The news is good for two reasons: First, it proves that students at Carleton University and the University of Ottawa are making full use of their significantly discounted universal student bus passes. This shows that the investment the city's making is working, and that students are making use of the opportunities afforded through the U-Pass. But more significantly, it looks like there are no residual effects resulting from the winter transit strike of 2008-09. Ridership numbers had fallen in both 2008 and 2009, but it wasn't clear whether that was caused entirely by the service disruption or whether people had found other ways of getting around the city. Although we haven't yet seen the full annual number for ridership in 2010, this most recent announcement suggests we're going to see a spike in ridership compared to past years. OC Transpo's all-time high ridership was 95,646,026, set in 2007.
The latest figures from the city show OC Transpo ridership increased by more than five per cent over the same quarter in 2009.
The city says the introduction of the U-pass was a large contributor to the spike. It's estimated the bus pass contributed to an additional 300,000 student trips each month.
Thursday, April 21, 2011
All-time high OC Transpo ridership in 2010 Q4
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Bigger people need bigger buses
The US Federal Transit Authority, similar to its Canadian counterpart, the Canadian Transit Authority, is responsible for making recommendations and regulations on mass transit. Currently, the standards by which safety on public transit is based on surveys done in the early 1960s, and don't really reflect the way people are built in today's world. From Smart Planet:
So public transit companies are going to have to make some changes (unless people in general make changes to their diet, but that doesn't seem likely). I haven't seen information about Ottawa or Canada, but in time, we're likely going to need to lower the number of people we allow on buses, or make buses bigger. Neither option is without a cost.
The Federal Transit Authority has proposed to raise the assumed average weight of a bus commuter around the United States to accommodate the increasing waistline of most Americans.
The federal agency wants to raise the assumed average weight per bus passenger from 150 pounds to 175 pounds, which could mean fewer people will be allowed to board city buses to meet safety regulations.
The authority has also proposed to add an extra quarter of a square foot of floor space per passenger on buses. With several passengers weighing far more than 200 pounds, the new system seems slightly more realistic.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
Longfields Station: All shiny and new
Monday, April 18, 2011
Southwest Transitway and Longfield Station now open
The leg continues the Transitway from the redesigned Fallowfield Station through the new Longfields Station to the Strandherd Park-n-Ride and finally the new Barrhaven Centre terminus. It's a massive undertaking that's been in the works for a few years, but will definitely improve service to Barrhaven (especially the new developments in the southwest of the suburb). Check out some photos and information on the Southwest extension here, here, or here.
With the new Transitway opening, there are also going to be some pretty substantial service changes in Barrhaven. The most notable change, aside from many buses (including the 95) now travelling down the Transitway rather than along Greenbank, is the extension of route 94 into Barrhaven.
Click the image above to see a larger image of the current Barrhaven service map, or click here to download a .PDF.
If you're a Barrhaven-based OC Transpo rider, how do you feel about these service changes?
Friday, April 15, 2011
Canada needs national transit strategy: FCM
The election campaign kicked off with a fair amount of discussion around municipal issues and public transit, but most party leaders have been derailed by political attacks on their counterparts. We'd all be better off if they stuck to the issues at hand, and make tangible promises for more funding for public transit.
Canada needs a national strategy to cut commute times, improve public transit, and bridge gaps in the national transportation system. All parties must commit to dedicating funding for public transit in the long-term fiscal framework; legislate clear targets for increasing access to public transit; and implement supportive tax policies, including a tax-deductible, employer-provided public transit pass; and work with provinces, territories, and municipalities to prioritize and address strategic gaps in Canada’s air, rail, road, and marine networks.
As a first step, all parties should commit to invest more of the federal taxes Canadians already pay at the gas pump in shorter commutes and better public transit. In addition to its existing Gas Tax Fund, the federal government must dedicate a share of its current gas tax revenues to replace $400 million in recently expired federal transit funding.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
The superbus is super-awesome
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
Fewer mechanical failures on OC Transpo
The quarterly performance report shows the lowest mechanical failure rate for the Transit Service in over a year.
OC Transpo says 99.38 per cent of scheduled vehicle hours were placed into service in the October to December period.
OC Transpo says the lowest mechanical failure rate in over a year reflects an increase in bus maintenance reliability.
It's great that service isn't interrupted as frequently because there are fewer mechanical problems. But honestly, this should be expected: OC Transpo is spending tens of millions of dollars modernizing the fleet, and there are likely tens of millions more to be spent in the coming year on double-decker buses. New buses require less maintenance than older ones, and older ones are being moved out of the fleet; those two factors combine to greatly reduce the mechanical problems. When the new OC Transpo garage is opened, it should be even less frequent for service to be interrupted.
That's not to take anything away from OC Transpo mechanics, as they're still most certainly doing hard work. But a more modern fleet and a state-of-the-art garage do make it easier on them.
Monday, April 11, 2011
Could Ottawa use a commuter ferry?
Friday, April 8, 2011
Through the eyes of an OC Transpo driver
I've done a bit of soul searching over the years as I deal with the public. I've come to the realization that treating people well is a great feeling. It makes my job better, and it makes my life better. The concept of 'paying it forward' is such a happy place to live. The more I do it, the better I feel. Having said that, I still use the same phrase "I'm really sorry, but I have to ask everyone to pay." when faced with someone who asks to board for free. Paying it forward does not mean I need to be a doormat.It's an interesting perspective that few have been privy to, but hopefully drivesincircles (and perhaps some of his peers at OC Transpo) will be willing to continue posting so we get a better idea of what they've got to deal with.
