Do you notice your bus getting more crowded? OC Transpo has seen a large boost in ridership in 2010 and has reached a new record level for ridership. According to 580 CFRA, “99 million people used OC Transpo last year, up from 83 million in 2009.” OCTranspo.com reports the number as 99.3 million. Still, this is approximately a 19 percent increase in ridership, which is significant because the national average increase was only 4.1 percent. The record for the highest OC Transpo ridership was 95,646,026 in 2007.
So, what happened in 2010 that caused such a large increase? The following are some major events in 2010 that may have affected ridership:
--Update (2:26pm): The 19 percent growth may not be as large as it may seem due to the fact there was the transit strike in late 2008 and early 2009, which caused a decline in ridership during that period and immediately after the strike ended. Nevertheless, there is still an increase in ridership from 2008 to 2010.
--The Next Stop Announcement System (NSAS) was installed on over 500 buses by October according to OCTranspo.com. NSAS probably does not attract more riders, but it certainly helped the visually impaired, night users, and anyone travelling in unknown areas of the city. Riders frustrated with inconsistent stop announcements in the past were likely more satisfied with the new system too.
--The rise of gas prices in late 2010 have made car users consider taking public transit to get to work. However, there was also a fare hike in March 2010 for passes, tickets, and cash fare. Of course, the increasing price of gas had a role in the rising operating costs and fares. Taking both gas price and transit fare changes into consideration, the net effect on ridership is a bit unclear.
--Two Park and Rides opened on Millennium Boulevard in Orleans and on Leitrim Road in south Ottawa. Millennium Park and Ride can hold 168 cars while Leitrim Park and Ride can carry 292 cars. The new park and rides should be convenient, especially for those who are not within walking distance of a bus stop. Those driving from the south of Ottawa can park at Leitrim without fighting for a spot at Greenboro and being forced to take their car to work.
--In September, the U-Pass was introduced for the University of Ottawa and Carleton University students. This is probably the most significant factor in the rise of passenger volume. Peter Raaymakers wrote in April about the U-Pass' effect on ridership in the fourth quarter of 2010. The city reported an “additional 300,000 student trips each month” during that time. Although many students take public transit anyway, the U-Pass gave those who drove or biked, an extra incentive to take public transit. Since they paid for the U-Pass through tuition, they perhaps felt compelled to use it.