Sunday, June 15, 2008

Mo' riders, mo' problems?

I recently wrote about how the record-setting increases in public transit throughout North America is making it hard for cities to keep up. According to a story in the Ottawa Citizen, our great city is no exception.

The good news is that Ottawa, according to the story, is poised to hit and surpass the 100,000,000 ride mark for this year.

The bad news OC Transpo is not immune to the same factors that are pushing people to transit--basically, increased fuel costs. Because the fleet of buses uses about 39 million litres of diesel fuel a year, every one-cent increase will then result in $40,000 in increased fuel expenditure. There are also bus and driver shortages, resulting in more buses arriving late, and more buses arriving too full to pick up more passengers. The measure of reliability, according to OC Transpo themselves, was 98.5 per cent, lower than it has been and lower than it should be.

(As an aside, I'm going to question that statistic. I would not say that 98.5 per cent of the rides I try and take are on time. I would like to know how that statistic is calculated.)

The bottom line is that transit use is increasing, but so are problems associated with the system--we're at a breaking point.
For the head of Ottawa's transit committee, Councillor Alex Cullen, this age of rising fuel costs and bursting demand for transit translates into "tonnes of complaints about packed buses" together with the satisfaction of having record ridership. But he says the city moves slowly, even in response to such big changes.

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