As any reader likely realized, no liveblogging was able to occur, very unfortunately. I was told there would be wireless available in the Champlain Room at City Hall, however no connection was ever established. Great first impression, for the blog's newest reporter, I know.
Some good news did come out of that committee chamber, however. The Transit Committee successfully passed a motion to launch the UPass pilot project at the University of Ottawa starting in September 2009, at the Student Federation of the University of Ottawa-proposed price of $125.
As previously mentioned, U of O students supported the proposed $125-per-semester universal bus pass in February's referendum; the SFUO had hoped to stick to this price, at least for the time being. Any change in price would require another referendum to be presented to students.
Several councillors raised concerns over the proposed pilot project, including Innes Ward Councillor Rainer Bloess who worried the $125 price "was pulled out of thin air." SFUO President Dean Haldenby and U of O Sustainable Development Coordinator Jonathan Rausseo, who represented the U of O and its students at the committee, presented statistics from universities across the country that demonstrated Ottawa students—even at the disputed $125—would be paying one of the highest costs for a universal bus pass.
A $125 UPass will take away transit revenue from the City, and several councillors noted that they would have to find an extra $2.1 million from somewhere come budget time in December. The next hurdle for the U of O group, however, comes in the form of Nov. 12's Council meeting. Transit Committee Chair Alex Cullen expressed his hope and expectation that U of O students would continue to lobby councillors—they will need the support of at least 13 out of the total 24 at the Council meeting to continue with the project—and remain present at upcoming Council and Budget Committee meetings, in order to get this project off the ground.
Other points of interest at today's Transit Committee meeting:
- Fare increases, the biggest of which include:
- A 15% raise for regular bus tickets and 11.1% for O-Train tickets
- An increase between 6.9% and 7.4% for various Ecopasses
- And, interestingly, some fare decreases:
- A 3.4% decrease in the price for a DayPass if purchased on the bus (will no longer be available anywhere else)
- An 8.1% decrease in prices for the Annual Senior pass
- An age cap on their student fares. It'll be interesting to see how they coordinate this with the UPass, since they're planning to allow student pricing only to those 24 and under. This would be effective for the 2009-10 academic year
- Some new ad campaigns promoting off-peak service hours, including targeting hospital employees, airport workers, and post-secondary students by advertising "improved off-peak and all-night transit service"