Ottawa

New OC Transpo fares mean price hike for regular riders

Starting Jan. 1, OC Transpo will eliminate premium fares for express bus routes. As a result, all routes — including those currently designated as express routes — will require a regular fare, which is going up.

Under the new system, a monthly adult transit pass will cost $113.75

Changes in the New Year mean current express pass holders will save almost $17 a month, while regular pass holders will have to pay eight dollars more. (Danny Globerman/CBC)

OC Transpo riders can expect changes in the New Year.

Starting Jan. 1, OC Transpo will eliminate premium fares for express bus routes. As a result, all routes — including those currently designated as express routes — will require only a regular fare.

Under the new system, a monthly adult transit pass will cost $113.75.

That means current express pass holders will save almost $17 a month, while regular pass holders will have to pay $8 more.

Mixed reactions from riders

Some transit users are crying foul over the changes.

"It's driving me nuts," said Nathan Lucas, just moments after buying his January transit pass at the Rideau Centre.

Lucas, who lives in Kanata, depends on OC Transpo for his daily commute to work. He said he doesn't understand what's behind this latest price increase, especially considering the quality of the service he receives.

"Some of the buses I take nowadays — the 96 and the 85 — they're the slowest ones," he said. "On the 96, I'm coming home it's 6:30 p.m. — maybe 7 p.m. — and I still have to stand."

"It just keeps jumping and jumping. Where am I going to get the money to keep doing this? I don't know," he said. "It's not right, especially before Christmas."

Express pass holder Rob D'Angelo had a much different reaction to the new fare system.

"It's great," he said. "It's always nice to pay less."

But like Lucas, D'Angelo said he would also like to see further service improvements from OC Transpo, including to current express routes.

"The route I take, there's — I think — only five per day: five in the morning, five in the evening," he said. "It'd be nice to see more."

Confederation Line will be 'revolutionary improvement'

The fare changes are part of OC Transpo's efforts to prepare riders for the launch of the O-Train Confederation Line in 2018.

"We know there's a lot of changes to make," said Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo's director of customer systems and planning. "We're trying to make some of those changes early, get them out of the way early so that our customers don't have as much to deal with when the train opens."

Express routes will remain in place, but will receive new "connexion" route numbers. Once the Confederation Line is in running, those routes will ferry riders from outside the city to terminal stations at either end of the Confederation Line.

A longer trip is not necessarily a more expensive trip to provide.- Pat Scrimgeour, OC Transpo

The fare changes mean all people will be able to use routes all across the OC Transpo system using a common fare, Scrimgeour said.

Scrimgeour acknowledged that transit users have had to deal with increased traffic and congestion as a result of work on the Confederation Line, but emphasized improvements are coming.

"So much of that construction is about building a better city. The biggest part of all of that is building the O-Train Confederation Line, which will be such a revolutionary improvement in all forms of transportation in Ottawa," he said.

'A system that works for everyone'

Increases in the cost of fuel, parts and wages all contribute to higher transit fares, Scrimgeour said, adding that OC Transpo aims to maintain an even split between the amount customers pay and the amount the city provides towards running OC Transpo.

Scrimgeour also rejected the suggestion that the fare changes mean regular users will be footing the bill for passengers who rely on express routes.

"A longer trip is not necessarily a more expensive trip to provide," he said. "The real cost of moving people on transit is really similar all across the city. What can make it cheaper is high-capacity vehicles moving large numbers of people together."

Scrimgeour said continued use of articulated and double-decker buses will help reduce transit costs, as will the Confederation Line once it's in place.

"What we've done here is built a system that works for everyone, that works for the future, that accommodates all of the recent changes in the system and those changes that are coming up," he said.

now