Francophones put more personal stake in success of Ottawa's LRT, polling suggests


Federally backed public opinion polling has revealed a linguistic divide in the national capital over its much-maligned light-rail transit system.

Polling conducted for the Privy Council Office in the spring, and recently posted online, showed that francophones saw the new downtown rail line as more important to their lives than anglophone participants.

Anglophones in the research roundtables described the LRT as being good for the city overall, just not that important to them personally.

Francophones viewed the LRT as important for them to get around, particularly with cuts to bus routes once the rail route was up and running.

The polling took place before the hard launch of the LRT in September and days of problematic service that marred the image of the $2.1-billion system, which is underwritten with $600 million in federal money.

Although service has gotten better, there are still problems.

Jammed doors have held trains while crowds piled up, the system operators still haven't been able to squash a bug in the trains' computer brains, and riders complained about a stench in the station by Parliament Hill that city officials only recently said comes from a sewer line punctured during construction.

The timing explains why the final report, dated August but only posted publicly in the last 30 days, found that participants "observed that things seem to be moving along."

Still, the report suggests locals saw federal funding of the LRT as a benefit to Ottawa overall.

Asked for things the government has done to hurt the city, participants had a harder time coming up with answers, except for the buggy Phoenix pay system that has left civil servants overpaid, underpaid or not paid at all, as well as an inability to develop LeBreton Flats, an expanse of federal land just to the west of the downtown core.