Shortly after 1 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 14, three friends arrived at the new Tunney’s Pasture light rail transit station. They wanted to make history by riding the Confederation Line train between Tunney’s Pasture and its final destination at Blair station.
Corey Ripley, Ryan Gerrard and Jared Pitblado are all fourth-year Algonquin students in the bachelor of network technology program. They live in Mooney’s Bay, near Carleton University, and came down to ride, just to say they did.
“It’s been a construction nightmare since I moved here,” said Gerrard. “Might as well see it come together.”
Behind their matching pairs of sunglasses, the trio waited patiently for the doors to open. Unfortunately, they were at the wrong entrance. OC Transpo staff guided them to the main entrance at Scott Street where a long line was forming. The line reached the intersection at Holland Street before circling back the way it came.
At 2 p.m., Tunney’s Pasture station officially opened and the line began moving at a steady pace. Staff informed travellers to have their bus passes ready for the electronic gates.
The three men swiped their cards and passed into the station for the first time. They rushed down the stairs when they realized the first train was filling up quickly. At near capacity, its doors closed a few moments later. A cheer rang out amongst the passengers as the train began to move.
“It’s pretty smooth,” said Ripley to his friends as they travelled seamlessly down the track.
Then chatter rose again as the train passed into the underground tunnel that runs 2.5 kilometres beneath Ottawa’s downtown core.
“As long as it doesn’t go down to a single track, we won’t have to slow down,” said Pitblado.
The train emerged from its tunnel near the station at the University of Ottawa and continued on to Blair without incident. The trio got off and new passengers boarded for the train’s second run, back to where it began. In total, the trip took just over 27 minutes to complete.
Only Ripley would be using the train on a regular basis to travel to his job in Gatineau.
“Normally it’s an hour-long commute,” he said. “This hopefully will bring it down. If it makes it longer, I’ll be mad.”
It was around 11:30 a.m., on the following Monday morning, when Hunter Bero parked his car in front of his home in Orléans. The second-year television broadcasting student was planning to take the LRT for the first time to reach his 1 p.m. class at Algonquin.
“I’m busing about three hours a day,” said Bero. “If this train takes more time than the buses it’s just not going to be worth it and I might as well just drive to school.”
A local bus was scheduled to arrive in two minutes. Seven minutes later, it still hadn’t shown up and Bero made the decision to walk to Place d’Orléans fearing he would be late. He said it wasn’t the first time the bus had been late.
“A majority of the time I don’t take the bus,” said Bero, “because it’s faster to walk than wait for the bus.”
Bero arrived at the Place d’Orleans bus station 18 minutes later. There he boarded the 104 to Blair and was soon dropped off at the train terminal.
The first train to arrive wasn’t in service so he had to wait for the next one. At 12:13 p.m., he boarded a new train and settled in for the ride.
“I have to admit, it feels a lot faster,” said Bero. By the time he reached Tunney’s Pasture, he had become a fan. He estimated if he’d taken the bus from Orléans, he would have arrived at the college with four minutes to spare.
“I’m intrigued because this is where it’s going to show if this is a good system,” he said. “I’ll be transferring from the train, to the bus, to Algonquin.”
A collision had happened between two buses at some point before Bero’s arrival at the bus platform. OC Transpo staff were busy directing buses and the incident caused few delays.
Bero was soon back on a bus heading towards the college. In the end, he arrived with exactly four minutes to spare.
“I think in total it’s going to take me the same amount of time it took me to get to school initially, just with more transfers,” he said. “The train part’s nice, but it doesn’t seem like it’s benefiting me yet. We’ll see with time.”
At noon on Tuesday, third-year advertising student Kait Price arrived at the college from her nearby home. With no classes, she had a full day to map out her commute to her job near St. Laurent Shopping Centre.
The bus to Tunney’s arrived. It was packed so she waited for the next one, something she usually does when she has the time.
The ride was quick and the train was just arriving when Price reached the lower platform.
With time to spare, she decided that instead of taking the bus directly to St. Laurent, she would get off and explore Rideau station on the way. She liked the design of the station and took time to check out the art displays that sat behind a sheet of glass that lined a long corridor of the station.
“These little details that they added are actually well done,” she said.
An employee told her that the station had the longest [transit] escalator in Canada and she decided to ride it. She found the experience “a little underwhelming” but it was hard to look up as it made her a little dizzy.
Price had a hard time finding a place to get rid of her Starbucks cup she’d been carrying since she’d left Algonquin. Rideau station had no trash cans except for two each train platform at the furthest depths of the station.
She also smelt something that she said, “smells like raw sewage.”
At 1:08 p.m., the displays on the train platform said that trains were being held in both directions. A train did arrive a few minutes later, but when Price boarded, she learned that it wasn’t going anywhere.
“We just have a problem with a train at U of Ottawa,” came the voice of the conductor over the speakers. “Someone jammed the doors open and they are just trying to get it closed.”
In time, the repairs were conducted and the train passed by Rideau station. Price’s train remained in the station.
“The [conductor] just told us that there’s a train at Hurdman that is also having problems,” she said. “He had a good chuckle about it too, I could tell by the tone in his voice.”
After 13 minutes, the train started moving again. As it approached St. Laurent the conductor made a new announcement. The train would be changing tracks onto the westbound line to avoid a train that was also having problems at St. Laurent station.
At 1:33 p.m., the train pulled into the station and Price got off. The signs indicated that both train lines were down. An employee said they would be going down to one track running both directions until the situation cleared up.
The platform began filling up with confused passengers, trying to both on and off their trains. At 2:01 p.m., the situation looked like it was starting to stabilize a bit and trains began running again in both directions.
Price plans to use the train but is now preparing for the fact she may get stuck at St. Laurent for a half-hour.
“With this whole predicament,” said Price. “I don’t know if I’m ready to trust it yet.”