Para Awareness Week is coming April 26-30th

The ParaParity campaign, a group dedicated to improving ParaTranspo services in Ottawa is launching a Para Awareness Week from April 26th to April 30th this year.

Many members of the Ottawa Transit Riders use mobility aids - some ride “regular” OC Transpo buses and some rely on ParaTranspo. It is absolutely essential that we fight for accessibility in our public transit system.

In November 2020, AMI, a non-profit media company recently produced a video talking to members of the #ParaParity campaign about their challenges getting around Ottawa. Several members of Ottawa Transit Riders, including Sally Thomas, a board member, were involved.

Whether you saw it in November or not, we are re-posting it here:

Please take a moment to watch: AMI on #ParaParity

 

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MAJOR detours coming to Vanier / Des détours majeurs à Vanier

People may not be riding the bus or walking around Vanier as much as usual so they may be surprised by massive detours that are coming in April.

For information on the bus detours, please visit the OC Transpo page: Montréal Road closing on April 18

 

Note that anyone from Vanier who wants to go East (for example to the two high schools on Ogilvie), you will have to change buses.

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Les gens ne prennent peut-être pas l'autobus ou ne se promènent pas autant qu'à l'habitude à Vanier. Ils pourraient donc être surpris par les importants détours qui seront mis en place en avril.

Pour obtenir des renseignements sur les détours d'autobus, veuillez consulter la page d'OC Transpo : Fermeture du chemin de Montréal le 18 avril

 

Notez que toute personne de Vanier qui veut aller vers l'Est (par exemple vers les deux lycées sur Ogilvie), devra prendre deux bus.

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Interview on CBC

A board member (Kari) of the Ottawa Transit Riders was interviewed about transit cuts on CBC’s All in a Day. Click on the link to listen: OC Transpo Cuts Reactions

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Special Transit meeting to discuss cuts and lack of consultation

The Transit Commission held a special meeting to discuss upcoming cuts to various routes around the city. At least 19 people signed up at short notice to speak out against the cuts. Organizations like Acorn and Horizon were instrumental in encouraging people to participate.

Some people spoke about their own personal experience of dealing with inadequate service. Others expressed frustration at the sense of going backwards in our battle against climate change. We need better service to encourage people to use public transit rather than private cars. Cuts and fare increases are the opposite of what we need.

Several people called on the city to conduct robust, meaningful consultations to determine what transit riders need.

Kudos to Miranda Gray who noted that the city is putting up barriers to consultations by releasing reports or making announcements at short notice. The city is meeting its minimum requirements, but a more honest approach would be to give community groups and activists more time to engage.

Here is a sample of media reports on the special meeting / Voici des rapports des médias sur la réunion spéciale:

Residents express opposition to proposed route cuts on OC Transpo

“The reductions being proposed run right through the urban heart of the City, transit-dependent Ottawans will have to wait even longer for their buses throughout the pandemic,” said Stuart MacKay of Ottawa Transit Riders in a press release Wednesday. “These cuts are significant.”

COVID-19: Here are OC Transpo’s planned service reductions amid low transit demand

Transpo customers decry bus 'cuts' as agency adjusts service to handle reduced ridership

Nick Grover said Transpo should be talking about how to bring back riders rather than trimming service. “It’s a public service so in that regard we have to make sure it’s serving them whether it’s five or 500 using it.”

OC Transpo: des citoyens dénoncent les réductions de service

«Je demande des consultations publiques. Je ne comprends pas comment vous pouvez faire ces changements à ces services sans avoir demandé l’avis des gens qui les utilisent», a lancé Kari Glynes Elliott, porte-parole du Groupe des usagers du transport en commun d’Ottawa.

 

La Commission des transports en commun a tenu une réunion spéciale pour discuter des coupes à venir dans les différentes lignes de la ville. Au moins 19 personnes se sont inscrites au pied levé pour s'exprimer contre les coupes. Des organisations comme Acorn et Horizon ont contribué à encourager les gens à participer.

Certaines personnes ont parlé de leur expérience personnelle en matière de services inadéquats. D'autres ont exprimé leur frustration face au sentiment de régression dans notre lutte contre le changement climatique. Nous avons besoin d'un meilleur service pour encourager les gens à utiliser les transports en commun plutôt que les voitures privées. Les coupes et les augmentations de tarifs sont à l'opposé de ce dont nous avons besoin.

Plusieurs personnes ont demandé à la ville de mener des consultations solides et significatives pour déterminer les besoins des usagers du transport en commun.

Bravo à Miranda Gray qui a fait remarquer que la ville fait obstacle aux consultations en publiant des rapports ou en faisant des annonces à court terme. La ville respecte ses exigences minimales, mais une approche plus honnête consisterait à donner aux groupes communautaires et aux militants plus de temps pour s'engager.

