Is free transit for people on OW or ODSP a good thing?

Sally Thomas

If you follow me on Twitter (@sallycthomas1) you’ll know I have a lot of strong opinions…on a lot of things. This is different. I honestly cannot imagine a transit system that is totally free for anyone. Furthermore, I struggle to think of myself as different or more privileged than my fellow transit user, but I do feel that I am spending an awful lot of money on a service clearly not designed with me or others like me, in mind. The latest developments with the LRT demonstrate that I am, in fact, not the only one the city has let down.

Spending your whole life working to earn what others take for granted is counterintuitive to having something handed to you. As the name implies, Free Transit Ottawa is an advocacy group working really hard to make transit free….and they are starting with folks experiencing poverty, on Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). For the uninitiated, they’re provincial social assistance programs for people who need support to afford some of the necessities of life. When I heard that, my initial reaction was a resounding “No, I don’t want that.” In my mind, what’s free is typically not worth having anyway. I want my transit to work for me and am willing to pay for it.

Fast forward a couple days and a few conversations and I think I could be convinced. My initial trepidation, as I said, was (and still is) the service level and lack of accountability if I am not paying for it, what can I expect, right? Public transit is a public service and not a business. It should be run that way! That means that no matter who is paying what to use it, it behooves the city to ensure its efficacy. I know this has been brought up before; but what if every tax payer were to pay a little more tax so that we could fix the many ailments our transit system suffers from? I think most people would be okay with that. Transit is a need in every city! If all levels of government stepped up, it’s quite feasible that OC Transpo wouldn’t need our fares to run the service.

Some people on social media have raised concerns that people on OW or ODSP would lose transit benefits if transit were free and thus, they would be worse off.

At the time I write this, I don’t have much information on Ontario Works, but as an ODSP recipient, I found out from my worker that not having that transit expense would not affect a person’s income after all, since transit is not paid for outright to start with. ODSP gives people a certain amount to cover their monthly costs (including the discounted pass) and other than some exceptions, it’s up to the individual how they choose to budget their money. Urban Transit Area fares are covered IF you know to ask! I wonder if that would continue. My worker didn’t know.

In short, if government at all levels play their respective roles, I do think free transit can be more than just a dream. First the City needs to do everything possible to ensure an equitable and accountable system for all of us! Again, I look forward to the day when Transit Commission members recognize that ALL aspects of transit are important to attain true equity!

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Making transit stations safer

This has been a week for Ottawa transit – the train derailed on Sunday, the city held a long Transit Commission meeting on Monday, and a judge acquitted a transit driver in the Westboro bus crash.

On Friday, the drivers’ union asked for the overhang at Westboro to be removed as a hazard.

Remove Westboro Station overhang, bus drivers' union demands 

Earlier, an expert wrote a piece about making transit buses safer.

Shalaby: Westboro crash — We're missing opportunities to make transit buses safer 

This article mentions with amazement that the Westboro overhang is still in place – years after the accident.

“An overhang is still in place, a testament to defiance or indifference.

Is there a good reason for the overhang to remain despite mounting evidence of the risk?”

The Ottawa Transit Riders advocate for safety. We are in favour of better training for drivers and for reviewing the built environment to reduce the severity of transit accidents.

There is a whole field of “risk management” that encourages cities to use traffic calming measures and barriers to prevent accidents, but also to reduce the damage. Think of the yellow crash barrels placed at concrete walls on the highway. Sure, we would prefer that drivers avoid crashing into concrete, but if they do lose control, these barriers absorb the impact and make such crashes survivable.

Ottawa is a cold, snowy city where road conditions are often difficult. All the training in the world cannot help if a driver suffers a medical incident, or is attacked, or has to swerve to avoid a toddler on the road … what the Ottawa Transit Riders would like to see is an environment where such a crash is minor.

