Councillor stresses need for Ottawa transit changes, as fares rise while ridership drops

By Jenn Pritchard

After spending the week riding OC Transpo to and from work, as part of the the Transit Week Challenge, Capital ward councillor Shawn Menard says he has experienced some of the obstacles that everyday transit users have to deal with, and some things need to change. 

As part of the challenge issued by Free Transit Ottawa, the councillor admitted he has missed meetings due to late buses, missed buses, he has had packed buses that pass right by him and buses that don't show up despite GPS information.  

Menard explained that fares will be a topic of conversation when council gets together to discuss the results of the transit challenge.

He noted that, since 2008, fares have increased by over 70 per cent. 

Menard has been quite outspoken about transit fares being too high in the past, saying the reliability doesn't match up. He would like to see more motions come to the council table regarding this issue. 

“You know I think we've been using our transit as more of a cash cow than we have been using it as proper reliable services for people. When you see how much fares have gone up and the quotas that council set on 55 per cent paid by users, 45 per cent paid by the tax base, I don't think it adds up.” 

The councillor also spoke about the number of people using transit, and how the city has seen a decrease of 8-million riders since 2011.

Menard explained that the city needs to look at the big picture and not put all of its eggs in one basket. 

“Everyone is waiting with bated breath for the LRT to be a magic bullet and it's not going to be unless we get these other pieces right,” he said. “So, that's my primary concern. Let's not just push everything off, [with] continuous fare increases and wait for the LRT to solve everything when we know we have problems and will continue to have problems on multiple routes outside of the LRT.” 

He believes that public transit in Ottawa should be more affordable, more convenient, and the City of Ottawa should be looking at examples from other major cities. 

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