Catherine McKenney promises fare freeze, more rides, free transit for kids

Ottawa mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney's transit plan also includes a more affordable Equipass, a faster change to electric buses and investment in Para Transpo.

$35M for major planks wouldn't come from cuts, property tax hike

McKenney promises fare freeze, free transit for youth if elected mayor

3 months ago
Duration 1:35
Ottawa mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney is pledging to freeze transit fares, offer free rides for youth under 18, and reduce the cost of the monthly Equipass available to low-income residents.

Ottawa mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney's proposals to improve the city's transit network and attract riders include a fare freeze, free rides for children, expanded service, and investment in electrification and Para Transpo.

"If people can't get to where they need to be on time, if they can't afford to ride transit every day, then their city is failing them. For far too many people, our city is failing them," they said in a news conference outside Blair station Tuesday.

Their plan to fix this includes increasing the number of routes and buses running by 20 per cent during their first four years, with a focus on buses within communities and not just to commute to and from the core.

Everyone under age 18 could ride for free, expanding the current approach that lets children under eight ride for free and age-based discounts for youth up to age 19. Their argument is it would save families money and lead kids to using transit more as adults.

They would lower the $58.25 monthly Equipass to match the Community Pass rate — currently $43.25 — and they'd spend more on Para Transpo and accessible taxi services by raising the surcharge on ride-hailing to 20 cents per ride from 10.

They'd electrify the city's bus fleet more quickly and, if RTG is found in default of its light rail maintenance contract, bring that work under city control.

A dashboard in an OC Transpo electric bus earlier this year. OC Transpo has said it is only buying zero-emission buses going forward and plans to have 30 electric buses in service next year. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

It would cost $35 million in their first budget for some of the major planks, McKenney said: $18 million for more trips, $14 million to make transit free for children, $2 million for freezing fares and $1 million on the Equipass.

McKenney committed to funding the changes without cutting services or increasing property taxes more than the three-per-cent cap set by current Mayor Jim Watson, who is not running again.

Other platforms

McKenney's transit policies came under attack from fellow mayoral candidate Mark Sutcliffe last week, specifically whether their support for the idea of fare-free transit would mean they would raise taxes to make it happen.

McKenney said it can't be done immediately or on property taxes alone.

Sutcliffe said he wants more buses and trains in Ottawa's suburbs while making rides more affordable.

Bob Chiarelli's mayoral campaign said in a statement he's prepared to adjust existing fare discounts and that a broader review of OC Transpo is needed.

Fourteen people are running for mayor. Ottawa's election day is Oct. 24, with early in-person voting starting Sept. 24.