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    

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 (, 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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Ottawa Transit Riders statement on the occupation

Ottawa Transit Riders condemns the illegal occupation of Ottawa’s downtown core. Over the past week, our group and its members have been horrified to see what has transpired on Ottawa’s streets: Symbols of hate and intolerance brazenly displayed; businesses displaying support for 2SLGBTQ+ residents vandalized; residents verbally and physically assaulted; seniors and marginalized residents trapped in their homes; and residents forced to endure endless hours of honking on their streets, diesel fumes spilling into their homes and apartments, the threat of arson, and illegal displays of fireworks. 

Like many other organizations and advocacy groups across the city, we call on Mayor Jim Watson, Ottawa Police Chief Peter Sloly, and all other levels of government to move swiftly to end this illegal occupation of Ottawa and return the city’s streets back to its residents.

The freedom of movement of Ottawa’s transit riders is being prevented. We have heard numerous stories from our members and the public about how this illegal occupation has affected them. Stories of essential workers forced to spend hundreds of dollars on alternative means of transportation such as taxis and Ubers to get to work. Stories of young women harassed and intimidated by occupiers who have taken over areas outside downtown LRT stations. Stories of disabled transit riders unable to access ParaTranspo services due to street closures. Stories of seniors lost and abandoned because OC Transpo has not communicated route changes.

Because of this, the Board of the Ottawa Transit Riders calls on the City of Ottawa and OC Transpo to do the following:


  • Request that the Ottawa Police Service remove occupiers from key LRT stations within the occupation zone so that transit riders can enter and exit stations without fear of intimidation and harassment.
  • Increase the presence of OC Transpo Special Constables at key LRT stations within and outside of the occupation zone, notably Lyon, Parliament, Rideau, and Tremblay Stations.
  • Improve communications regarding route changes and delays to riders.


It is time to end this illegal occupation of our city. It is time to get Ottawa moving again.


Le groupe des usagers de transport en commun d'Ottawa condamne l'occupation illégale du centre-ville d'Ottawa. Au cours de la dernière semaine, notre groupe et nos membres ont été horrifiés de voir ce qui s'est passé dans les rues d'Ottawa : Des symboles de haine et d'intolérance affichés de façon éhontée ; des commerces affichant leur soutien aux résidents 2SLGBTQ+ vandalisés ; des résidents agressés verbalement et physiquement ; des personnes âgées et des résidents marginalisés piégés dans leurs maisons ; et des résidents forcés de supporter des heures interminables de klaxon dans leurs rues, des fumées de diesel se répandant dans leurs maisons et appartements, la menace d'incendie criminel et des feux d'artifice illégaux. 

Comme beaucoup d'autres organisations et groupes de pression de la ville, nous demandons au maire Jim Watson, au chef de la police d'Ottawa Peter Sloly et à tous les autres niveaux de gouvernement d'agir rapidement pour mettre fin à cette occupation illégale d'Ottawa et rendre les rues de la ville à ses résidents.

La liberté de mouvement des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa est entravée. Nos membres et le public nous ont raconté de nombreuses histoires sur la façon dont cette occupation illégale les a affectés. Nous entendons des histoires de travailleurs essentiels forcés de dépenser des centaines de dollars pour des moyens de transport alternatifs comme les taxis et les Ubers pour se rendre au travail. Des histoires de jeunes femmes harcelées et intimidées par les occupants qui ont pris possession des zones situées à l'extérieur des stations de métro léger du centre-ville. Des histoires d'usagers handicapés du transport en commun incapables d'accéder aux services de ParaTranspo en raison de la fermeture des rues. Des histoires de personnes âgées perdues et abandonnées parce qu'OC Transpo n'a pas communiqué les changements d'itinéraire.

Pour cette raison, le conseil d'administration des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa demande à la Ville d'Ottawa et à OC Transpo de faire ce qui suit :


  • Demander au Service de police d'Ottawa de retirer les occupants des stations clés du TLR dans la zone d'occupation afin que les usagers du transport en commun puissent entrer et sortir des stations sans crainte d'intimidation et de harcèlement.
  • Augmenter la présence des agents spéciaux d'OC Transpo aux stations clés du TLR à l'intérieur et à l'extérieur de la zone d'occupation, notamment aux stations Lyon, Parlement, Rideau et Tremblay.
  • Améliorer les communications avec les usagers concernant les changements d'itinéraires et les retards.


Il est temps de mettre fin à cette occupation illégale de notre ville. Il est temps de remettre Ottawa en mouvement.


Traduit avec (version gratuite)

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Stuart MacKay talking about transit and other neighbourhood issues

Enjoy a very good interview with Stuart MacKay (co-founder and board member of the Ottawa Transit Riders) talking about local activism and how to build a better, more responsive city.

Reinventing downtown Ottawa

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Survey - what did you think of FREE transit in December?

The city of Ottawa offered residents “no cost” public transit for the month of December 2021. It was meant as an apology of sorts for months of poor, inconsistent service, including weeks of the train being offline.

The Ottawa Transit Riders is an advocacy group for better transit. We have launched campaigns such as #FlattenTheFare and #FightForFairFares against rising fares and we are members of the pan-Canadian group advocating for the Federal government to provide cities with operational funding #Keep Transit Moving / Priorité TC

We would like to hear about your experience with free transit in Ottawa. Please take a moment to complete a short survey on your impressions, opinions, and demands regarding transit service.

If you ride ParaTranspo, there are specific questions about your experience.

And if you are an OC Transpo bus operator, we would like to hear your opinions.

Please pass the link around: Feedback on FREE transit in Ottawa


Qu'avez-vous pensé de l'expérience de la gratuité du transport en commun à Ottawa ?

La ville d'Ottawa a offert aux résidents un transport en commun « gratuit » pendant le mois de décembre 2021. Il s'agissait en quelque sorte de s'excuser pour des mois de service médiocre et irrégulier, y compris des semaines où le train était hors service.

Le groupe des usagers du transport en commun d'Ottawa est un groupe de défense de l'amélioration du transport en commun. Nous avons lutté contre la hausse des tarifs #FightForFairFares (Aplatissez les tarifs !) et nous sommes membres du groupe pancanadien qui demande au gouvernement fédéral de fournir aux villes un financement opérationnel #Keep Transit Moving / Priorité TC.

Nous aimerions connaître votre expérience du transport en commun gratuit à Ottawa. Veuillez prendre un moment pour répondre à un court sondage dans lequel nous vous demandons de nous faire part de vos impressions, opinions et demandes concernant le service de transport en commun.

Si vous utilisez ParaTranspo, il y a des questions spécifiques sur votre expérience.

Et si vous êtes un chauffeur d'autobus d'OC Transpo, nous aimerions connaître votre expérience.

Veuillez faire circuler le lien : Commentaires sur le transport en commun GRATUIT à Ottawa

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