Ottawa

A year after Transpo strike, bus ridership down

A year ago Thursday morning, OC Transpo drivers and mechanics took to the picket line — and stayed there for 53 long winter days, a strike that has reduced the number of people willing to use public transit.

A year ago Thursday morning, OC Transpo drivers and mechanics took to the picket line — and stayed there for 53 long winter days, a strike that has reduced the number of people willing to use public transit.

When the strike ended, Emma King stopped getting a ride to work and reluctantly went back to taking the bus.

"If I had other means of transportation, absolutely not, I wouldn't bother," she says now.

OC Transpo has King back, but not everyone has returned.

In October, two per cent fewer people were taking public transit in Ottawa than were using it in the same period the year before.

Alain Mercier, the head of OC Transpo, said the goal has been to at least get the number of people using the system back to 2008 levels, though that's not the organization's main goal.

"People want convenience and ease of use of the system. That's where our focus is right now," Mercier said.

OC Transpo is focused on making transit a better experience, he affirmed, by making sure its buses are cleaner and that they run on time more often. The transit service also recently revamped its website, and Mercier said it's trying to shorten lineups for people buying passes.

"People will notice in some of our stations, the signage and way-finding is being modified for the first time in 25 years," he said.

King said she would prefer efforts go to reducing the cost of fares and passes.

But fare increases, as well as service cuts, are in the draft budget for next year that city council is now debating, though some councillors fear it sends the wrong message to OC Transpo users so soon after the strike.

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