The problem with the Westboro station (and other similar transitway stations) is that the metal overhang is the exact height to slice through the upper level of a double-decker bus. What should have been a minor crash resulting in dents and scratches, became deadly because the overhang cut through the bus like a can opener and caused life-changing injuries.

We agree with the bus drivers’ union that these overhangs should be removed.

Moving forward, we would like the city to be proactive in reviewing all potentially dangerous barriers.

**

La semaine a été difficile pour le transport en commun à Ottawa - le train a déraillé dimanche, la ville a tenu une longue réunion de la Commission du transport en commun lundi, et un juge a acquitté un chauffeur de transport en commun dans l'accident d'autobus de Westboro.

Vendredi, le syndicat des chauffeurs a demandé que le surplomb à Westboro soit enlevé car il représente un danger.

Remove Westboro Station overhang, bus drivers' union demands 

Plus tôt, un expert a écrit un article sur la façon de rendre les bus de transport en commun plus sûrs : Shalaby: Westboro crash — We're missing opportunities to make transit buses safer 

Cet article mentionne avec étonnement que le surplomb de Westboro est toujours en place - des années après l'accident.

« Un surplomb est toujours en place, témoignage de défiance ou d'indifférence.

Y a-t-il une bonne raison pour que le surplomb reste en place malgré les preuves croissantes du risque ? »

Le groupe des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa défendent la sécurité. Nous sommes en faveur d'une meilleure formation des conducteurs et de la révision de l'environnement bâti pour réduire la gravité des accidents de transport en commun.

Il existe tout un domaine de la « gestion des risques » qui encourage les villes à utiliser des mesures de modération du trafic et des barrières pour prévenir les accidents, mais aussi pour en réduire les dégâts. Pensez aux barils de sécurité jaunes placés le long des murs de béton sur l'autoroute. Bien sûr, nous préférerions que les conducteurs évitent de percuter le béton, mais s'ils perdent le contrôle de leur véhicule, ces barrières absorbent l'impact et permettent de survivre à de tels accidents.

Ottawa est une ville froide et enneigée où les conditions routières sont souvent difficiles. Toute la formation du monde ne peut rien faire si un conducteur est victime d'un incident médical, d'une agression ou s'il doit faire un écart pour éviter un enfant sur la route... Ce que le groupe des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa aimeraient voir, c'est un environnement où un tel accident est mineur.

Le problème de la station Westboro (et d'autres stations similaires du Transitway) est que le surplomb métallique est à la hauteur exacte pour trancher le niveau supérieur d'un bus à deux étages. Ce qui aurait dû être une collision mineure se traduisant par des bosses et des éraflures est devenu mortel car le porte-à-faux a tranché le bus comme un ouvre-boîte et a causé des blessures qui ont changé la vie.

Nous sommes d'accord avec le syndicat des chauffeurs de bus pour dire que ces porte-à-faux devraient être supprimés.

À l'avenir, nous aimerions que la ville soit proactive en examinant toutes les barrières potentiellement dangereuses.

 

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Healthy Transportation Coalition video

The Healthy Transportation Coalition has released a short video filmed in 2019 talking about transportation issues in Ottawa. It features a number of people who contributed to developing the Ottawa Transit Riders, including current board member Sally Thomas and former board member John Woodhouse.

Take a moment to watch – it’s beautifully done.

Transportation Equity in Ottawa 

Keep an eye on the transportation plan – how do we build a city that serves ALL residents?

Transportation Master Plan 

 

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What does your candidate say about public transit?

The Ottawa Transit Riders are members of the Canada-wide campaign #KeepTransitMoving. In this Federal election, we are hoping that candidates support operational funding of our transit systems.

Ask your candidate where they stand on public transit.

Do they understand that public transit is a key tool in combatting climate change?

Do they value public transit for reducing congestion?

Do they support accessible public transit?

Do they agree that public transit should be affordable?

