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LRT could be down days, weeks as mayor takes leadership class in New York

The LRT shutdown continues, with no timeline to reopen. Plus, how much minimum wage needs to be to afford the rent.

Good morning,

We’ve got plenty of updates on the LRT situation today. Some of them, I’m afraid, are quite sad. A 26-year-old woman was killed after being hit by an R1 replacement bus which was running instead of the trains.

It’s a horrible outcome for an already difficult situation for many people in this city. It’s hard to know what to say beyond the fact it’s tragic, and sad, and unnecessary.

Quick bit of housekeeping: In the last issue there was an incorrect link for a missing dog that was found. It seems the owners have since been identified, but there may be some complicating circumstances we don’t need to highlight here. In any case, apologies!

Now, let’s get to the news.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

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Weather Report

Wednesday: 27 🌡️ 15 | 🌤

Thursday: 27 🌡️ 17 | ☀️

Friday: 23 🌡️ 16 | 🌧


LRT shutdown for indefinite period

Robert Hiltz/Ottawa Lookout

What happened: Some progress has been made on inspecting the entire fleet of LRT vehicles, but there is still no sense of what caused the latest shutdown or when the trains will be back online. By Thursday afternoon, maintenance staff had inspected the axles on 15 vehicles; earlier in the day they said they had been able to do a visual inspection of 35.

The upshot? The trains aren’t running any time soon. They almost certainly won’t be running this week, but it could be next week, CBC reported. But it could be even longer depending how maintenance inspections go, and what the city finds from the testing its done during this down time.

In the meantime: OC Transpo boosted the number of buses on R1 replacement service to 36 at peak hours. Through the core, it returned buses to Slater and Albert streets, as Queen was getting too congested.

  • Crews are still running a test train with special sensors along the route, as they continue to search for a cause for the latest failure.

Deadly collision: The LRT shutdown had deadly consequences yesterday. A 26-year-old woman was hit and killed by an R1 replacement bus on St. Laurent, the city said in a statement to the Lookout. Police are looking to hear from witnesses of the collision.

The big problem: Beyond just the time the LRT has been shut down, what’s alarming is the speed at which this situation unfolded. At the press conference on Tuesday, Amilcar said the train where the busted bearing had its bearings inspected eight days previously, with no issues found. That means something serious happened to the train in the intervening days.

  • One possible answer is increased crowds on the LRT heading to and from Bluesfest. Which, if it is the problem, raises questions about the suitability of the system. You can’t have a mass transit system that breaks with above-average crowds.

Bigger problem: With problems continuing to plague the system, funding for the Stage 3 extension to Barrhaven and Kanata is now under threat. Premier Doug Ford said yesterday funding won’t be coming from the province until the LRT is running better.

  • “There's not going to be a commitment from the province until we straighten out Stage 1 and get on time with Stage 2, then we'll commit to Stage 3,” Ford said, according to CTV.

“That was not a good system they built. Let’s just hope [Stage 2] gets built properly, right from the get-go, because there is a lot of money invested and people want proper transit here in Ottawa,” Ford told reporters at a separate press conference, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

The view from abroad: Speaking from New York City, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe spoke to CBC, where he once again said that “it's incredibly frustrating to see this happening again.” His answers for what to do next were thin, beyond saying the private companies that operate and maintain the system should give the city “a light rail service that we paid for.”

Someday, maybe: He did cover some new ground when asked what he thought this was doing to people’s confidence in OC Transpo generally and the LRT in particular, he said many people may have already given up on it.

But don’t worry, he hasn’t given up entirely:

  • “Someday if we identify all the issues and if we hold our contractors accountable and make sure they fix all these issues and deliver the service we paid for, one day the trains will be running safely and reliably for a consistent amount of time. And people will once again realize that it is for them an option and in some cases, the best way to get from point A to point B and they will start coming back to the service,” Sutcliffe told the broadcaster.

“But one day if we follow this path of identifying the issues and fixing them, and we deliver reliable service to the city, one day people will have confidence again.”

Translation: The system isn’t very good, but someday it might be and we hope you’ll come back.

Where he’s been: It was a bit odd when the LRT first went offline, it took about an hour for Sutcliffe to tweet “just learned” it had happened. Then the next day, he did the CBC interview from New York. Well, we know why. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader Walter Robinson who spotted him in a tweet from Monday, the day the LRT went down, we now know the mayor has been the Bloomberg Harvard City Leadership Initiative in New York.

  • For what it’s worth: The Lookout has been making daily requests to speak with the mayor for a few minutes about the LRT situation, with no luck. We’d been hoping to get his thoughts on the LRT grinding to a halt directly, but his office was non committal no matter how flexible we were with our schedule.

