LRT doors will open to the public September 14

From the moment the doors close, to the moment the train starts rolling, you know this is going to be a special journey.

“Feels a bit like Christmas morning,” Ottawa’s Mayor Jim Watson said as the LRT pulled out of Blair station.

Talked about for more than a decade, under construction for more than a few years - today marks the start of a critical transition for the city of Ottawa. The number one question on most minds: when can you hop on?

“Ladies and gentlemen, the future of transit in Ottawa begins on Saturday, September 14th,” Watson announced at a technical briefing later at Ottawa city hall.

And with that, Rideau Transit group handed over the ceremonial key to the city of Ottawa, though an independent safety auditor has yet to officially sign off on the project. One of the key elements in that handover was the completion of 12 straight days of problem free trial runs.  That appears to have changed a little bit at today's briefing when that target moved to 9 days, surprising some of the councillors.

“RTG targeted 98% for service availability over a 12 day period,” OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi said at the technical briefing, “I can advise that they achieved 97%, 96.7% to be exact over a 9 day period as of Monday August 19th, which is in line with the city’s expectation.  Basd on the continued operation of the system through to yesterday, we can confirm 12 days of trial running have been completed and days 10, 11, and 12 achieved scores of 97, 99 and 97%.

LRT has actually been talked about since 2006 when then Mayor Larry O’Brien envisioned an east west light rain line and here we are 13 years later finally sitting here and it's a comfortable ride whether you're sitting or standing. Just to be clear there are fewer seats than there is standing room. These trains are meant to be coupled with two trains able to accommodate 600 passengers, with 240 sitting and 360 standing.

“I’m impressed,” says Watson, “It’s a smooth ride, there’s a new car smell to it. It’s a proud moment for our whole city.”

The LRT was actually supposed to be ready in May 2018 but a large sinkhole on Rideau Street that swallowed up half the road delayed the project it's no more than 450 days late. But for many, better late than never.

“We're a world class city,” says Interim Liberal Leader John Fraser, “and this is world class transit system.”

Over the next week, OC Transpo will conduct some technical drills and dress rehearsals before the doors open to let the public finally hop on board September 14.

“As a federal MP,” added Andrew Leslie, the Liberal MP for Orléans, “I am delighted to be here on this inaugural train ride, especially waiting for it to come out to Orléans.  It'll be coming there soon.”

That's for phase 2 of the LRT, which is already in the works.  By the way, the buses along the Confederation route will continue to run for a bit while everything is smoothed out.  And transit fares will be going up as planned October 1st.

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