takes them across all of Barrhaven to Line 2. That trip on its own is not a short trip. There are a lot of new counties in Barrhaven south that are still not getting service.”

Residents in Stonebridge will also lose access to their all day service. Lo said he’s working with Barrhaven West councillor David Hill’s office to try and fix some of the gaps. A virtual town hall will be held by the two local representatives on Nov. 27 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.

In his weekly newsletter, Hill said he’s also in support of the local bus route changes.

“The main system change is that the local routes will now operate at a more regular frequency within Barrhaven,” he said. “Commuters will now need to transfer at Fallowfield. In many cases this will add a transfer to most downtown commutes, however, there will be more frequent local routes so the total commute times should allow for more flexibility.”

Hill said he’s also advocating for more express buses from Fallowfield to Tunney’s to reduce overall travel times.

Ottawa Mayor Mark Sutcliffe released a four minute video to YouTube where he talked about the need for a reinvisioned transit system in the city. He said more money is being put into Ottawa’s public transit than ever before.

“With this new light rail line and changing demand in other areas, OC Transpo will reallocate some of its resources and eliminate redundancies. There will be more buses with higher demand and fewer in areas with less demand,” Sutcliffe said. “We know that passengers want more reliable and consistent service… You don’t want to see buses that are empty or almost empty on routes that are underused.”

The Phase 2 Trillium Line is slated to open in Spring 2024, but no date has been given yet. It will take trains from Bayview Station where it connects with Line 1 to Limebank Road in Riverside South.  It will provide an easy connection route for Carleton University students while also creating easier access to South Keys, where an extension will also take commuters to the airport.

Shelving plans for Phase 3

Barrhaven East Councillor Lo said he’d ultimately like to see Phase 3 LRT reach Barrhaven one day, but not anytime soon.

The extension from Baseline Station to Marketplace Station in Barrhaven currently sits at a price tag of $4 billion — $6.5 billion for the entire project, including to Kanata and Stitsville.

“I think it’s just one of those projects we shelve indefinitely for now,” Lo said, noting that he’d like to see more investments made in bus rapid transit [BRT].

“The road and stations are there. We can probably improve the corridor between the Nepean Sportsplex and Baseline Station a lot. If you bring the service there, bring the ridership there, maybe we will have a better business case in 10 years time to truly reconsider LRT Stage 3.”

René Amilcar, general manager of OC Transpo, seems to agree, saying investment now should be put into bus rapid transit. Lo said all transit projects across Ottawa could be funded for much less than the Phase 3 price tag.

But Mayor Sutcliffe isn’t convinced. In a previous interview with the Barrhaven Independent, he said taxpayers deserve a fully funded system.

“I think one day when the problems with Phase 1 are fixed, we will have the reliable and safe service that the residents of Ottawa expect and deserve, and the service that they paid for,” Sutcliffe said. “[Barrhaven] residents have been paying for light rail along with everyone else for 10 years. We have time to talk about the funding model for that.”

During a Sept. 18 technical briefing, city staff did not make a supportive case for a Phase 3 project, saying it would cost an estimated $64 million per year to operate. It would bring only an estimated two per cent increase in ridership, increasing funds by $5 million annually.

Big changes are coming to the OC Transpo bus routes in Barrhaven in the spring.

Barrhaven East Councillor Wilson Lo, who used to work as a bus operator and then in communications at OC Transpo, said he is mostly pleased with the proposed route changes.