'Staggering' cost for new buses idling and waiting for LRT breakdowns: a $5 million dollar a year mistake

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This was never part of the plan.

OC Transpo rushing an order of 20 new buses, to park them idling at the Ottawa baseball stadium, ready to spring into action at any moment when the LRT breaks down.

At City Hall Wednesday, Transit Manager John Manconi revealed the plan is costing $95,000 a week, or nearly $5 million dollars a year to run.

John Manconi just finished presentation to Fedco updating stage 1. Highlights - issues trending downwards, oc transpo withholding payments to Rtg b/c haven’t met performance standards, 3 door issues last week, software deployed to improve monitoring system. @ctvottawa

— LeahLarocque (@LeahCTV) December 3, 2019

The buses need to be staffed and ready to roll on a moment’s notice.

Manconi told reporters these buses and operators are "above and beyond" regular scheduled buses and are booked as "charters".

Manconi says they continue to work on fixing problems. He didn’t give an estimate to when all will be fixed. He says issues spiked in October. @ctvottawa

— LeahLarocque (@LeahCTV) December 3, 2019

When asked by councillor Riley Brokington "what keeps you up at night, what do you worry about the most?" Manconi answers "the customers. They ahve been through a lot and I want them happy." 

One transit commissioner was shocked by the cost, and concerned about so many diesel buses idling in a parking lot.

“That number is absolutely staggering”, said Sarah Wright-Gilbert, the citizen representative on Transit Commission.

“Ninety five thousand dollars per week for buses to sit idling, as a result of a completely unreliable system, is disappointing.  That money could be put to use to improve bus service for customers” she said.

Wright-Gilbert also pointed out Transit Commissioners were not told about the idling buses plan, nor were they consulted on the cost.

“While I understand that it is necessary to ensure the buses will work when called upon, I am deeply concerned about the effects of the emissions on our environment”, she said.

A key part of the LRT plan for Ottawa, was to reduce bus traffic and reduce carbon dioxide emissions.

City officials insist taxpayers won’t be paying for these extra bus costs, because RTG has not lived up to its obligations under the agreement to build and operate LRT.

Manconi says, "they didn't get (a payment) in October, they didnt get November, and we are in December." 

But it’s not clear at all that RTG accepts that assumption, and it’s likely both parties will end up in court arguing about the costs of the botched LRT launch.

Manconi also says they are improving their oversight to RTG. They will be doing an operational review and looking at documents. They can find gaps and concerns and rtg has to come up with a plan to fix them @ctvottawa

— LeahLarocque (@LeahCTV) December 3, 2019
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