Before Black History Month passes us by, let’s take a few minutes to think about how Black history and transit advocacy are linked. Many know the famous story of Rosa Parks, who in 1955 refused to give up her seat to a white man on a city bus in Montgomery, Alabama. Her action was a key part of the Civil Rights Movement and sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, in which Black residents of Montgomery refused to ride public transit to protest segregation. The boycott lasted a year, from December 5, 1955 to December 20, 1956, ending when the U.S. Supreme Court declared segregation to be unconstitutional.
In more recent decades, many Black transit advocates have raised their voices to highlight discriminatory and racist treatment, including their neighbourhoods being underserved by transit, sometimes called a transit desert (Dozens of U.S. Cities Have ‘Transit Deserts’ Where People Get Stranded - Smithsonian Magazine), as well as issues of racial discrimination on transit in terms of enforcement and fare collection practices (How to fix anti-Black racism ingrained in the TTC - Toronto Star). We also know the sad reality that racial minorities, specifically Black and Indigenous individuals, are overrepresented among lower income groups here in Ottawa and throughout Canada. As a result, they are more likely to be dependent on public transit as their sole means of transportation.
This is not just a “somewhere else” problem; inequities happen here. Using data from the Ottawa Neighbourhood Study, we can see that the neighbourhoods with the highest prevalence of racialized residents are often the same neighbourhoods as those with high proportions of low-income residents. Examples include Ledbury - Herongate - Ridgemont (41.2% low income; 65.4% racialized), Bayshore - Belltown (31.4% low income, 58.6% racialized) and Parkwood Hills - Stewart Farm (37.9% low income; 52.7% racialized). None of these neighbourhoods are directly served by our LRT system (though Bayshore - Belltown will be in the future) and residents may see little benefit from the train or the associated fare hikes. These neighbourhoods are also often reliant on just a small handful of bus routes. We need to be cognizant that cuts to routes like the 44 or 86, especially cuts to evening and weekend service, will cause disproportionate harm to Black and other racialized riders. These concerns must be front of mind of transit advocates in these uncertain times, as OC Transpo may consider service reductions should funding from other levels of government not become available to cover revenue shortfalls during the pandemic.
Especially now, we recognize that our work on campaigns such as ParaParity and #FlattenTheFares is one way that we can work to combat some of the harshest inequities in our society, particularly those that affect racialized communities. Having free or low cost public transit that is frequent, comfortable and environmentally sustainable, which accommodates all riders and goes where they need to go is essential. It provides an equal playing field for those who seek access to employment, education or simply dignified access to our city’s amenities. Everyone deserves good quality public transit and we will keep working toward that goal.
Ottawa Transit Riders welcomes today's announcement by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau that the federal government will be investing $14.9 billion for public transit projects over the next eight years, but calls on the government for dedicated, permanent federal funding for operational expenses.
This stable funding will help municipalities with their public transit infrastructure projects, including the purchase of zero-emission vehicles which will lower emissions and help combat climate change.
"This is a positive step forward for public transit in Ottawa. Reliable public transit will be an important part to Ottawa's recovery from COVID-19, and this announcement will help with public transit infrastructure projects in our city," said Stuart MacKay, a Board Member of Ottawa Transit Riders.
Over the past year, the organization's membership mobilized to urge the Prime Minister and the federal government to "Keep Transit Moving" by investing in public transit.
Ottawa Transit Riders remains committed to working with our Keep Transit Moving Coalition partners in advocating for permanent federal funding for public transit operations in Canada.
MacKay said that public transit systems nationwide are still facing massive revenue shortfalls due to pandemic-related ridership declines, and will still need help in the months ahead.
Ottawa Transit Riders will continue to advocate for permanent operational funding from the federal government so that public transit in Ottawa can be reliable, accessible, and affordable for all.
For more information, contact us at [email protected]
Board members of the Ottawa Transit Riders wrote an opinion piece on why demolishing homes to make space for the LRT expansion is a bad idea. You can read their article here:
As transit advocates, of course we want the LRT improved and expanded. It needs to be accessible from every corner of the city so that residents can get around easily by train. But Ottawa has a serious housing shortage - a less than 1% vacancy rate and sky high rental prices. Transit and affordable housing are closely linked.