What the shutdown has meant for you

What you said: In the last issue we asked readers what effect the latest shutdown has had on your ability to rely on OC Transpo as a way to get around the city. The answers were…grim.

Below, we’ve got a small selection of the dozens and dozens of responses we got from readers. We don’t have enough room to publish them all, but the unprecedented (okay, very precedented) shut down of the train has a lot of people exasperated with the state of things.

But first, the poll results:

Do you trust OC Transpo to get around?

  • Of course, the service gets me where I need to go: 2%

  • Sort of, but I’m getting wary: 7%

  • It’s getting hard to trust it: 68%

  • I have no choice but to rely on it: 23%

Here’s what you said about yet another shutdown:

“If I could afford a car I wouldn’t set foot on OC Transpo. The only consistency is its inconsistency. I am usually late for work because of its poor service. Buses just don’t show up. Not a great way to run public transit.”

“I don’t have a car so I rely on OC transpo for the most part. Thankfully I can bike most places in the summer but come winter I often drain my bank account on Ubers because of how unreliable OC Transpo is. I’d like to get to work on time and it shouldn’t take over an hour to go 5 kms!”

“I have taken public transit my whole life. It seems to be getting worse altogether though. Buses are never on schedule — they seem to come and go as they please. The train is always broken. I try not to get so worked up over it — but it has made me late countless times. I hate having to plan around the system being unreliable and expecting it to be unreliable (because it is!).”

“We used OC Transpo during Bluesfest — getting there worked fine and LRT ran smoothly, but the ‘last leg’ of each return trip involved a final bus to get us the rest of the way home — two nights in a row we waited for buses that didn't show up as scheduled and ended up walking the final distance late at night. From that point on we drove and parked near the LRT station, but skipped the bus segment as it was too unreliable. Now it turns out that we were riding the LRT while it had a bearing issue. OC Transpo needs a major overhaul.”

“I stopped using it last year, I need a reliable, safe and fast way to get to work, that means a car for me.”

“If it were up to me I would boycott OC Transpo entirely. Unfortunately in this economy that is impossible. So I suffer.”

“Leave early because you never know if the bus you want will actually arrive. So get up earlier than needed, leave earlier and arrive earlier only to kill time before shift starts”

“I use the LRT on occasion (and buses very rarely), not for daily commuting. My experience has been consistently positive—the few times I've needed or wanted the LRT, it served my needs well. But every instance of a service disruption shakes my confidence that the next time I go to use the LRT will be pleasant…”

The Lookout’s thoughts: Sifting through all the responses — we read them all — what’s clear is that readers have broadly given up relying on OC Transpo. From what you’ve all written, it’s affecting your day-to-day lives. Losing hours of your day, or being forced to take a cab or an Uber (no matter the cost) to make it where you need to go, or simply giving up entirely and getting in the car.

  • The city needs to do something serious. The refrain of frustration and caution from officials isn’t cutting it. OC Transpo is demonstrably making people’s lives worse. No reassurances on the value of all this new testing, or the little steps we’re taking to having a reliable system will make up for the hours, days, and weeks the people of Ottawa will never get back because of the LRT. It’s a disgrace.


🚑 700: The approximate number of times in the first half of the year when no ambulance was able to respond to an emergency call. If the trend continues, by the end of the year there will be about 1,400 of the level-zero events, less than last year’s 1,800. [CTV]

☔️ 50 mm: The amount of rain that could fall on the city by the end of the day today. THe rain is expected to stop by tonight. [CTV]


Minimum wage more than $10 too low to afford rent

What happened: The housing crisis in the city means that to properly afford rent, the minimum wage would have to be $26.68, more than $10 above its current rate, according to a new Centre for Policy Alternatives report. This means that many workers in the city are trapped in a cycle paying too much for rent in a home that is likely too small for their needs.

  • The centre calculated the “rental wage” by finding out how much a person would need to earn to afford rent in the city with only 30 percent of their income. For a two-bedroom apartment, the centre found that Ottawa’s rental wage was more than double the $15.50 minimum wage at $32.37.

Elsewhere: Ottawa is slightly above the provincial average rental wage of $25.96 for a one-bedroom apartment, but way above the average for a two-bedroom at $29.90. Unsurprisingly, Toronto and Vancouver are the two most expensive cities to live in. With the rental wages double the minimum wage for one- and two-bedroom apartments. In Toronto it’s $33.62 and $40.03, respectively; while in Vancouver it’s $32.36 and $42.60.

Nowhere to rent: According to the centre’s research, there are no neighbourhoods in the city where a person could rent an apartment without using more than a third of their wages.

