Ottawa

City gets rolling on new low-income transit fare

The City of Ottawa will begin exploring options for rolling out a single transit fare for low-income riders after the transit commission approved a motion Wednesday.

Details to be worked out, but cost could be half that of regular single fare

Plans for a single-ride EquiFare come on the heels of the introduction of the low-income EquiPass, available for half the price of a regular monthly transit pass. (Andrew Foote/CBC)

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  • Council unanimously approved exploring EquiFare at its meeting on June 14, 2017.

The City of Ottawa will begin exploring options for rolling out a single transit fare for low-income riders after the transit commission approved a motion Wednesday

The new fare comes on the heels of the introduction of a low-income monthly pass called the "EquiPass." The new "EquiFare" would cover just a single ride.

The price of the new fare has yet to be determined, but transit officials said it could be roughly half of a regular single fare.

We know that many of our lowest-income residents in the city are those that cannot afford or do not need a monthly pass, and that many of the lowest income residents are those that do pay cash fare right now.- Transit commissioner Blair Crew

Transit commissioner Blair Crew said the EquiFare is a natural evolution from the monthly low-income pass.

"We know that many of our lowest-income residents in the city are those that cannot afford or do not need a monthly pass, and that many of the lowest income residents are those that do pay cash fare right now."

Coun. Marianne Wilkinson expressed concern about where the funding for the reduced fare would come from. 

"I would hate to see other riders having to pick up the cost of subsidizing the program," she told the transit commission. 

Financing new fare a 'challenge'

Transit boss John Manconi said financing the EquiFare would be the biggest challenge. 

"I don't have all the solutions for you, that's why we need time to think through that," he told the commission. "That's why [OC Transpo's assistant general manager Pat Scrimgeour] looks a little stressed right now, because he's going to have to help me figure this out."

Staff will have several months to report back on whether the low-income fare can be carried out within the current budget.

Manconi told the commission that because paper bus tickets are being phased out, Presto cards would be used for all fares, including the new EquiFare.

Coun. Keith Egli said this is a smart option to protect the privacy of low-income transit users, who won't have to prove their eligibility at the fare box. 

"It doesn't put a spotlight on anybody as they're getting on or off the bus about what their financial situation is," Egli said.

The EquiPass costs $57 per month, half the $113.75 cost of a regular adult monthly pass. Residents whose monthly income falls below the low-income threshold as set annually by the federal government are eligible for the pass.  

Since it was introduced in March, 2,300 people have applied for the EquiPass.

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