Why do some LRT stations look like this after just 3 years? Councillor demands answers

Evidence of water leaking and damage at various locations at Parliament station on Wednesday, a little more than three years after Ottawa's light rail system opened for public use.  (Laura Glowacki/CBC - image credit)
Evidence of water leaking and damage at various locations at Parliament station on Wednesday, a little more than three years after Ottawa's light rail system opened for public use. (Laura Glowacki/CBC - image credit)

An Ottawa city councillor and member of the transit commission is raising questions about the state of two of Ottawa's downtown light rail transit stations.

Alta Vista Coun. Marty Carr toured Rideau and Parliament stations with CBC Thursday to look for maintenance issues.

At both stations, white paint could be seen peeling and cracking, especially along stairs and escalators.

At Parliament, multiple tiles of its decorative ceiling were rusty and showed other signs of water damage. The corner beside an elevator glistened with moisture and the wall stained with white streaks and rust.

At Rideau station, three of the windows on exit doors to Rideau Street were smashed. One was simply repaired with tape.

Laura Glowacki/CBC
Laura Glowacki/CBC

"The little things are important in terms of maintenance and how things look on the LRT — this was a really large investment for the city," said Carr.

While Rideau station didn't seem to have an odour, at Parliament station the smell of sewage was unmissable. The issue that has plagued the station since it opened in 2019.

In an email to CBC, Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) blamed "stagnant groundwater" for the smell at Parliament and said it is an "intermittent" problem associated with the flow of groundwater and the outside temperature.

Along the wall of the eastbound platform at Parliament, standing water was being mopped up by a maintenance worker Thursday. On Wednesday, CBC noted water pooling in the area as well.

"I'm wondering where [the water is] coming from, where that leak originated. That will be important to find out," said Carr.

Laura Glowacki/CBC
Laura Glowacki/CBC

A worker on site said the water was rising from below the tiles. Carr also noted a potential slip hazard on the platform, caused by the leak.

"It's definitely worth investigating," she said.

Rideau Transit responds 

RTM has a 30-year contract to maintain Ottawa's light rail transit system, including stations.

In its email to CBC Thursday, a spokesperson said the pooling water at Parliament station is the result of a blocked drain. Water infiltration is resulting in pooling, said the email. RTM didn't provide a reason for the blocked drain or the source of the water.

"We are currently in the process of addressing the issue," the email said.

As far as cracking paint, Rideau Transit said water infiltration is common in underground systems and isn't unique to Ottawa. RTM has a plan to address the uneven paint surfaces, it said.

Laura Glowacki/CBC
Laura Glowacki/CBC

Crews are replacing broken windows at Rideau station on Friday, RTM said, adding the windows were broken last week by vandals.

Carr said she plans to make a list of all the issues she encounters riding the LRT and request more information from OC Transpo staff.

While problems with trains and the ice-prone overhead power system have been in the spotlight, Carr said it's important to keep tabs on other aspects of the system, including the stations.

"After three and a half years, we have that rust, that leaking, that peeling paint. What's causing those issues? I'm really interested in finding that out," she said.

Ottawa's transit commission is scheduled to have its next meeting on Feb. 9.

Laura Glowacki/CBC
Laura Glowacki/CBC