Senior Watch Old Ottawa South (SWOOS) Committee Members, as advocates for seniors in Old Ottawa South (OOS), have been looking into the safety and accessibility of public transportation for seniors, more specifically bus routes #6 Greenboro and #7 Carleton since late Fall.
SWOOS members agree that more age-friendly policies regarding bus transportation, and consideration of seniors’ needs—to support ‘aging in place’—needed to be put forward. Two reports highlighting issues of concern to seniors and offering suggestions for improvement have been forwarded by SWOOS to the City Councillor’s Office for consideration. Three issues are at the forefront.
1. Re-routing of (Eastbound) #7 Carleton bus, from Grove Avenue to Sunnyside Avenue
At the transportation forum held at the Firehall in December, OC Transpo presented the reasons for the proposed re-routing of the #7 Carleton bus from Grove Avenue to Sunnyside Avenue. They outlined that the main benefits of this re-routing were shorter walk times for some riders, shorter travel times (savings of 2-4 minutes per trip and saving over 5,000 customer-minutes), and increased reliability.
OC Transpo acknowledged it would also result in an inconvenience for 200 customers who may have a longer walk to service, and may be better served by walking to Bank Street. This does not seem to be in alignment with the principles of transit planners who try to reduce the distance one needs to walk to catch the bus. Transit planners generally observe that the walking distance that most people seem to tolerate - one beyond which ridership falls off drastically—is about 400m (about 1/4 mile). This would greatly affect service and accessibility for seniors who live in the blocks south of Sunnyside. They would need to walk a greater distance (uphill) to get to the #7 bus stop, and to manage their shopping bags or shopping carts.
SWOOS put forward a number of other key observations regarding re-routing of the #7 Carleton bus, and had concerns about how the route change aligned with Vision Zero principles for pedestrian safety.
Although the #7 route will be a bit shorter, there are safety concerns for Hopewell school children playing, and especially when school buses and cars are parked on Sunnyside for drop off and pick up. The Bank/Sunnyside intersection is already problematic, especially at peak hours, and when Lansdowne events cause heavier traffic congestion in OOS. It is a hazardous street crossing for all pedestrians, and seniors especially, since the light is a short one. Sunnyside is a busy two-way street, with street infrastructure such as bulb-outs and rain gardens to slow down traffic, unlike Grove which is a one-way street. If more congestion results from traffic backing up, the residents along Sunnyside will be greatly affected by the added noise pollution from cars and buses travelling in both directions.
2. More equidistant bus stops along Sunnyside Avenue for #7 Carleton (Westbound) bus
In 2014, rain gardens were installed along Sunnyside Avenue and this resulted in the loss of a long-standing #7 Carleton bus stop on the North side of Sunnyside, at Leonard. Since this bus stop on Leonard was removed, there is a disproportionate distance between the bus stops from Grosvenor to Seneca. There are two bus stops on one block (from Bank to Grosvenor). The bus stop on Sunnyside at Grosvenor is at a very busy intersection. Also, the sidewalks on Grosvenor are sloping, and in bad condition (especially in winter) for those walking south. The next bus stop, is located four long blocks away, on Seneca Avenue.
SWOOS has received feedback from seniors who had frequently used this bus stop on Sunnyside and Leonard over the past many years, and would like this bus stop re-instated, but it is likely not feasible, since the rain gardens are permanent. However, it is hoped that a bus stop can be installed west of Rosedale Avenue, as close as possible to Leonard Avenue. This would greatly improve the safety and walkability for seniors, and allow them to ‘age in place’ by having a shorter distance to walk when carrying heavy bags and managing grocery carts from bus to home. In addition, this crossing is a safer, less congested, level street crossing, compared to the uphill/downhill crossing on Grosvenor.
SWOOS is encouraged by the update from the Councillor’s Office on putting a bus stop closer to Leonard. In Councillor Menard’s recent “As We Heard It” report, it is stated that “OC Transpo will work with the Councillor’s Office on it”.
3. Snow clearance at bus stops
Although this winter was not as harsh as last year, the removal of snow at bus stops continues to be a problem. If bus drivers do not - or are unable to - stop close to the sidewalk curb, to allow passengers a clear and safe footing onto the sidewalk, it could lead to injury. Buses are still often crowded and encumbered with large strollers, shopping carts, and mobility aids at the front of the bus, so it is sometimes difficult to get to the the front door exit. Hopefully seniors’ concerns regarding front door exit will be reviewed again during bus driver training, and the City will increase diligence with snow removal at stops.
SWOOS hopes that serious consideration can be given to safety and accessibility issues on any upcoming public transportation planning and changes. Enabling seniors to ‘age in place’ by facilitating transportation to appointments and everyday living activities would contribute greatly to an independent and enriching daily life for seniors in our neighbourhood and in our city.