Ottawa needs good quality, affordable, accessible transit AND affordable housing – let’s not pit advocates of one against the other.
Some of the groups we are allied with include:
Courage Ottawa http://www.couragecoalition.ca/
Healthy Transportation Coalition https://www.healthytransportation.ca/
Ecology Ottawa https://ecologyottawa.ca/
Horizon Ottawa https://www.horizonottawa.ca/
Vanier Community Association http://www.vanier-association.com/en/
Ottawa Disability Coalition https://www.ottawadisability.com/
Free Transit Ottawa https://freetransitottawa.ca/
No Such Thing As CAN’T
Ottawa ACORN https://acorncanada.org/ottawa
We are all happy to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. Here’s a recap of some transit-related stories.
In March, City of Ottawa issued a Notice of Default to Rideau Transit Group, the company responsible for maintaining the Confederation Line, following direction from City Council. This escalation of the City’s legal rights is in response to Rideau Transit Group’s failure to address significant issues with train and station availability, and the multiple failures that have continued across the light-rail transit system since the start of the service.
The private consortium behind the O-Train's Confederation Line still hasn't provided the city with a firm timeline on when it will have the light rail system in a reliable state.
Manconi had said previously that he was holding RTG to a deadline of August 31 to deliver a fully operational light-rail line. He said he was “not confident” that would be possible, as RTG had not committed to that date — or any other — to complete the full suite of needed repairs and maintenance work.
Rideau Transit Group (RTG) announced Monday that Peter Lauch would step down as CEO of both RTG and its maintenance branch, Rideau Transit Maintenance (RTM) effective July 10, 2020.
With most OC Transpo fares set to rise on Jan. 1, transit riders and advocate groups opposing the increase are pointing out that Ottawa already has one of the most expensive systems in Canada.
The transportation committee approved a preliminary plan for a 10-kilometre LRT extension from Baseline station at Algonquin College to the site of a possible future Barrhaven downtown. Frustratingly, the plan It also displaces more than 300 low-income renters from their homes. The tenants said they are the exact sort of people who need to use transit to get around. Instead, they are losing their homes because of the project.
"Public transit is supposed to provide for low-income communities," said Peggy Rafter, "not go right through them."
CTV News: City getting four electric buses in 2021
Inspired Traveler: “A difficult year” in 2020 for the Ottawa light rail
If we have learned anything as a city during this pandemic, we now understand that running a transit system is an absolute necessity, even when it hurts our budget. Transit must be there for everyone. Even during COVID-19, transit has been a must for our many essential workers in hospitals, long-term care homes and even grocery stores. We also need to remind ourselves that transit is the solution in getting greenhouse gas levels down. We cannot have a functioning city without transit.
Youtube: ParaParity, in Ottawa
It’s been a bit discouraging to advocate for transit these days. City council seems to lack vision; they just passed a “status quo” budget that includes a 2.5% annual fare increase that will hit people in January.
I take solace that there are increasing numbers of people in Ottawa who are willing to stand up and fight. The Ottawa Transit Riders were part of a coalition of groups that developed an alternative budget. It is meant to demonstrate that we DO have choices – it would be possible to spend more on some things and less on others if only local politicians were willing. Here are some interesting articles about it:
And during this pandemic, people have taken stock of what is important and who are the truly essential workers in our economy. More and more people are realizing that transit is an essential service and cannot be run as a business.
“EKOS asked Canadians whether they agree that Ottawa should provide funding to transit agencies and, more precisely, “long term” funding. That’s a challenging question during a pandemic, when many people are focused on near-term priorities like emergency benefits and vaccine production. Yet a strong majority — 73 per cent — believe the feds should indeed offer transit this long-range commitment.”
Members of the Ottawa Transit Riders have been vocal about our demands to reduce fares and maintain service.
In which transit chair councillor Allan Hubley is quoted as saying “… So if we don’t do a fare increase, where’s the money going to come from?”
