OC Transpo ridership, on-time rates decline at end of 2013

OC Transpo’s ridership continued to decline in the final months of 2013, with the latest dip blamed on weather, construction and the local job picture.

2.1 per cent drop in riders blamed on weather, construction, employment

A quarterly report says weather, construction and federal job losses are to blame. 2:11

OC Transpo’s ridership continued to decline in the final months of 2013, with the latest dip blamed on weather, construction and the local job picture.

In a report to be tabled at the city’s transit commission on Wednesday, deputy city manager Steve Kanellakos said ridership was down 2.1 per cent in October, November and December 2013 compared to the same three months in 2012.

Riders took 26.39 million trips in the fourth quarter of 2013, compared to 26.97 million trips in the fourth quarter of 2012.

“Though additional time was scheduled to allow for major construction projects, several routes in downtown were strongly affected by delays from traffic congestion in construction zones, with trips becoming late, and in many cases, causing subsequent trips to be missed,” the report noted.

“A higher than normal number of November and December snowfall events, combined with several days of significant temperature drops, caused service delays and cancellations in Q4 2013.”

Transit commission chair Diane Deans said continued construction, much of it as part of the city's light rail project, could one day send people towards public transit.

"For now we're going to ride it out and hopefully encourage more people to take public transit," she said.

"Maybe as more construction projects occur and riding a private automobile gets more difficult, maybe more people will choose (public) transit as a way to move around the city."

The report noted employment in the Ottawa-Gatineau region dropped during the same time frame, from 715,400 in December 2012 to 696,100 in December 2013, and said that has a “strong correlation” to changes in ridership.

Kanellakos said in the report that ridership was not expected to rise in 2013, that they accounted for that in their 2013 budget and these latest results continue a trend they’ve been seeing since the start of 2013.

Deans told All in a Day host Alan Neal in a Thursday interview that the total number of trips dropped from around 100 million about a year ago to approximately 98 million now.

Lower number of buses on time, but fewer collisions

The percentage of buses arriving on time declined slightly across the board, with one exception.

Express and regular service during the morning rush, as well as regular service during the peak time in the afternoon, were on time four to five per cent less than they were in the fourth quarter of 2012.

Express service buses in the afternoon rush were on time one per cent more in the last three months of 2013 than in 2012, from 67 per cent to 68 per cent.

On the positive side, the report said collisions involving OC Transpo vehicles went down in the third quarter (July, August, September) compared to the same part of 2012.

Collisions went from 2.3 per 100,000 kilometres travelled in the third quarter of 2012 to 1.88 per 100,000 kilometres travelled in the same quarter last year.

That time frame includes the Sept. 18 crash between an OC Transpo bus and a Via Rail train that killed six people on the bus.

Deans also said on All in a Day that revenue hasn't fallen as ridership declines, a phenomenon she said could be because riders are using more cash and tickets, rather than cheaper options such as Presto cards and monthly passes.