LRT PR campaign gives city more than a year to educate transit users

The city has launched its $1-million promotional ad campaign to get transit users prepared for the arrival of Light Rail Transit in 2018.

The "Ready for Rail" campaign was presented to members of the Transit commission Wednesday.

The goal is to teach riders how their journey will change when the Confederation Line opens next year.

About one-third of the cost is going to consultants who worked on the program, while the remaining two-thirds is being spent on promotional materials such as signs and pamphlets.

Transit commission chair, Councillor Stephen Blais, says the campaign has a big focus on explaining transfers, because most transit users will have to move from a bus to light rail to complete their journey downtown or to the other side of the city.

"We have well over a year to communicate to people about how their commute is going to change, how going to work, how going to the grocery store, how going to the movie theatre is going to change - how it's going to be better," Blais said.

Blais told reporters that they want to avoid any problems from day one.

"That's why we've got experts who are looking at it from all these angles, to really get into the weeds on some of these small details that, at the end of the day, can affect you in a very big way," he said.

While transfers was the biggest concern expressed by commuters, the consultants who prepared the plan also talked to people who were unaware there was an LRT tunnel under downtown Ottawa.

Blais admits there is still no official start date in 2018 for the new light rail service, which will run from Blair Road in Orlean to Tunney's Pasture through a downtown tunnel.

In preparation for the start of the rail service next year, paper passes and tickets will soon disappear, with all fares paid through Presto cards, or through cash on buses only.

Starting in June, the Adult monthly bus pass will no longer be available on paper.

Senior and Community paper passes will end in August, and paper tickets will disappear as of November.

Ticket machines will be available at all light rail stations, allowing riders to instantly re-load their Presto cards or purchase a transfer with cash.