Ottawa

Transit commissioner calls for extended fare freeze, refund amid LRT mess

An Ottawa transit commissioner is calling for an extended fare freeze and even a limited refund as problems with the city's floundering LRT system continue to pile up.

Sarah Wright-Gilbert wants freeze approved last fall extended past March

Children check out the ticket machines at Parliament station on Sept. 14, 2019. (Andrew Lee/CBC)

An Ottawa transit commissioner is calling for an extended fare freeze and even a limited refund as problems with the city's floundering LRT system continue to pile up.

Multiple trains lost power over the weekend, causing extensive delays for passengers. As a result, OC Transpo put just nine trains into service Monday morning, and pulled dozens of buses off their regular routes to bolster downtown service. 

"I'm frustrated and I'm angry and enough is enough. This service has gone from bad to abysmal," citizen transit commissioner Sarah Wright-Gilbert said Monday.

On Sunday, Wright-Gilbert, who has been an outspoken critic of the city's response to the ongoing LRT problems, tweeted: "To say that I am disappointed in our public transit system, and the $5M/month maintenance contractor, [Rideau Transit Maintenance], is an understatement.... Promises continue to be broken. It's time for an extension on the fare freeze."

In November, the transit commission approved a fare freeze until the end of March, resulting in an estimated revenue loss of $1 million. Transit fares had already risen the month before, and were set to rise again by an average of 2.5 per cent on Jan. 1.

But after the LRT failed to run as reliably as promised, Mayor Jim Watson proposed a three-month freeze.

At the time, commissioners left the door open to an extension if service didn't improve. 

Sarah Wright-Gilbert, a citizen transit commissioner, says she's feeling riders' frustration over the floundering LRT. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Wright-Gilbert wants the fare freeze extended until September. She said she's afraid customers faced with a choice between a $120 per month parking pass and unreliable LRT service will choose the former, and said she's already seeing some people give up on public transit as the Confederation Line's problems persist.

"We need not only a fare freeze, but OC Transpo should consider refunding at least a month of service in order to entice riders to continue to use this service and to come back," she said.

Transit users chimed in on social media.

With files from Radio-Canada's Geneviève Normand

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