Getting worse: In 2018, you’d need to work 97 hours at minimum wage to afford a two-bedroom apartment in the city. Now, you’d need to work 109 hours — an extra two-and-a-half days of work every month to afford a place to live.

The factors: The authors write a lack of supply isn’t the only problem. Wages are kept too low, there isn’t enough rental housing (especially purpose-built affordable housing), and rental markets are geared to maximizing landlord profits. Supply, the authors write, is only one facet of the problem.


🚍 Facing a budget crunch and crumbling public confidence, OC Transpo is laying off some of the staff that keep its buses in good shape. The agency is laying off 27 attendants who clean and fuel the city’s fleet in the maintenance garage. [CTV]

🌪️ Two other tornadoes touched down in Ontario last week, in addition to the two that hit Barrhaven. A tornado touched down in Embrun, and another in Fournier, both east of the city. [CTV]

🚨 An overnight fire in Centretown is being treated as a homicide, after a body was discovered after the flames were put out. [CTV]

🛶 A person in a canoe received minor injuries after a collision with a motor boat on the Ottawa River. [CTV]

🏥 A two-year-old boy from Lanark is off to Boston for surgery to remove the remnants of a brain tumour, after he spent a month in CHEO. The doctors here were able to remove 99 percent of the tumour from his brain, but the specialist doctors in the US will be able to remove the rest. [CTV]

🗳️ Advance voting in the Kanata-Carleton provincial byelection has begun. Voting day will be July 27. [CTV]

😷 The Quebec government has lifted the last of its COVID restrictions after the health ministry said the bulk of the population reached immunity through infection. [CBC]


Your weekend guide


📸 Artist talk, Christopher Schmitt, today at noon: Hear the artist talk about his exhibition of photography which explores how humanity interacts with technology. At Ottawa City Hall, 110 Laurier Ave. W. Free.

🎨 Britannia Village Community Art Crawl, Saturday 1 pm: A chance to stroll through Britannia village and check out the arts and music of the residents. At Britannia Village. Free.

🎞️ Innocent Bystanders - Saša Petricic, until Aug. 8: A gallery exposition of the famed foreign correspondent’s photography. At STUDIO SIXTY SIX, 858 Bank Street, unit 101. Free.


🎸 2023 Kemptville Live Music Festival, Thursday to Sunday: Four days of music along the Rideau Canal and includes performances by Colin James, Melissa Etheridge, Blue Rodeo and more. At 830 Prescott St., Kemptville. Ticket prices vary.


👗 613Flea, Saturday 10 am: As many as 150 vendors with everything from vinyl records to vintage clothing, and everything in between. At the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park. Free admission.


🇱🇧 Ottawa Lebanese Festival, until Sunday: With food, a midway, live entertainment and so much more. At Saint Elias Centre, 750 Ridgewood Ave. Free shuttle from Canada Post parking. Free before 5 pm, $3 per person afterward.

🍤 Ottawa Asian Festival Night Market, Friday to Sunday: The Asian festival returns to Sparks Street. WIth Dancers, musicians, and tons of street food. Along Sparks Street. Free.


This week in food

Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

Every week our team at Capital Eats scours Ottawa for the best places to eat, drinks to try and events to attend. Here’s a breakdown of all the biggest stories.

🍺 (Insiders) Just across the river is a brewery with big ambitions, and fantastic pizza too.

🐟 Do you like fish and chips? What about gin? Well, this new restaurant that’s opening soon might be right up your alley.

🍷 (Insiders) This delightful Riesling isn’t the sweet and cloying wine you have in mind, it’s much dryer and more complex.

🧀 Just east of the city is a local cheese maker with big ambitions, and the trophy closet to match.

🇺🇸 Nobody celebrates their birthday quite like our neighbours to the south. We check out this year’s Fourth of July at the US Ambassador’s.

  • Good news! After having its lease terminated in a dispute with another restaurant, Sharpfle Waffle has reopened at 173 Hinchey St. near Tunney’s Pasture Station. [Reddit]

  • And you do not want to miss the return of Sharpfle Waffle, their coffee alone is sublime.

  • Redblacks backup QB Dustin Crum got to celebrate his unlikely win with his dad and grandfather.

  • Want to have your announcement featured? Contact our partnership team for more info.


Congrats to Gord, Michelle, Gannon, Adam, and Jeffrey who all knew that this week’s Ottawa Guesser was of Bayview Yards.

Think you can get this week’s Ottawa Wordle? Play now.

Capital EatsHelping you discover the best restaurants, food and drinks in Ottawa and the Capital Region. From the team at Ottawa Lookout. Read by 18,000+ locals.

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