Ottawa's LRT debut to shuffle bus routes, shift fares

Big changes are coming down the line for all transit users when Ottawa's Confederation Line starts rolling in 2018, city officials announced at a briefing Tuesday.

Regular adult pass price to rise, cash fares to drop as express routes disappear

While the City of Ottawa has yet to reveal a firm launch date, Ottawa's Confederation light rail line is set to open sometime in 2018. (City of Ottawa)

Big changes are coming down the line for all transit users when Ottawa's Confederation Line starts rolling in 2018, city officials announced at a briefing Tuesday.

In the city's downtown, the volume of bus traffic on Slater and Albert streets will fall by a whopping 90 per cent, said OC Transpo's general manager, John Manconi.

Most bus passengers will instead ride only as far as Tunney's station in the west, Blair in the east and Hurdman in the middle of the Confederation Line, where they'll board one of the city's gleaming new light rail trains to complete their commute.

Officials announced a raft of other details and changes Tuesday, from the new look for transit signs coming in January 2017 to a new fare structure, the final phasing out of paper tickets and the renaming of bus routes 1 and 2.

Fare table overhaul

OC Transpo will also phase out express routes, along with the premium fares they demanded for them, according to Pat Scrimgeour, who's in charge of customer systems and planning for OC Transpo.

But that will represent a $6-million annual loss, eating into the $190 million in fare revenue upon which OC Transpo has come to rely. So officials will introduce a new fare structure, including:

  • A regular monthly adult pass price of $112.25, up $6.50 from the 2016 fare, but $18.50 lower than the 2016 express pass price.
  • A regular monthly student pass price of $87.75, up $3.50 from the 2016 pass price.
  • Community and senior monthly price passes holding steady at $41.75.
  • A regular adult cash fare of $3.35 per trip, down 30 cents from the $3.65 fare set to take effect July 1, 2016. Cash fares for seniors and children will also drop, each by 20 cents.

For months, advocates have pressed the city to introduce a special, reduced transit pass for low-income customers.

But that wasn't among the changes announced Tuesday. Transit commission chair Stephen Blais said it will be up to the province to decide whether to fund such a pass.

Changes coming to downtown bus routes

Officials introduced a number of new classifications of bus service that will be on offer: "Rapid" buses will travel between transit stations, "connexion" buses will travel along main arterial routes, and "frequent" buses will weave through neighbourhoods.
The major shift with the arrival of light rail will be a vast reduction in the volume of bus traffic through Ottawa's downtown. (City of Ottawa)

Redesigned transit signs will start appearing in January 2017.

Many downtown routes such as the 1, 5, 7, 14 and 15 will be split into shorter routes in an effort to make them more reliable, said Scrimgeour.

Bus routes 1 and 2 will be re-assigned to the two rail lines, Confederation and Trillium.

Fewer buses, fewer drivers

The arrival of light rail in 2018 will save the transit service $14 to $15 million per year in operational costs, Manconi said, because each train will do the job of eight articulated buses, requiring fewer operators.

"There will be a reduction of the workforce. We're just finalizing those numbers now," said Manconi. "We're going to work collaboratively with the union and respect how we do that with our employees and look at various options."

Officials are expecting a big turnout when the changes are discussed at the June 15 meeting of the transit commission. The meeting will be held in city council chambers to accommodate a larger audience.