“The city is very concerned about raising taxes on wealthy homeowners and the optics of that, but when you raise the cost of an essential service like transit, you are shifting the burden from people who can afford it to people who can’t afford it, and I find that very disturbing.”
Here is an interview with John Redins who uses ParaTranspo and is an advocate for accessibility in Ottawa
KARI: Tell me a little about yourself. I hear that you once ran for public office. How long have you used ParaTranspo and how long have you been involved in public advocacy?
JOHN: I'm 55 years young from Northwestern Ontario where I sat on many committees of council in my hometown of Schreiber including Parks and Recreation, Committee Chair of Economic Development, OPP Community Policing Chair and Chair of a Community Festival.
I moved to Ottawa over 16 years ago and became a member of Ottawa ACORN. I suffered a mobility issue with both my hips locked up. As I waited for surgery, I realized there needs to be a voice for people with disabilities. I ran three times for a smaller political party in Ottawa South at the provincial level and ran for the Green Party of Canada in 2015. I also ran in two municipal elections and I was asked to put my nomination forward for both the possibility of a Federal and Provincial election next year.
KARI: We are well aware that service standards for ParaTranspo are not adequate. Can you list 3-4 of your top priorities for making ParaTranspo service better?
Equitable fares (stop charging Para customers extra to get to places like Manotick)
Full implementation of the Presto Card, not partial fixes
Completion of the Phone App
Same day bookings
KARI: The city made some promises last year – online booking, new drivers, for example. Are you happy with the changes that OC Transpo has made? How has the implementation of online booking changed your experience?
JOHN: The process has been very slow. OC Transpo’s priority has and always will be regular passenger service. The ParaParity campaign (supported by the Ottawa Transit Riders and Healthy Transportation Coalition) have put Para issues on the table. I would like to see the Transit Commission meeting add a standing agenda item to discuss ParaTranspo concerns at every meeting.
KARI: Customers of ParaTranspo are unhappy that they continue to use a system of payment that requires copying down card numbers rather than the contact-less options that customers on regular buses use. You are participating in a pilot project to test a way to use Presto on ParaTranspo. Can you give us some details? Will it be just for people with passes or also those paying per ride? How is the pilot project progressing?
JOHN: Yes, I am one of the volunteer testing the Presto card on ParaTranspo. At the moment, it works if you have a bus pass – you can just tap and go. But it doesn’t work if you want a top up fare. I have been told that it will be in the next update, but as usual, there is no date for when this will happen.
KARI: Is there anything else that you would like people in Ottawa to understand about barriers to accessibility in Ottawa?
JOHN: The thing about accessibility is that it isn’t enough to be partially accessible. Low floor buses are great, but what happens when sidewalks aren’t plowed? People who use mobility devices such as wheelchairs struggle when pavement is uneven or doesn’t line up with the next sidewalk. A customer got stuck a few weeks ago when she disembarked from a bus and discovered that the bus stop had no curb cut to allow her off the island.
Winter causes other challenges. Paths and sidewalks near low income areas are very dangerous for people using canes, wheelchairs, and walkers with the continuous snow-freezing-rain cycle. These areas lack daily inspections and are often not adequately cleared or monitored.
We need planners to consult with people with disabilities before and during construction. It’s cheaper to build right than to fix after.
I used to take the bus all the time; I dealt with sometimes being late or overcrowded on the #12. I paid cash because the extra 5 cents is nothing when a driver sees that your transfer just expired because they were late and lets you on anyways.
My eldest needs a child's fare now, so when I travel with him it costs $5.45. We often go to CHEO for appointments and essential medication. It's only 6km from my house but almost an hour by bus. We can't do the trip on a single transfer so it's $10.90 for a round trip. That adds up fast.
I bought a cargo bike when the bus got too expensive. It's not always easy carting two kids around on a bike, but I manage. With the bike, that CHEO trip takes half the time. And I don't have to worry about missed connections or buses that don't come. I really wish the bus was a more viable option. What about the people who can't bike?
We need a good public transit system that is affordable if we have any hope of meeting our emissions reduction targets. But with Covid-19 plus a fare increase, I'm worried that we're going to see people give up on transit for good. People are already worried about their safety while taking the bus or LRT and are looking for safer options.
