OC Transpo announced the return of free New Year's Eve service, starting at 8 p.m., according to the City press release. Service on the last day of the year will follow a reduced weekday schedule. Last year, free service ended at 4 a.m.
A year ago, Sparks Street held its first outdoor New Year's Eve party, where thousands were anticipated to attend and they did. The combination of free transit service and a highly publicized downtown outdoor event boosts ridership, especially late at night. Increasing bus service in downtown to meet demand for the last night of the year should be the most logical thing to do, but it hasn't happened for whatever reason. Neither in this year's nor in last year's press release was there any mention of supplementary transit service after midnight. We usually know well in advance from OC Transpo about any additional bus service for large events, like Canada Day or Bluesfest.
I didn't attend the Sparks Street event last year, but I remember reading through people's tweets about full buses and wait times of over half an hour. That hardly sounds like a pleasant experience for anyone getting back home on public transit. Similar to last year's, bus schedules for the last day of 2013 indicate headways of 20-30 minutes after midnight for some of the popular routes like the 12, 95, 96. and 97. It's the kind of service you expect on a late Tuesday night, not on New Year's Eve.