Sunday, March 30, 2008

Ottawa transit fares to rise in 2008

According to the recently-approved 2008 Ottawa city budget (see a brief synopsis here, or the entire 837-page document here), councillors are planning to implement a 7.5 per cent increase on transit fares.

The Transit Fares and Fare Policies fact sheet from the budget (which you can read here) outlines a number of reasons for the increase:
Transit costs are continuing to increase at a rate greater than inflation for a number of reasons, including:
  • rapidly rising fuel costs
  • increasing volume of fuel required for the fleet
  • increases in bus parts costs
  • increasing maintenance complexity of the modern low-floor fleet with air conditioning
  • the addition of a high proportion of relatively costly long-distance suburban commuter trips
Yes, fuel costs are rising, so there's nothing to argue against that--it's completely understandable. With a larger fleet though, naturally comes more income from fares, so the second bullet is a moot point. Bus-part costs and maintenance increases may be rising due to inflation, although I seriously doubt they've risen by 7.5 per cent or anywhere near that margin. With regards to the last point, I'm not sure I buy that. Long-distance express trips come infrequently, and already include a premium in the fare. Rural express routes hardly ever run, and have an even more significant premium. Suburban trips such as the 95, 96, and 97 are the routes which form the backbone of the transit system, and have done so for years.

That last bullet also makes me wonder why the budget decided on the following measures to further offset the increasing transit costs:
In addition to the fare increase, consider additional options, including:
  • reducing the Ecopass discount from 15 per cent to 12 per cent
  • increasing the Annual Adult Pass discount from 10 per cent to 12 per cent, to bring the discount to the same level of the Ecopass
  • reducing the Annual Student Pass discount from 20 per cent to 15 per cent
I don't understand why adult commuters, forming what I presume to be the bulk of riders taking long-distance suburban trips, are having their pass costs brought down while students, most of whom would hardly be able to afford the cost of a pass as it is, are now paying 5 per cent more to ride the bus. And let's get rid of the Ecopass if it's just an adult pass with a different name.

The Transit fact sheet makes sure to end with this, and that's where I'd like to end this post, too. Make sure your councillor knows whether or not you agree with the measures in the budget:
Be informed. Have your say.

It’s your city, your budget. Stay informed and have your say in the budget process by participating in one of the upcoming ward consultations, scheduled from November 15 to November 30.

Residents and businesses will also have an opportunity to make a presentation to all of Council through the Committee of the Whole process being held at City Hall from December 3 to 6, 2007.

For more information, visit, call the City at 3-1-1 (TTY: 613-580-2401), or e-mail


Anonymous said...

It sounds like a load of waffle to me. I like how they continue to blame rising costs on express buses to outlying areas, when these are clearly the most lucrative routes they run. Ever tried to take any of the 60- or 70-series buses around 4 PM? Good luck finding a seat or even a decent place to stand. And those people are paying express fare too! Costs are likely much higher running empty buses through the downtown core every 10 minutes.
If they can't keep costs down, where do they get off spending money on advertising trying to attract more commuters? They've clearly got more than they can handle already. Take the money out of advertising and use it to keep fares the same.
Oh, and an EcoPass is different. Large workplaces buy into them so that employees can get a cheaper bus pass. They need to have a high volume of employees who use transit though. And I think that employees' bus pass prices are deducted straight from their paycheque.

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