Over the course of the 2010 Mayoral Election campaign, Public Transit in Ottawa will be sitting down with as many mayoral candidates as are available, discussing their platforms and thoughts on transit in this city, and what they hope to achieve during their mandate, if elected mayor.
Although a big part of his platform includes an alternative transit solution of Ottawa road congestion, Mike Maguire still feels like OC Transpo will be a part of public transit in Ottawa--but he says it needs some work.
OC Transpo, as a mode of transport, in terms of the municipal service, is very inefficient. The subsidy this year is going to top $140M; well, that’s not sustainable, either. I’ll put it to you this way: Every dollar OC Transpo spends, they lose $0.50. Reducing the amount of participation in OC Transpo is not a bad thing at all, as long as you can make up a different mode of transportation that satisfies the commuting needs, while at the same time—hypothetically—reducing congestion, that’s a win-win. [...] As a corporation, as a service that the municipality owns completely, there’s no possible justification for a $140M-a-year subsidy for OC Transpo.
Maguire's commuter-oriented diesel light-rail system would not be managed by OC Transpo, but would be owned by the city. He suggests establishing some sort of owner-operator or profit-sharing arrangement to make incentives for efficiency--but that's for another post.
Maguire suggested a full-out review of OC Transpo operations, and thinks that privatization of some routes may be necessary to make the service appropriately effective.
Where I differentiate this is the difference between mass transit and public transit. OC Transpo is public transit; whether that bus is empty or full, you still pay for it. Mass transit, for example, is Howard Bus Lines going through North Gower. Or the Laidlaw bus service going through Manotick; the Osgoode Flyer has been going through Manotick for 30 years, it’s cheaper than OC Transpo, and it gets you downtown 20 minutes faster. The big advantage there is if you take the Osgoode Flyer from the Manotick Public School to Parliament Hill, your neighbour doesn’t have to pay a surcharge. And it’s still cheaper. So why wouldn’t you do that, basically, in as many places as you can find a niche to exploit? The purpose of the excercise here is mass transit: We want to get people where they want to go, as efficiently as possible, as inexpensively as possible, and if that means not supporting a billion-dollar corporation like OC Transpo, so be it. OC is supposed to serve the people, not the other way around.
Although I agree that OC Transpo could be run much more efficiently and more privately, Mr. Maguire doesn't really address how private bus lines would move people within Ottawa.
Private bus lines love the long trips because they're high-revenue and low-cost. Operating a fleet or intra-city buses with routes of 15-35 minutes for $2.50-3.50 per passenger is not too high up on their priorities, I think.
Also, private buses would be ruthless about eliminating underserved routes which would undoubtedly raise heckles by those whose routes are cut. The city would probably end up subsidizing those routes just to keep vocal constituents happy.
That said, I would like to hear more of his ideas about moving people within the city.
The only big challenge here, is that it's likely that OC Transpo is using the same routes that would be privatized to subsidize those that would still be part of OC Transpo. So then I'd ask how much of a positive impact on the subsidy would there be?
Perhaps there would be some, as the support services for OC Transpo would be smaller (e.g. garages, staff, etc.), but I would think the percentage of each dollar spent by OC Transpo would likely shift more towards subsidy rather than revenue.
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