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How to fight for transit funding

The Ottawa Transit Riders are working with advocates across Canada to advocate for secure permanent operational funding for transit systems.

Public transit is an essential service and a key component in combatting climate change. But cities, facing unexpected budget shortfalls, are already planning cuts to service.

The #KeepTransitMoving campaign has posted the following press release calling on the Federal government to step up: With Funding Set to Expire March 31st, Coalition Warns Consequences Dire if Feds Don’t Renew “Safe Restart” Transit Money

 

How do we fight potential cuts?

The Council of Canadians encourages people to call Minister of Finance, Chrystia Freeland, and your MP to demand Federal support for public transit. Click on the link for details and instructions: Call your politicians to demand operational funding.

 

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Le groupe des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa collaborent avec des militants de tout le Canada pour réclamer un financement opérationnel permanent et sûr des systèmes de transport en commun.

Le transport en commun est un service essentiel et un élément clé de la lutte contre le changement climatique. Mais les villes, confrontées à des coupes budgétaires inattendues, prévoient déjà des réductions de service.

La campagne #KeepTransitMoving (#Priorité TC) a publié le communiqué de presse suivant, qui demande au gouvernement fédéral d'agir : With Funding Set to Expire March 31st, Coalition Warns Consequences Dire if Feds Don’t Renew “Safe Restart” Transit Money

Comment pouvons-nous lutter contre cela ?

Le Conseil des Canadiens encourage les gens à appeler la ministre des Finances, Chrystia Freeland, et votre député pour exiger un soutien fédéral au transport public. Cliquez sur le lien pour les détails et les instructions : Appelez vos politiciens pour exiger un financement opérationnel.

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Open letter against upcoming transit cuts

The Ottawa Transit Riders has written the following open letter to the Transit Commission regarding their “special” meeting on Wednesday, March 31 to discuss upcoming cuts to service.

Open Letter to Transit Commission regarding the proposed transit changes

The City of Ottawa and OC Transpo surprised residents and community partners by announcing that they intend to cut a number of routes starting in June 2021. The Ottawa Transit Riders would like to express our frustration at this decision to cut transit, just as the pandemic restrictions will (hopefully) start to lift.

Public transit is an essential service, not a business. The people currently riding transit are transit dependent. Many are low income residents, many are essential workers, many have no other choice. Making low income transit riders pay for a budget shortfall is cruel and shortsighted.

Public transit is an essential tool to combat climate change. If these cutbacks discourage people from using transit and encourage more driving, we face increased traffic, increased competition for parking, and increased pollution. It will be more difficult to entice riders to return to using transit if the quality of service declines.

We are concerned with news that some early morning and late night routes will be cut - they are often essential for riders getting to and from work. We worry that with reduced frequency, riders will spend more time waiting for buses and may end up paying more if their transfers expire.

We have three specific demands:

  1. Conduct meaningful consultations between now and June with communities to determine how to provide the best possible transit service for transit dependent residents;
  2. Extend the transfer window to a minimum of two hours. (If you are cutting service so that everything takes longer, you should not penalize customers); and
  3. Commit to maintaining essential early morning and late night trips even if only a few people use those buses.

The Ottawa Transit Riders seeks to be a voice of transit riders in the city of Ottawa. We work closely with allies who advocate for environmental issues, equity concerns, poverty alleviation, and accessibility for persons with disabilities.

In future we hope to be invited to the table to discuss transit challenges as robust democratic consultation with the public tends to produce better policy results than top-down decision-making.

We hope that the Transit Commission considers our requests.

Ottawa Transit Riders

 

What can you do to express your opinion? You can submit your own letter to the Transit Commission and/or ask to speak at the meeting by emailing Eric Pelot at [email protected] You can register to speak up until the start of the meeting.

 

[Une version en français sera bientôt disponible]

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OC Transpo is planning service cuts WITHOUT public consultation

On March 31st, the Transit Commission will receive a report about proposed service cuts to OC Transpo routes to take effect this June. The Ottawa Transit Riders believe that transit route and schedule changes should be based on open and transparent consultation with riders. The people who use the transit system and who will be impacted by these changes deserve to have a say in how they get around. Unfortunately, this is not the path that OC Transpo chose:

No specific public consultation was conducted during the development of this plan; service adjustments have been developed based on ridership measurements and feedback from customers.

There is no indication of what type of customer feedback was received or how it influenced the decisions made.

