Ottawa: OC Transpo will increase fares in May
One of North America's most expensive public transportation systems is about to become even more expensive to use.
OC Transpo fares will rise by 2.5 percent in May, according to a hearing before Ottawa's transit commission on Wednesday.
The increase raises the monthly cost of an adult bus pass by $3 to $125.50.
The price of a one-way ticket will rise to $3.70.
The fare increase was scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, but council voted to postpone it until the LRT system can run with its full complement of 15 trains for a month.
Renee Amilcar, the city's transit chief, told the city's transit commission on Wednesday that Rideau Transit Maintenance was able to provide 15 trains for 20 of the first 28 days of March.
She stated that the staff is confident that 15 trains will be available every day for four weeks in April.
That means the fare increase will go into effect on May 1.
Because of the pandemic and the city's declaration of a climate emergency, many transit advocates have advocated for fare freezes.
However, OC Transpo will face a significant operating deficit in 2022, with a $41.3 million fares shortfall.
The monthly pass for OC Transpo is one of the most expensive in Canada, trailing only Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton, and Vancouver.
Ridership remains low.
According to new data released on Wednesday, OC Transpo ridership is up this year but remains far below pre-pandemic levels.
In January and February, bus and train ridership reached 35% and 41% of pre-pandemic levels, respectively.
This is an increase from 19 and 26% in 2021.
However, it is lower than the levels predicted by OC Transpo for those months.
In January, the service had predicted a 60% increase.
However, it has not been a typical January and February in Ottawa.
According to officials, the Omicron wave has continued to have an impact on ridership.
The 'Freedom Convoy' trucker protest also resulted in the rerouting of many downtown routes.
There were also significant snowstorms that disrupted service.
Ridership reached 45 percent of pre-pandemic levels in December, which was free for riders due to the nearly two-month LRT shutdown in the fall.
According to the transit commission, the fare-free month cost the city $9 million, which it intends to recoup from Rideau Transit Group.
The year has been out of the ordinary: the trucker convoy forced many downtown routes to be rerouted, there were snowstorms, and the Omicron wave of COVID-19 kept people at home.
Ridership on Paratransit in 2021 was 42% of total ridership in 2019.
It accounted for 61% of December 2019 ridership.
The impact of government employees working from home
Coun. Riley Brockington moved the commission to approve a motion requesting that the federal government provide funding to cover the revenue gap caused by federal public servants working from home.
The motion has been revised to reflect $750 million in federal funding for public transportation systems across Canada in 2022.
The City of Ottawa's contribution is currently unknown, but with funding expected this year, the motion was amended to include potential funding beyond 2022.
"This motion is not about which model is the best.
"That is a decision made by the federal government," Brockington explained.
"The truth is that our public transportation system will be impacted.
The number of workers who used our transit system prior to COVID's arrival will not be the same.
It will be fewer; it has been fewer and will be fewer as people return to a hybrid model."
Brockington stated that the goal is to communicate the city's concerns to local MPs and the federal government that, as one of the city's largest employers, the federal government's decision on how to organise its workforce will have long-term consequences for the public transportation system.
The motion also asks the federal government to move a commitment to provide public transit agencies with operating budget funding by 2026 to an earlier year.
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