Seizing on that information, frequent commenter on the site took the data a step further, comparing it to Ottawa's population--and graciously sending me the outcome. A note about the data: These graphs are from 1976, the earliest date census metropolitan area (CMA) was available, and they also only use population information for the Ontario portion of Ottawa (so Hull/Gatineau is not included in the population, although there may be riders from Hull/Gatineau affecting the OC Transpo ridership numbers).
First up is a comparative graph, showing the erratic and unpredictable trend in OC Transpo ridership (the blue line) compared to the relatively steady--and in fact steepening--population trend (the red line). The final significant dip in ridership is partially, if not entirely, due to the 2008-09 winter transit strike, but one fact is evident: The modal share devoted to public transit took a huge hit through most of the 1990s, and was slowly recovering--until the strike.
The trend of declining modal share is demonstrated, in some way, by the graphic below. Although this isn't quite modal share--it's the number of trips taken on OC Transpo per capita. Which shows what was described above: The 1990s were devastating for public transit use in Ottawa, and despite some improvements in the first have of the 2000s, public transit use per capita has drastically fallen off since its peaks in the first half of the 1980s.
Thanks once again to WJM for the great work on these infographics. News reports have been positive in terms of ridership so far in 2010, but we won't know until the entire year's numbers are out whether the strike was a blip on the radar, or part of a greater decline.
UPDATE: Some astute comments on this post. Whether it be by some coincidence or not, OC Transpo ridership per capita's precipitous decline began in earnest around 1983, the same year the Transitway began operation. While it seems counter-intuitive, commenter David summed up reasonable conclusions to draw on the graph as such:
What these graphs show beyond any doubt is that the Transitway has NOT led to an increase in ridership in Ottawa, much as certain BRT devotees (e.g. Andy Haydon) like to think otherwise.While the fact that ridership, when overall population is taken into effect, went down with the beginning of the Transitway is an undeniable conclusion, it certainly doesn't mean that the Transitway has made public transit less attractive to commuters and riders (although construction of the Transitway, and the delays and confusion that goes therewith, might have done so). It does, however, mean that the Transitway hasn't made public transit any more attractive to