Ottawa

OC Transpo fare freeze extended until LRT opens

Ottawa city council agreed to freeze transit fares because light rail is delayed yet again, but didn't go so far as to reduce them, as some councillors wanted.

City council rejects bid by Coun. Diane Deans to reduce fares

OC Transpo fares are being frozen again, but not reduced. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

OC Transpo fares will remain frozen until Ottawa's new light rail system finally opens, city council decided Wednesday after a spirited debate.

Council did not approve a move by Coun. Diane Deans to offer an olive branch and reduce prices for frustrated customers.

Let's be serious and show them some love in making sure we have a bus system that actually works.- Coun. Carol Anne Meehan

Fares had been set to increase on July 1 for the first time in a year, but will now remain at their current prices until the first day of the month after the new Confederation Line opens. Council had earlier decided to forego a Jan. 1 hike.

Many councillors agreed cheaper fares wouldn't make service more reliable.

Show riders 'respect'

With LRT delayed a fourth time, Deans argued it was time to reduce fares in line with the reduced service.

"I don't know how long we can just expect our customers to just stick with us if we don't show them some respect," said Deans, who's worried OC Transpo's base ridership will drop the longer LRT is delayed.

Some transit riders are turning to ride-hailing companies and taxis or showing up late to work, she said.

Mayor Jim Watson criticized Deans's plan for being vague.

"We didn't get elected to simply shake a money tree and somehow find money every council meeting," Watson said.

Diane Deans says some councillors are 'out of touch' with commuters who are being affected by late, crowded and cancelled buses. 1:07

Better service, not cheaper

A fare reduction of 30 per cent for the second half of the year would cost the city an estimated $29 million in lost revenue.

Councillors also heeded the opinion of city lawyers who said a court would be unlikely to force Rideau Transit Group to pick up the cost of the fare reduction, as Deans had proposed.

She lost her bid to reduce fares in a 6 to 18 vote.

And while the fare freeze passed unanimously, Coun. Carol Anne Meehan argued the city needs to improve bus service for riders by September as the LRT delays drag on.

"Let's be serious and show them some love in making sure we have a bus system that actually works," she said.

"We're Canada's capital and what we're seeing out there is a disgrace. The bungling has to stop."

The approved fare freeze is expected to cost OC Transpo about $300,000 per month.

There is no new date for Rideau Transit Group to handover the light rail system.

With no LRT launch date in sight, Ottawa city council agreed to press pause on next month's OC Transpo fare hike until the trains are running. 5:25

About the Author

Kate Porter

Reporter

Kate Porter covers municipal affairs for CBC Ottawa. Over the past 15 years, she has also produced in-depth reports for radio, web and TV, regularly presented the radio news, and covered the arts beat.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.