Looking at the NDP plans for transit

The Ottawa Transit Riders is a non-partisan group advocating for better public transit. We support measures to reduce fares. We support measures to provide operational funding so that local transit providers can offer good, reliable service.

As Ontario voters consider their options for the provincial election on June 2nd, we have reviewed the platforms of several parties regarding transit.

Politicians love providing capital funding for projects because they can cut ribbons and declare something accomplished, but capital funding is of limited use if cities cannot afford to run their expanding systems.

Likewise, short-term cash infusions are nice, but they don’t allow companies to make long-term plans.

Let’s look at the transit proposals from the NDP.

The NDP platform includes a commitment to restore provincial funding for municipal public transit and paratransit systems to 50% of their net operating costs.

The NDP is promising to eliminate private-public partnerships (P3s).

They are also planning to support several specific inter-city transportation routes – an equity issues, especially in rural Ontario. It is appalling that people who don’t have access to cars have fewer transportation options in 2022 than in previous decades.

Details can be found here on the NDP website: BETTER PUBLIC AND INTERCITY TRANSIT

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Transit Pledge for MPP candidates

The Ottawa Transit Riders is an advocacy group for reliable, affordable, accessible transit. To help voters make decisions about their representatives, we would like Ottawa area candidates to click on the link below to sign a pledge that they will advocate for public transit if they are elected.

Le group des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa est un groupe de défense des intérêts d'un transport en commun fiable, abordable et accessible. Pour aider les électeurs à prendre des décisions concernant leurs représentants, nous aimerions que les candidats de la région d'Ottawa cliquent sur le lien ci-dessous pour signer un promesse selon lequel ils défendront le transport en commun s'ils sont élus.


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Ottawa Transit Riders' statement on Liberal announcement of $1 fares

The Ottawa Transit Riders is a non-partisan group advocating for better public transit. We support measures to reduce fares. We support measures to provide operational funding so that local transit providers can offer good, reliable service.

Public transit is a public good – it allows people to get around a city even if they are too young or too old to drive or do not have access to a car or do not want to contribute to climate change.

Good public transit makes a city liveable as it reduces traffic and pollution. It is a tool for improving equity, allowing low income residents an affordable way to get around the city for work or for school or to get to daycare and medical appointments and social events.

We are delighted that the Ontario Liberal party has announced a proposal to reduce transit fares AND to provide essential operational funding for transit. (Ontario Liberals will slash all transit fares across the province to $1)

People who care about people and want to mitigate climate change should be pleased that a political party is taking public transit seriously. For far too long, public transit has been undermined despite being an essential service. In Ottawa, transit fares went up again on May 1st to an unaffordable amount for low income residents ($3.70 per ride or $125.50 for a monthly pass). We can’t keep raising fares and cutting service.

We want to hear more details - will the plan add funds to increase capacity? How will it support accessible (ie Para) transit? And what happens after 2024?

As transit advocates, we will examine the transit proposals of other parties in Ontario throughout this week.


Le groupe des usagers de transport en commun d'Ottawa est un groupe de revendication non partisan, composé de membres, qui travaille à rendre le réseau de transport en commun d'Ottawa plus abordable, fiable, accessible et sécuritaire pour les usagers. Nous appuyons les mesures visant à réduire les tarifs. Nous soutenons les mesures visant à fournir un financement opérationnel afin que les fournisseurs de transport en commun locaux puissent offrir un service de qualité et fiable.

Le transport en commun est un bien public - il permet aux gens de se déplacer dans notre ville même s'ils sont trop jeunes ou trop vieux pour conduire, s'ils n'ont pas accès à une voiture ou s'ils ne veulent pas contribuer au changement climatique.

De bons transports en commun rendent une ville vivable car ils réduisent la circulation et ainsi les embouteillages et les émissions de gaz. C'est un outil d'amélioration de l'équité, qui permet aux résident.e.s à faible revenu de disposer d'un moyen abordable de se déplacer dans la ville pour le travail ou l'école, ou pour se rendre à la garderie, aux rendez-vous médicaux et aux événements sociaux.

Nous sommes ravis que le Parti libéral de l'Ontario ait annoncé une proposition visant à réduire les tarifs de transport en commun ET à fournir un financement opérationnel essentiel pour le transport en commun. (Les libéraux de l’Ontario réduiront à 1 $ tous les tarifs de transport en commun de la province

Les personnes qui se soucient des gens et veulent atténuer le changement climatique devraient se réjouir qu'un parti politique prenne le transport public au sérieux. Pendant trop longtemps, le transport en commun a été miné alors qu'il s'agit d'un service essentiel. À Ottawa, les tarifs du transport en commun ont encore augmenté le 1er mai, atteignant un montant inabordable pour les résidents à faible revenu (3,70 $ par trajet ou 125,50 $ pour un laissez-passer mensuel). Nous ne pouvons pas continuer à augmenter les tarifs et à réduire le service.

