OC Transpo says a decline in ridership is due mainly to layoffs in the federal public service, but some former riders say inconsistent service is at the root of their decision to stop taking public transit.
This morning the city's transit commission is expected to hear how ridership for the third quarter of 2013 sank 3.9 per cent over the same period last year. Over the last year, ridership has dropped 3 per cent from the previous year.
While the transit agency blames the drop on a dip in employment due to government layoffs, Kanata resident Mike Pitre says the issues are with OC Transpo and said city council doesn't appreciate the problems.
"They should actually ride the bus and talk to the passengers," said Pitre. "I don't get the sense that they are really connected with what's happening on an OC Transpo bus."
Pitre rode the bus for 23 years from his home in Kanata, but switched to his car in the fall.
He had an express bus stop right outside his door, but citywide changes two years ago added 45 minutes to his commute. He said repeated fare increases, the loss of his discounted Eco Pass and then problems with the Presto payment card didn't help.
"It was just one thing after another after another and you spend a lot of your time wondering if you're a passenger or you're cattle," said Pitre.
He made the switch in October when he got a new job in Gatineau with free parking.
Julie Fortier lives in Vanier and took the No. 14 bus to work on Elgin Street, but a few weeks ago she too switched to driving.
She said it costs about the same and she'd had it with unreliable service.
"Just show up on time, please send a bus by my house," she said. "I don't want to wait 30 minutes when a bus is supposed to come by every 6 minutes during rush hour."
Monthly bus passes costs have risen every year since 2003. Over the same period, they've risen only four times in Toronto and five in Calgary.
Coun. Diane Deans, the chair of the transit commission, said the city and OC Transpo are striving to make improvements.
"What would you prefer? An inflationary increase in your fares or a slight reduction in your service levels? And that's what we always have to balance," said Deans. "We never want to hear that people aren't appreciating their transit experience."