Tuesday, September 7, 2010

A historical look at OC Transpo ridership

Above is a chart illustrating the ridership trend for OC Transpo (click to enlarge), from when the corporation was established in 1972 until last year, 2009. That first year, ridership was 37.544 million. The high point in ridership, denoted by the letter C on the draft, was of 95.646 million, in 2007.

Two of the low points on the graph were ridership dips due to extended labour stoppages. The first was a 20-day strike in 1979, which became known as the 'five-cent bus strike' because five cents was all that stood between the two sides. The second, much fresher in the minds of Ottawa commuters, was the 51-day 2008-09 winter transit strike, which brought ridership down in 2008 and especially in 2009.

The other big dip in the graph came to a head with 64.812 million rides in 1996, denoted by point B on the graph. Ridership had declined 11 of 12 years from 1984 until that year (which also had a 21-day strike to go along with the downward trend). A few years earlier, as a response to the declining ridership, a comprehensive review of OC Transpo operations was undertaken to find the root causes. Part of the problem was almost certainly the steady and steep rise of fares: Cash fares were only $0.65 in 1981, but they broke the one-dollar mark in 1985 and had climbed to $1.50 by 1987, and $2.00 by 1992. All told, fares rose more than 300% in slightly more than ten years. They were brought back in check after the transit strike in 1996, when fares were actually reduced to $1.85.

Since then, fares have continued to rise, although not at the pace seen through the 1980s. Today they sit at $3.25, although the difference between ticket and fare prices has never been greater. But fare-setting is a process of trial-and-error, awaiting that point where the the cost becomes a barrier preventing increasing ridership.


WJM said...

Where'd y'all get your raw data?

Can you share? :)

Peter Raaymakers said...


Well, a lot of it was from the Ottawa Room at the main library, manually pulling data from OC Transpo's annual reports (it made for a fun afternoon, let me tell ya).

1999-present, though, is available on the OC Transpo website: http://www.octranspo1.com/about-octranspo/reports

Bob Brocklebank said...

Are you sure that OC Transpo is a corporation? Does it really have a corporate identity separate from the City? If it is incorporated, are OC Transpo detailed financial statements available?

David said...

OC Transpo was definitely a corporation when it was established in 1972 (it was a commission, which is just another name for a corporation). However, sometime in the late 1990s or when the cities amalgamated the commission was dissolved into a city department (I'm pretty sure the process had started before amalgamation, with various arms of the RMOC providing services to OC Transpo that OC Transpo had formerly done in-house).

So financial statements will be those of the city.