Ottawa

Transit riders disappointed by fare raise detailed in 2022 budget

Ottawa transit riders say they don’t understand why fares will increase in January, considering the still out-of-service train service, reports of crowded buses and schedules riders have felt were less than reliable.

OC Transpo asking for an additional $20.9 million next year

A masked man waits for transit to arrive in early March 2021. OC Transpo is asking for an additional $20.9 million in the 2022 budget. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

Ottawa transit riders say they don't understand why fares will increase in January, considering the still out-of-service train service, reports of crowded buses and schedules riders have felt were less than reliable.

"I mean, how can you justify raising fares in January? I just don't see it," said Audrey Moey, a regular commuter. "It's going to drive people away from using transit and we'll never recover." 

The transit budget tabled on Wednesday calls for an average fare increase of 2.5 per cent. 

That means the cost of a single OC Transpo fare is set to rise to $3.70 and the monthly pass is set to increase by $3 to $125.50 as of Jan. 1. The prices for the EquiPass for low-income riders and the Community Pass, with eligibility through the Ontario Disability Support Program, will remain frozen. 

Kari Glynes Elliott, who represents the advocacy group Ottawa Transit Riders, considers the freeze for those riders a move in the right direction, saying low-income people have borne the brunt of the problems with Ottawa's transit system. 

But that's just about where the good news stops for her.

"We're not happy about the increase in fares," she said Wednesday. "We have been fighting quite hard for the city to freeze the fares."

Kari Glynes Elliott, board member with advocacy group Ottawa Transit Riders, is pleased to see fares for certain commuters will be frozen. But she's unsure why other fares will be increased in January. (Nicole Williams/CBC)

"We feel that when you've declared a climate emergency, you need to be making transit much more attractive, much more reliable, much cheaper." 

Overall, OC Transpo is asking for an additional $20.9 million next year, with a net operating budget of $372.3 million.  The city is also expecting the province will chip in $60.6 million in COVID-19-related costs.

And while city council previously approved a plan to make fares free in December, for Glynes Elliott, the January increase indicates those making the decisions are out of touch with the mood of the public. 

The LRT has been out of service for more than six weeks as of Wednesday, after a train derailed on Sept. 19 before entering Tremblay station.

"That's salt in the wound, really. I mean, even if it's a very small increase," she said. 

The January increases mimic the exclusions and 2.5 per cent bump of last year's New Year's Day fare hike

The transit budget is also based on ridership at 82 per cent of the pre-pandemic level by the end of 2022, a figure everyday commuters like Moey consider "aspirational".

She believes more needs to be done to encourage ridership, even when more people return to working in offices. 

"Unless people can feel that transit is safe, reliable and frequent enough to make it convenient, they are not going to want to come back, especially at a higher price," she said. 

Public delegations on the transit budget will be made at the commission meeting scheduled for Nov. 17.

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