Thursday, April 7, 2011
Good news in OC Transpo negotiations
No one from the city has been quoted recently about negotiations, but there's little doubt that nobody wants a transit strike. Hopefully negotiations continue fairly and uneventfully, and we find a mutually acceptable solution before the fact that there is currently no contract becomes a big issue.
“The contract has expired, but at this point in time the union wants to finish what wasn’t finished in the 2008 contract — the scheduling issues, and when that is finished we are ready to move to the new contract. My goal is to get this scheduling issue finished ‘ASAP’ and then let’s move on to new negotiations and get something settled there,” he said.
“We will continue working as if we are under a contract that’s been grandfathered, and hopefully someday soon, we will start collective bargaining for 2011.”
Once the old issues are settled, Queale said the union will start serious bargaining to reach an agreement that works for the workers and the city.
“I don’t want a work stoppage or strike. We want to negotiate in good faith and get a deal for the membership that we can live with, and that doesn’t jeopardize transit users,” he said.
Wednesday, April 6, 2011
Food etiquette on public transit: How far is too far?
So I ask readers out there: Where do you draw the line with eating on public transit? Is it ever okay?
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
New Park-n-Ride lot may come to Scotiabank Place
Councillor Shad Qadri originally floated the idea of setting up a parking lot for OC Transpo commuters at the Kanata arena. Hubley says a parking lot would provide "all kinds of new parking spaces overnight," adding the City wouldn't have to buy a field to create a new Park & Ride lot. The Councillor says talks are "going very well" between the City and the Ottawa Senators.This makes sense for a few reasons, notably taking advantage of space that would otherwise be completely vacant, and saving money by renting the lot rather than purchasing land to build and maintain a giant parking lot. There may be issues, especially on game and event days, but it seems like a step in the right direction.
Monday, April 4, 2011
The economic cost of inefficient public transit
Practically, also, our senior transit officials and their political bosses don't ordinarily have enough hours in the day to do the business we want them to do. These people have a lot more places to be in a day than the average white-collar worker. The more time they spend in transit, so to speak, the less time they're actually working.
This all speaks to a larger problem, though: The fact that having slow, inefficient public transit is costing our people, our cities, and our national economy greatly. While I have no way of measuring it, I can hardly imagine the economic cost of lost productivity as a result of ever-lengthening commutes in cities.
The real solution to this problem is a pretty obvious one: Have people work closer to where they live, or live closer to where they work. But this isn't always an option. When it isn't, finding innovative ways to get commuters from point A to point B as quickly as possible, but also as cheaply as possible, if the best we can hope for.
Adding more roads is the typical solution, but more roads rarely (if ever) provide a long-term solution to traffic congestion in Canada's big cities. Investing in public transit can improve the capacity and service level (including time, comfort, and environmental cost), but it's always a challenge for cities due to the unpredictable nature of transit funding from federal and provincial partners, and the fact that municipalities simply can't foot the bill on their own.
In a recent article in the Globe and Mail, the fact that Canada doesn't have and hasn't ever had a national transit stategy to fund municipal projects was lamented, and many explained the need to make it an election issue this year.
“We would certainly hope that one of the key issues that this election is fought on is around a national transit strategy,” said Board of Trade president and CEO Carol Wilding. “There has to be a vision brought to it across all levels of government.” Unlike other countries, Canada has never had a national transit strategy. Although Ottawa has grown increasingly involved in transit over the past 10 years, averaging investments of about $600-million a year, the funding remains ad hoc, with no predictability. In the lead-up to this week’s federal budget, the mayors of some of Canada’s largest cities appealed to Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to address transit and the $123-billion urban infrastructure deficit.
Both the NDP and Liberal parties have recently outlined plans for a national transit funding strategy for Canada. The Conservative Party, while in government, has been willing to fund transit projects--including $600M for Ottawa's current project, among others--but neither they nor the Green Party have committed to putting one in place.
For cities to adequately plan and fund transit projects, consistent and predictable funding is of utmost importance. Through a national transit strategy, whoever ends up running this country acter May 2 could guarantee their cities exactly that.
Friday, April 1, 2011
Three bus operators on Ottawa's "Sunshine List" by earning over $100k
- Balwant Narula, $100,492.08 plus $1,311.43 in taxable benefits
- Francois Danis, $103,008.21 plus $1,324.44 in taxable benefits
- Abdirizak Mohamed $104,827.53 plus $1,289.82 in taxable benefits
- Alain Mercier (General Manager, Transit Services), $186,116.70 plus $7,511.55 in taxable benefits
- William Atkinson (Chief, Transit Maintenance), $145,239.01 plus $12,224.13 in taxable benefits
- Laurie Blackstone (Manager, Transit Operations), $122,574.84 plus $380.45 in taxable benefits
- Stephane Carbonneau (Manager, Transit Capital Project & Facilities Maintenance), $113,190.13 plus $360.86 in taxable benefits
- Lynne Huneault (Strategic Advisor, Transit Management-Union Relations), $111,860.23 plus $353.69 in taxable benefits
- Robert Denault (Transit Supervisor), $110,813.34 plus $335.64 in taxable benefits
- Pat Scrimgeour (Manager, Transit Service Design), $109,598.21 plus $359.58 in taxable benefits
- Randy Guthro (Transit Supervisor), $102,994.56 plus $451.13 in taxable benefits
- Wallace Devries (Transit Supervisor), $101,571.50 plus $335.64 in taxable benefits