Nous voulons entendre plus de détails - le plan ajoutera-t-il des fonds pour augmenter la capacité ? Comment soutiendra-t-il le transport accessible (c'est-à-dire para) ? Et que se passera-t-il après 2024 ? 

En tant que défenseurs du transport en commun, nous examinerons les propositions de transport en commun des autres partis politiques en Ontario tout au long de cette semaine.


Traduit avec www.DeepL.com/Translator (version gratuite)


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Getting an EquiPass should be easier

I have recently helped a friend obtain an EquiPass and I am once again horrified and frustrated at the process. I have previously joked that it is more difficult than applying for a passport, but in truth, it felt like performing an arcane ritual.

A quick reminder that the EquiPass is a reduced fare card for residents on low income. 

I helped my friend gather proof that she met the low income criteria and we sent in her application.

Two months later, a woman from OC Transpo called her but because my friend does not speak English very well, she was confused.

(By the way, there is a question on the application asking if applicants have trouble communicating to add a contact person. I was listed as my friend’s contact person, but was not contacted.)

I called OC Transpo to ask what was going on and spoke to a very nice person who gave me step-by-step directions:

  • Buy a new card (because her previous card has been deactivated)
  • Create a new account
  • Register her card
  • Wait 24 hours
  • Tap her card
  • Add money to card (or buy a pass)

I walked my friend through each step over the phone, but I made a mistake too. When Presto asked what we were trying to do, I guessed “activate a card” which was the wrong answer so we had to do it all over again.

How many low income residents of Ottawa struggle with English or French? How many get confused by the unclear directions? Why are there so many steps?

Low income residents need transit more than anyone.

These barriers seem like a deliberate attempt to limit access.

Here is Ottawa Transit Riders’ proposal. Low income residents should be able to walk into a customer service centre with their application and documentation and walk out with an EquiPass.

If it is essential to register a card, instructions should be made available in multiple languages.

Transit is an equity issue … let’s take down the barriers.


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ParaParity needs to be a priority

The Ottawa Transit Riders advocates for affordable, reliable, ACCESSIBLE public transit for all. People who use ParaTranspo have been demanding “parity” for years. They have a long list of demands:

  • Online booking
  • Same-day booking
  • Expanded hours of operation
  • No more caps on number of rides users can take
  • Access to Presto readers so they can tap their cards
  • Flexibility for pick-up and drop-off locations

In addition, users of ParaTranspo have long called for common sense scheduling – use one shared bus for customers travelling together, and have buses available at the end of events such as Senators games rather than pre-scheduled.

ParaTranspo users are often given a long window of time in which they must be ready for their bus to arrive. This makes it difficult to schedule their lives – additional time has to be factored in to make appointments and to get to work or to arrive for events. It reinforces the notion that ParaTranspo does not value their time.

Kyle Humphrey, an Ottawa-based accessibility advocate, argues that “equity” would be the freedom to have an active social life, say yes to last minute invitations to events and gatherings, plan to stay out past midnight and have the same quality experience as conventional transit riders.

Sally Thomas, an equitable transit champion who is a board member of the Ottawa Transit Riders, thinks Para Transpo could do a much better job with logistics.

The failure of the LRT occupies much of the media attention in Ottawa. Riders advocating for improved bus service are often told to wait until the LRT issues are solved. Riders who use ParaTranspo are often told that their concerns will be dealt with eventually, they just need to be patient.

This logic needs to be flipped – the concerns and demands of ParaTranspo users need to become front and centre at city hall and OC Transpo.

Users of ParaTranspo have been patient for long enough.

Following are some interesting articles about accessible transit in Ottawa:

An equitable recovery for Para Transpo

Para Transpo customers seek attention as LRT dominates transit discourse

The Good, the Bad, and the Bumpy: fearing the end of COVID mandates 

Ryan Lythall writes a regular column describing what life is like for people with disabilities in Ottawa.

He wants candidates for the upcoming elections to consider accessibility. “Sit down with us,” he says in a recent article, “and learn about our concerns regarding Para Transpo and the lack of wheelchair accessibility, including city-owned facilities.”

Attention city hall: Please stop ignoring Para Transpo riders 





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Ce que nous avons entendu sur le transport en commun gratuit

En décembre 2021, OC Transpo a offert le transport gratuit en guise d'excuses aux usagers du transport en commun. Le groupe des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa a mené un sondage pour demander aux gens comment l'expérience s'est déroulée. Vous pouvez lire le rapport complet “Ce que nous avons entendu" ici.