Click on the link to hear from the Canadian Urban Transit Association: Transit Keeps Canadians Moving / Cliquez sur le lien pour entendre l'Association canadienne du transport urbain : Le transport collectif fait avancer les Canadiens 

Le groupe des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa sont membres de la campagne pancanadienne #KeepTransitMoving. Dans cette élection fédérale, nous espérons que les candidats soutiennent le financement opérationnel de nos systèmes de transport en commun.

Demandez à votre candidat quelle est sa position sur le transport en commun.

Comprend-il que le transport en commun est un outil clé dans la lutte contre le changement climatique ?

Apprécie-t-elle le transport en commun pour réduire la congestion ?

Est-il favorable à l'accessibilité des transports en commun ?

Est-elle d'accord pour dire que les transports en commun doivent être abordables ?

 

 

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Very interesting panel on transit #Vote2021

On August 31st, the #KeepTransitMoving campaign hosted a panel on transit issues that should be discussed in the election. It was co-hosted by a number of transit advocacy groups, including the Ottawa Transit Riders. Three panelists: Elizabeth May, Green Party Candidate for Saanich – Gulf Islands and former leader of the Green Party of Canada, Avi Lewis, NDP Candidate for West Vancouver – Sunshine Coast - Sea to Sky Country, and Jonathan Wilkinson, Liberal Party Candidate for North Vancouver and Environment Minister took turns answering questions about public transit.

To watch the event, click on this link: Keep Transit Moving #VoteTransit2021 Townhall 

The event was lively and entertaining as each panelist advocated for their position.

Take some time to click on the link and listen to the debate.

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Transit Rally for an Emergency Meeting

On Wednesday, several city councillors held a rally calling on the mayor and the chair of the Transit Commission to reconvene to discuss the problems with the LRT.

Our flagship train broke down again this morning. For those keeping track, it has recently had problems with the brakes and experienced a broken axel. Previously, it had trouble handling the heat, the cold, snow, and ice … and sometimes the doors don’t work.

Experts with the transportation safety board have expressed concern.

Here are some interviews with councillors expressing concern and frustration, not only with the LRT, but the lack of action from the mayor.

CTV: City hall protesters demand answers on OC Transpo

CBC: Councillors rally against 'governing by memo' on LRT issues

Ottawa Now – ‘There is a lot that’s already been hidden here’: Transit users and councillors rally outside City Hall, calling for an emergency Transit Meeting

City News: Calls for more transparency around Ottawa public transit issues continue 

Problèmes à OC Transpo : des élus et résidents d’Ottawa demandent des comptes

 

And here is a facebook link to the speeches, including one from a member of the Ottawa Transit Riders calling for “truth about the train”. / Et voici un lien Facebook vers les discours, dont un d’un membre des Usagers du transport en commun d’Ottawa appelant à la « vérité sur le train ».

https://m.facebook.com/mckenneycatherine/videos/236693488359451/?refsrc=deprecated&ref=sharing&_rdr

 

Mercredi, plusieurs conseillers municipaux ont tenu un rassemblement demandant au maire et au président de la Commission de transport de se réunir à nouveau pour discuter des problèmes avec le TLR.

Notre train phare est de nouveau tombé en panne ce matin. Pour ceux qui gardent la trace, il a récemment eu des problèmes avec les freins et a connu un axel cassé. Auparavant, il avait du mal à gérer la chaleur, le froid, la neige et la glace... et parfois les portes ne fonctionnent pas.

Les experts du Bureau de la sécurité des transports ont exprimé des préoccupations.

Voici quelques entrevues avec des conseillers qui ont exprimé leur inquiétude et leur frustration, non seulement à l’égard du TLR, mais aussi à l’égard de l’inaction du maire.




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Rally for an emergency meeting regarding the LRT

In response to the recent problems plaguing Ottawa’s two-year-old LRT system, and the Transit Commission Chair’s refusal to hold a Transit Commission meeting on this important matter that daily affects the lives of residents, Councillors Shawn Menard (Capital Ward) and Catherine McKenney (Somerset Ward) will be hosting a public rally this Wednesday at 11:00 am in front of City Hall.