The first cuts announced are for peak hour commuter connexion routes. While these cuts may be less harmful than some others, they will increase the number of transfers for peak hour commuters, a measure which could make transit less appealing. There are also references to decreasing the frequency of some routes during peak hours, which will create longer connection times for those requiring transfers and will make transit a less efficient way to get around.

Most troubling are the plans to cut some unspecified late night and early morning transit trips. These trips are essential for shift workers and low income individuals, many of whom are working for low wages and have few, if any, other transit options. These riders deserve a safe and dignified way to get to and from work, education and social activities. 

In addition, new variants of concern have made COVID-19 more transmissible and will necessitate more strict distancing measures to minimize the risk for OC Transpo riders and operators. Increasing the number of passengers per bus will increase the likelihood of coming into contact with an infected person, a risk that should be minimized.

Last year, John Manconi told members of Transit Commission that short-term service cuts were nearsighted and would take months to undo. As these cuts will take place just before summer, when many decision-makers are envisioning vaccination programs reaching the bulk of the population and more individuals returning to more traditional work arrangements, they seem ill-timed.

On a more positive note, bus service will increase on a handful of routes to provide better access to shopping and healthcare facilities. These are changes that are welcome and which will help workers by reducing the need to transfer between buses

We believe that service cuts move us in the wrong direction and should be a measure of last resort.

We believe that any changes to routes should be led by community consultation so that service can best meet the needs of local transit riders. 

We understand that the city of Ottawa is facing a financial crunch, but we disagree that the poorest and most transit dependent people in our communities should pay the price.

 

We believe that other levels of government need to step up to help make up transit shortfalls. We support the Keep Transit Moving campaign which is advocating for stable, long-term federal funding for public transit operational expenses.

 

What can you do?

 

Register to speak at the Transit Commission meeting on Wednesday March 31st by emailing Eric Pelot at [email protected]. You can register to speak up until the start of the meeting.

 

If you are nervous about speaking, you can also submit a letter.

 

Become a member of the Ottawa Transit Riders to hear about upcoming campaigns.

 

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What can you access with good transit?

There’s a saying that we only value what we can count.

Social science researchers have long struggled to figure out how to measure and count intangible things that affect the quality of our lives. Like how much time is spent in traffic? Or how much do we value shopping at a local store where we know the owner vs. shopping at a big box store?

Transit advocates want to count how and why good quality transit benefits our lives.

Here is a very interesting article about measuring how much access a person has to services (schools, shops, doctor’s offices, etc.) within a 45 minute period.

Basics: Access, or the Wall Around Your Life — Human Transit

 

If you are walking, that circle is quite small. If you are cycling, it gets bigger, especially if you have access to good bike paths. Transit advocates argue that good quality transit should provide access to more places in a short period of time.

How do we make that happen?

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Ottawa Transit Riders Joins with ATU Local 279 to Oppose On-Demand Transit, Potential Service Cuts

OTTAWA - Clint Crabtree, President of Ottawa ATU Local 279 and Stuart MacKay, a Board Member of Ottawa Transit Riders called a City Councilor’s proposal to move towards on-demand transit “nothing more than a massive service cut.” This morning, Ottawa City Councilor Carol Anne Meehan called for OC Transpo to move towards an on-demand transit system or what has also been called “micro-transit.” During last year’s budget discussions in December, Councilor Meehan called for a $10 million cut to transit operating funding but withdrew her motion at the last second due to public pressure from the ATU and local residents.

“Micro-transit isn’t the silver bullet that people think it is, in fact, it’s nothing more than a cut to public services and a massive giveaway to private companies.” said Crabtree. “On-demand transit when it is used to describe services like Paratransit isn’t the problem but replacing traditional routes like this is another way of trying to slash critical services.”

During the Fall of last year, the Ford government similarly attempted to get municipalities to sign on to micro-transit through the Safe Restart Agreement. The government predicated funding on Phase II of the Safe Restart Agreement on the requirement that municipalities working with the Province, where applicable, would determine the feasibility of implementing microtransit options on certain routes, cutting services and potentially opening it up to private service providers.

“We need more public transit, not less,” said Stuart MacKay of Ottawa Transit Riders. “We need all levels of government to invest in more frequent, accessible, and reliable service that makes public transit the first transportation choice for Ottawa residents.”  

ATU Canada along with transit rider groups from across the country have been calling on different levels of government to advocate for long-term operational funding since the beginning of the pandemic. The federal government responded with a welcome one-time injection of $2.3 billion but transit workers and riders have said that this is not enough.

“In a time where transit agencies around the country are hurting what we need now are more services not less.” said Crabtree. “If Ottawa City Council is really interested in the future of public transit then what they should be advocating for is dedicated, permanent, long-term operational funding not cuts to services that people rely on.”

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Black History Month and Transit Advocacy

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.

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