Thursday, January 15, 2009

What will people do when the buses come back?

Earlier in the week, the Ottawa Citizen published an article exploring the damage that transit strikes--particularly longer ones, such as Ottawa's now 37-day-old strike--has on public transit ridership levels.
Transit strikes invariably lead to a loss of riders, but experts say work stoppages that last four weeks or more have such a corrosive effect that damage to the system could last years.


Some of the frustrated commuters who have found other ways to deal with the strike will never go back to transit. Psychologically, they will tune out OC Transpo as a way of getting around. For a city government that wants people to choose transit over their own vehicles, that would be very bad news.
The good news is that there may be a way to lure people back to the buses, as brought up in the same Citizen story: A massive advertising campaign and discounted and free fares:

In January 1997, the first full month of service after the strike, OC Transpo carried 6.8 million riders, about the same as January 1996. But company officials acknowledged that this may have been the result of a massive marketing campaign, backed by fare discounts, to woo back disaffected riders. The promotional campaign, on buses, billboards and the airwaves, included four days of free fares after the strikers resumed work on Dec. 19, 1996. Riders were also offered discounted fares for the rest of December and discounted passes for January.

In February 1997, when full fares resumed, ridership tumbled four per cent. In March, it fell 2.3 per cent. Other promotional activities, including an extension of Transitway service and a flat fare any time of the day, continued for the rest of the year.
Already, one councillor--the recently-maligned Capital Ward Councillor Clive Doucet--has suggested a period of free fares once the strike is finally resolved, according to a story on

As the OC Transpo strike enters day 36, Clive Doucet says the city should offer free service to help get people back on transit as quickly as possible when the strike ends.

Doucet is proposing a "substantial period" of free transit.

Since the "Urban Transit Levy" covers half the cost of transit, Doucet tells CFRA News if the strike lasts six weeks there should be three weeks free service.

If nothing is done to get people to come back to buses, though, the Citizen offers a few examples of warning: A six-week strike in Knoxville, Tennessee that brought about a 12 per cent ridership loss on regular routes, and a strike of the same length in Orange County, California bringing a 20 per cent drop in ridership.


Anonymous said...

hi all
for those living close to Tunney's Pasture Transitway station - there is a STO bus that you can use to get to the Quebec side and/or to Downtown Ottawa - although the latter is quite long. The buses are generally good, but the one at night has not shown up for me a couple of times. Generally, though, in the current climate (socially and weather-wise), it is an option.

The line is 58. For more info, please visit

Good luck all :)))

Anonymous said...

First, Doucet should stop pandering to everybody and acting like he's some kind of common sense rebel. When you stand for everything Clive, you actually stand for nothing.

Second, I'm not prepared to concede the union will be coming back. I suggest expanding ParaTranspo to PTranspo and disbanding OCTranspo and those jobs. PTranspo can hire whatever drivers and service personnel are prepared to act reasonably, and the city can move the currently unused OCTranspo facilities, equipment and vehicles to the expanded PTranspo.

Anonymous said...

Also, I urge everyone witnessing the ATU trying to initmidate or coerce students, Para or PTranspo workers, or anyone else to take photos and video so that charges can be promptly laid.

Anonymous said...

Find out to how ATU has abused the system for past 12 years:

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