 

Transit Rally on Wednesday

Councillors To Hold Rail Transparency Rally

PRESS RELEASE: Community Groups Demand Emergency Transit Commission Meeting Over Safety Concerns Amid Constant News of Failing LRT System

 

En réponse aux récents problèmes qui affectent le réseau de TLR d'Ottawa, vieux de deux ans, et au refus du président de la Commission du transport de tenir une réunion de la Commission sur cette question importante qui affecte quotidiennement la vie des résidents, les conseillers Shawn Menard (Capital Ward) et Catherine McKenney (Somerset) organiseront un rassemblement public ce mercredi à 11 h devant l'hôtel de ville.

 

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Ask election candidates if they support transit

With the election in full swing, we encourage everyone who cares about transit to ask their candidates if they support public transit.

Forcing transit agencies to rely on fares is a losing proposition – rising fares discourage people from using transit; cuts to service affect teens, seniors, and low income citizens the most.

Ask candidates to support OPERATIONAL funding for public transit – it’s a win-win solution.

The Star: Ensuring public transit’s survival means more than ribbon-cutting 

Ottawa Citizen: Transit needs continued support to keep Canada moving

Avec les élections en cours, nous encourageons tous ceux qui se soucient du transport en commun à demander à leurs candidats s'ils soutiennent le transport public.
Forcer les agences de transport à dépendre des tarifs est une proposition perdante - l'augmentation des tarifs décourage les gens d'utiliser le transport en commun ; les coupures de service affectent le plus les adolescents, les personnes âgées et les citoyens à faible revenu. 
Demandez aux candidats de soutenir le financement OPERATIONNEL du transport public - c'est une solution gagnante pour tous.
 
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Public transit needs operational funding

As Canadians prepare for a Federal election, one issue that rarely gets enough attention is public transit. And yet, in light of the climate emergency, public transit is one of the best tools we have to fight climate change.

But if we want people to leave their cars at home, public transit has to be fast, reliable, comfortable, and affordable.

Right now it is none of those things.

Ensuring public transit’s survival means more than ribbon-cutting

The pandemic taught us many things – one lesson is that transit providers cannot rely on fares to keep operating. The #KeepTransitMoving campaign is an alliance of transit groups, unions, and advocates across Canada fighting for transit.

Right now, the Federal government is happily promising “capital” funds for cities to buy more buses and build more systems. This guarantees more public-private partnerships (PPPs) that funnel public money to private contractors who may, or may not (see the LRT) build adequate infrastructure.

This is not what Canadians need right now.

What we need is OPERATIONAL funding to allow cities to improve public transit systems to be fast, reliable, efficient, comfortable, safe, and affordable.

When candidates come visiting, ask them if they support operational funding for public transit.

Petition: PROTECT OUR PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTEMS 

 

**

Alors que les Canadiens se préparent aux élections fédérales, une question qui retient rarement l'attention est celle du transport en commun. Et pourtant, à la lumière de l'urgence climatique, le transport en commun est l'un des meilleurs outils dont nous disposons pour lutter contre les changements climatiques.

Mais si nous voulons que les gens laissent leur voiture à la maison, le transport en commun doit être rapide, fiable, confortable et abordable.

Actuellement, il n'est rien de tout cela.

Ensuring public transit’s survival means more than ribbon-cutting

La pandémie nous a appris beaucoup de choses, notamment que les fournisseurs de transport en commun ne peuvent pas compter sur les tarifs pour continuer à fonctionner. La campagne #KeepTransitMoving est une alliance de groupes, de syndicats et de défenseurs du transport en commun à travers le Canada qui luttent pour le transport en commun.

À l'heure actuelle, le gouvernement fédéral promet allègrement des fonds « d'investissement » aux villes pour qu'elles achètent plus de bus et construisent plus de systèmes. Cela garantit davantage de partenariats public-privé (PPP) qui acheminent les fonds publics vers des entrepreneurs privés qui peuvent, ou non (voir le TLR), construire une infrastructure adéquate.