En conclusion - qu'avons-nous appris ?

  1. Les gens ont choisi d'utiliser le transport en commun plus souvent parce qu'il était gratuit et certaines personnes ont modifié leurs habitudes de déplacement (en faisant des trajets plus courts, en se rendant à de nouveaux endroits, etc.)
  2. De nombreuses personnes ont exprimé leur inquiétude concernant le COVID - elles craignaient de prendre des bus bondés, etc. Si la ville offrait un autre mois de transport gratuit après la pandémie, les résultats seraient peut-être différents.
  3. Les usagers du transport en commun donnent la priorité à l'abordabilité, à la fiabilité et à la fréquence.
  4. Les personnes qui utilisent ParaTranpso n'ont que peu changé leurs plans de voyage. On peut supposer que beaucoup d'entre eux sont dépendants du transport en commun et que la gratuité n'a pas modifié leurs besoins. Il faut garder cela à l'esprit lorsque nous plaidons pour une plus grande capacité - le transport en commun est une question d'équité.
  5. Les conducteurs étaient plutôt positifs quant à l'expérience, mais doutaient de la valeur de la gratuité du transport en commun à long terme.
  6. Cela rejoint l'avis des experts qui affirment qu'il est important d'offrir un transport en commun abordable (il peut être avantageux de fournir un transport en commun gratuit à des groupes spécifiques tels que les adolescents, les personnes âgées et les résidents à faible revenu), mais que le transport en commun gratuit pour tous n'en vaut probablement pas le coût. Il serait préférable de se concentrer sur un transport en commun de meilleure qualité.


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Results of survey on free transit in December

In December 2021, OC Transpo offered free transit as a kind of apology to transit riders. The Ottawa Transit Riders conducted a survey asking people how the experiment went. You can read the full “What we heard” report here.

Summary – what did we learn?

  1. People chose to ride transit more often because it was free and some people changed their travel patterns (taking shorter trips, going to new locations, etc.)
  2. Many people expressed concern about COVID – they were worried about riding crowded buses, etc. If the city offered another month of free transit post-pandemic, it might produce different results.
  3. Transit riders prioritize affordability, reliability, and frequency.
  4. The people who use ParaTranpso changed their travel plans only a little. Presumably, many are transit dependent so free transit didn’t change their needs. This needs to be kept in mind as we advocate for greater capacity - transit is an equity issue.
  5. Drivers were guardedly positive about the experience, but doubtful about the value of free transit in the long term.
  6. This tracks with experts who say that AFFORDABLE transit is important (it may be beneficial to provide free transit for specific groups such as teens, seniors, low-income residents), but that free transit for all is probably not worth the cost. It would be better to focus on better quality transit.

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Upcoming Transit Commission meeting - March 30th

One of the few ways that Ottawa residents have of expressing our frustration or demanding better transit service is attending a public Transit Commission meeting.

The last meeting on transit was November 17, 2021.

If you are thinking that that is a long time between transit meetings, you are correct. This upcoming meeting will likely run long. Here is a copy of the agenda: Transit Commission agenda 30 March 2022

You can attend online by viewing the Ottawa City Council YouTube channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUR3i_hvk3-3i8vtrPg6v1Q    

The Ottawa Transit Riders conducted a survey on the month of free transit in December – we plan on making our “what we heard” report public at the meeting.

In addition, we are advocating for ParaTranspo issues to be added as a standing item on all future agendas.

If you are interested in speaking at this meeting, please take a look at a primer we prepared for the November meeting: How to Participate 101 

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Advocating for choices in transportation

The Ottawa Transit Riders is fighting for good reliable transit because everyone deserves choice in how we get around. We work with allies advocating for active transportation options as well because everyone benefits from good public transit and safe bike lanes.

High gas prices leave commuters decrying lack of alternatives to driving (in New Brunswick)


As people fret about rising gas prices, we continue to argue that the city of Ottawa should be thinking of how to make it easy to get around without needing a car. We need to build 15-minute neighbourhoods where people can work and shop and play within an easy walk.

We need to build safe bike lanes.

We need to prioritize mobility for people with disabilities.

And we need to support a transit system that serves people all over the city, not just commuters going from suburbs to downtown. We need north-south routes and late night buses. We need fast, reliable, FREQUENT buses.

Choices are good for everyone.

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The Monitor focuses on transit

The Monitor, a bimonthly policy and current affairs magazine from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (https://policyalternatives.ca/), published several articles focusing on transit in their most recent issue. 

Here are several articles specific to Ottawa (although all articles are of interest to transit advocates)

The future of Ottawa’s transit after the light rail debacle

An equitable recovery for Para Transpo (Sally Thomas and Laura Shantz)

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