Once we start raising fares, it's even easier to justify driving instead of taking the bus, especially since there's so much free parking everywhere. I want to do my part to make sure my kids have clean air and a stable climate, but it's hard to justify not taking a car when a day out on transit costs us $18.10 as a family of 4. Public transit should be a much more affordable option.
We know that many people are not riding transit these days, but the Montreal Road revitalization project is going to make MASSIVE changes to bus routes through Vanier. So if you used to ride a bus through Vanier and think you will probably ride a bus once this pandemic is over, please take a moment to review these proposals.
Montreal road will be one lane only (Westbound, in the direction of downtown) from St. Laurent to the Vanier Parkway starting in April 2021.
This means that all buses that used to travel on Montreal road (especially the 12) will be detoured.
Here is a map of proposed changes:
Do you have comments/concerns/suggestions? Please click on this link to provide your feedback. https://engage.ottawa.ca/montreal-road-revitalization-oc-transpo-detours
Please spread the word to friends, neighbours, and family.
Nous savons que beaucoup de gens ne prennent pas les transports en commun en ce temps à cause de la pandémie, mais le projet de revitalisation du chemin de Montréal apportera des changements MASSIFS aux lignes d'autobus passant par Vanier. Donc, si vous avez régulièrement voyagé en bus à travers Vanier et que vous pensez probablement le faire après la pandémie, prenez un moment pour examiner ces propositions.
La présentation est disponible ici en français
Le chemin de Montréal sera réduit à une seule voie (direction ouest, vers le centre-ville) de St-Laurent à la promenade Vanier à partir d'avril 2021.
Cela signifie que tous les autobus qui circulaient auparavant sur le chemin de Montréal (surtout le 12) seront détournés.
Voici une carte des changements proposés :
Avez-vous des commentaires/préoccupations/suggestions? Veuillez cliquer sur ce lien pour enregistrer vos commentaires. https://engage.ottawa.ca/montreal-road-revitalization-oc-transpo-detours
Veuillez partager les renseignements avec vos amis, voisins et famille et encouragez-les à soumettre leurs commentaires.
Traduit avec www.DeepL.com/Translator (version gratuite)
The Ottawa Transit Riders board stands with the tenants of Manor Village and all those who stand to be evicted due to the alignment of Phase 3 of the LRT. We urge the City of Ottawa to reconsider the alignment of the train and to re-examine the five other possible options for this section of track.
Displacing people and destroying affordable housing near the LRT is completely antithetical to the city’s goals. Ottawa deserves an effective public transit system, but it should not come at the cost of marginalized people, and is particularly tone-deaf in light of the City’s declaration of a housing and homelessness emergency. These evictions are cruel and unjust.
ACORN is organizing a rally in opposition to the evictions at Marion Dewar Plaza on November 25 at 9am. Members of the Ottawa Transit Riders board will be in attendance and we encourage all OTR members to attend if able.
We also urge OTR members to call the Mayor and their councillor, and to share ACORN’s online action.
ACORN's rally: https://www.facebook.com/events/376987620167171/
We want to highlight some recent articles on public transit.
First is an op-ed in the Ottawa Citizen by Bay Ward Councillor Theresa Kavanagh who argues that we need to re-consider our funding model for public transit. This crisis has shown that public transit is an essential service that needs to operate for transit dependent residents even when ridership declines.
It makes no sense to rely on fares for an essential service, especially if low ridership encourages politicians to raise fares on the people who can least afford it.
Councillor Kavanagh proposes Federal support for public transit services and we agree. The Ottawa Transit Riders is participating in a pan-Canadian campaign called #KeepTransitMoving that advocates for Federal support for public transit across the country.
Click here for more information on the Keep Transit Moving campaign.
And here is a great article on how OC Transpo’s failure affects real people. One of the interviewees is Sally Thomas, board member of the Ottawa Transit Riders. There is also a second article about OC Transpo needing to idle its buses in cold weather that should give anyone who cares about the environment conniption fits.
On November 18th, the Transit Commission voted to increase fares. Here’s an article from CBC on the vote and its implications.