Ce n'est pas ce dont les Canadiens ont besoin en ce moment.

Ce dont nous avons besoin, c'est d'un financement OPERATIONNEL pour permettre aux villes d'améliorer les systèmes de transport public afin qu'ils soient rapides, fiables, efficaces, confortables, sûrs et abordables.

Lorsque les candidats vous rendent visite, demandez-leur s'ils soutiennent le financement opérationnel du transport en commun.

Petition: PROTECT OUR PUBLIC TRANSIT SYSTEMS 

 

 

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Double decker buses removed from service

As you may have heard, on Monday a double-decker bus ended up in a ditch on Carling Avenue. There were passengers on board, but thankfully no-one was hurt.

OC Transpo removed 19 double-decker buses that were the same model as the one that ended up in the ditch from service.

CTV: OC Transpo pulls 19 double-deckers from service after bus winds up in ditch 

Ottawa Citizen: Transpo removes several double-deckers from road after bus goes into ditch 

CBC: OC Transpo pulls some double-deckers off road after bus ended up in ditch 

Radio-Canada : OC Transpo retire des autobus à deux étages de ses circuits après une sortie de route 

The Ottawa Transit Riders approves of OC Transpo being careful with safety. There have been several troubling incidents with double-deckers in Ottawa and customers deserve assurances that these buses are safe.

From May 2019: Ottawa firefighters extinguish double-decker bus blaze in city’s east end 

However, OC Transpo needs to be more open about their actions. We only learned that these buses had been removed from service when a city councillor filed a request.

The city and transit authorities have lost the public’s trust and they need to take some steps for customers to regain confidence in the service.

  1. OC Transpo needs to be open and honest about problems with buses and trains;
  2. Avoid “spin” and PR language – calling a derailment a “maintenance issue” is an attempt to fool the public;
  3. Listen to customer concerns about safety (fires, built environment, driver behaviour) – and address what can be fixed.

**

Comme vous l'avez peut-être entendu, lundi, un bus à deux étages a fini dans un fossé sur Carling Avenue. Il y avait des passagers à bord, mais heureusement personne n'a été blessé.

OC Transpo a temporairement retiré du service 19 autobus à deux étages du même modèle que celui qui s'est retrouvé dans le fossé.

CTV: OC Transpo pulls 19 double-deckers from service after bus winds up in ditch 

Ottawa Citizen: Transpo removes several double-deckers from road after bus goes into ditch 

CBC: OC Transpo pulls some double-deckers off road after bus ended up in ditch 

Radio-Canada : OC Transpo retire des autobus à deux étages de ses circuits après une sortie de route 

Le groupe des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa approuvent le fait qu'OC Transpo fasse attention à la sécurité. Il y a eu plusieurs incidents troublants avec des autobus à deux étages à Ottawa et les clients méritent d'être assurés que ces autobus sont sécuritaires.

De mai 2019: Ottawa firefighters extinguish double-decker bus blaze in city’s east end 

Cependant, OC Transpo doit être plus ouvert sur ses actions. Nous n'avons appris que ces autobus avaient été retirés du service que lorsqu'un conseiller municipal a déposé une demande.

La ville et les autorités de transport ont perdu la confiance du public et doivent prendre des mesures pour que les clients retrouvent confiance dans le service.

  1. OC Transpo doit faire preuve d'ouverture et d'honnêteté en ce qui concerne les problèmes liés aux autobus et aux trains ;
  2. Éviter le « spin » et le langage des relations publiques - qualifier un déraillement de « problème d'entretien » est une tentative de tromper le public ;
  3. Écouter les préoccupations des clients en matière de sécurité (incendies, environnement bâti, comportement des conducteurs) - et s'attaquer à ce qui peut être corrigé.

 

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