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Ottawa's breakthrough on transit budget crunch: Increase fares and do something about that extravagent bus service we keep hearing about

“How original”

When I heard that the City of Ottawa was proposing to increase OC Transpo fares and… do something to service to solve the budget pressures facing the transit service, I could only think of Squidward’s monotone delivery of “how original”.

City: “I’ll have a… fare increase.” Squidward: “How original.

The report that CTV mentions is available here (opens a PDF), and was submitted to the Finance and Corporate Services Committee by the city’s CFO Cyril Rogers. It notes that “Of all City services, the greatest financial challenge in 2024 is for the OC Transpo transit network. OC Transpo continues to face financial pressures as the service continues to realign to the changing ridership needs and new services such as O-Train Lines 2 and 4.” Because of remote and hybrid work, ridership and fare revenue remain low. The report says 2024 will see the city lose $35 million in fare revenue as a result. It has previously been reported widely that the OC Transpo deficit for 2023 will be $39 million.

Furthermore, “In 2024, OC Transpo will have new costs from the operation of the new O-Train Lines 2 and four, anticipated to open later this year, in addition to annual inflation, contract settlements, increases in contractual commitments, and contributions to capital.”

The recommendations given in the report include “no more” than a 2.5% increase in 2024 to transit fares and the transit levy tax, each. There is also an ongoing service review to find savings, which includes “alignment of bus routes to current ridership levels and patterns”. Hinted at: the fact the city, along with many other municipalities in Ontario, is in desperate need of operating funds from the province and feds.

You could argue they haven’t used the word “cut” in relation to transit service. Well, there are only three things you could do in net with service levels: reduce them, increase them, or keep them the same. Which option is our current iteration of City Hall most likely to pick? I just hope the downsides are kept to a minimum. It’s not like Ottawa is known for an excess of great service.

On the bright side, we can look forward to cannibalizing Para-Transpo service by using their buses for on-demand rides.


Devyn Barrie

Devyn Barrie is the publisher and editor of OttawaStart.com. He currently studies math and physics at the University of Ottawa, and holds a diploma in journalism from Algonquin College.