Last week was exceptionally busy at City Hall as Council discussed several important agenda items including our dysfunctional Light Rail Transit System (LRT).
Just weeks ago, the LRT Confederation Line derailed for the second time in recent months, forcing the system into a complete shutdown.
Both incidents have been subject to investigations by the Transportation Safety Board. The results from August 8 derailment revealed that the system was lacking necessary heat sensors that act as an early warning system to alert train operators to potential problems. Results from the most recent derailment are still forthcoming.
This revelation was alarming, but it is only one of the many issues that have plagued LRT since it has been operating. Since opening, we have seen issues with door jams, computer malfunctions, broken overhead wires and issues with the catenary system. One of these complications alone would be cause for concern, but all together it indicates a much greater problem.
The City has hired an independent expert to conduct a safety review to determine the root cause of the continued problems. However, at last week’s Council meeting, the City Manager was unable to provide Council with a planned date for service to resume. This is expected to be announced this week.
Call for a Judicial Inquiry
At this point, a safety review is not sufficient. Members of the public have paid for a system that does not work. They deserve answers to the ongoing problems with the Confederation Line. We need a fulsome investigation to identify the root causes of the technical problems, so that a plan can be developed to address the problems. This will also enable us to learn from the failures of the system, so we can begin to restore confidence in it.
City Council was set to debate a motion put forward by Councillor McKenney, requesting a Judicial Inquiry into the City’s Light Rail Transit Project.
However, a replacement motion was put forward by Councillor Gower suggesting an Audit by the City’s Auditor General would be a better alternative to a Judicial Inquiry. While I see value in an Audit, I do not see the two as mutually exclusive.
Unfortunately, Mayor Watson shut this debate down – see here.
I believe strongly that Council should have had the opportunity to debate and vote on the merits of a Judicial Inquiry. From my perspective, the Mayor’s actions to shut down this opportunity served only to further erode public trust in LRT and in our democratic processes.
While Mayor Watson has since apologized, the apology would have been better directed to the public. I have since requested that the Mayor allow Councillor McKenney’s motion to be discussed at the next Council meeting. I have not yet received a reply.