What's good about transit?

With all this negative coverage about poor service, it’s easy to forget what we’re fighting for. Why do people need transit? Why do people use transit?

Here’s an article from National Express Transit (an American blog) on the 9 BENEFITS OF PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION

Smart Cities Dive goes one further with The Top 10 Benefits of Public Transportation

In Canada, The Star published Public transit benefits everyone — even those who don’t use it with an emphasis on the health benefits of public transit.


For those who don’t want to read the articles, I’ll summarize the benefits:

  1. Transit provides freedom for people who do not drive. Teens, seniors, persons with disabilities, people who do not own a car, people who do not have driver’s licenses …
  2. Transit is cheaper than driving. Even if you own a car, parking fees are considerably more expensive than transit fares.
  3. Transit is astonishingly efficient. It is estimated that each bus removes 30 cars from the road. Imagine the congestion in Ottawa if significant numbers of regular transit riders started driving instead. Or the competition for parking!
  4. Transit helps battle climate change. The single most effective thing that any individual can do to combat climate change is drive less – transit allows people the choice. Moving towards hybrid and electric buses is positive, but even regular diesel or gas-powered buses use less energy and emit fewer pollutants per rider than the equivalent number of cars would.
  5. Transit is cost effective. If climate change doesn’t motivate you, you’re probably fiscally conservative. Cities pay significant sums to build and maintain infrastructure for cars – roads, parking, enforcement, etc. Public money spent on transit improves the lives of more people and provides a better “bang-for-your-buck”

Why do I personally ride transit? I like being able to jump on and off a bus easily. I don’t like driving city streets or searching for parking. I certainly don’t like paying for parking. That 25 minutes that I spend riding the bus home from work is a kind of transition time for me – between the craziness of work and the chaos of home, I can spend a few minutes reading or playing Sudoku.

My teenage children ride the bus to work and to school and to visit friends – I no longer have to shuttle them around the city. And it’s cheaper. Our family can afford to have one car for all the things that are easier by car (hockey, camping, trips to Costco …), but we save money by biking or using transit the rest of the time.

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Transit check-in

Sam:      So what’s going on in our campaign for better transit?

Kari:       Well, transit issues have been in the news – everyone’s talking about the #OttTransitChallenge

Sam:      It’s great to see so many councillors riding the bus - 17 councillors signed up; only five bailed.

Kari:       No kidding. I was half afraid that OC Transpo would provide A+ service for the week and then the councillors would be saying – "this is fine, what is everyone complaining about?"

Sam:      Apparently not. Have you been following the tweets?

Kari:       I have. Can’t wait to hear their reviews at the end of this week!!!

Sam:      There will be a press release at City Hall on Monday at noon. Hope people come and check it out.


CBC: Transit challenge proves difficult for some councillors 

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First Public Transit Commission meeting - February 20th

The Transit Commission is having its first public meeting on February 20th and we’d like to see concerned transit riders attend. Let’s generate some buzz about this issue.

February 20th

9:30 am Champlain Room

I will be there and I’ll be pushing for more ‘democratic oversight’. I don’t want the Transit Commission to be a toothless rubber-stamp that allows OC Transpo to do whatever it wants. I want the Transit Commission to show some leadership.

  • I want ‘designated authority’ to be removed from OC Transpo
  • I want OC Transpo mandated to consult with riders and communities before they make changes to bus routes
  • I want all councillors (not just those on the commission) to have the power to approve or veto route changes that will affect their constituents
  • I also want councillors to have the power to reverse changes made in September 2018 so that routes such as 11, 12 and 28 can be restored immediately. Any future changes will require consultation.

If you’re interested in OTHER commissions that might also benefit from some pro transit pressure, here’s a list:


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The challenge for cites

Here’s Why Canadian Cities Struggle to Pay for Public Transit

An interesting (although slightly depressing) article on how difficult it is for cities to adequately fund public transit.

Here's Why Canadian Cities Struggle


“Unfortunately, cities in Canada exist in a fiscal straightjacket of sorts, with a heavy reliance on property taxes: a highly visible and politically difficult form of revenue generation.”

“Municipalities also have the least ability of any level of government to borrow money as they can’t run deficits or administer less conspicuous forms of taxes on residents. In addition, cities only receive around eight cents of every tax dollar, but own about half of the country’s public capital stock.”

"... there’s an incredibly wide range of alternative funding models that could be introduced: road pricing for cars, special taxation within a certain transit hub, allowing for an employer-provided and tax-exempt transit benefit."

"Each level of government wants to keep taxes and expenses low. But the “clean energy revolution” appears to offer up an opportunity to rethink how governments coordinate and fund transportation. Why shouldn’t that apply to public transit?"

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Transit challenge 2019

It’s very exciting to see so many councillors participating in Free Transit Ottawa’s Transit Challenge 2019.

Councillors were asked to commit to riding transit for ALL activities for the week of February 4-10th. Most councillors very bravely stepped up and Twitter is flooded with pictures of them at bus stops and on buses.

Let’s see what they learn.

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Budget consultations

So what’s next for angry transit riders while the organizing committee works on bylaws?

Well, the city is conducting budget consultations around the city. People can attend their own councillor’s meeting and push for transit issues.

Personally, I attended the Vanier consultation and I emphasized the following:

  • There should be a freeze on transit fares
  • OC Transpo should be more transparent about how the LRT is affecting current bus operations – are they siphoning money meant for operations to the cost overruns? Or did they count their chickens before they hatched and cut operations in anticipation of LRT? Either way, the city should ensure that OC Transpo has enough money to maintain the bus system.
  • The city should show some leadership on combatting climate change – they could start by charging more for parking and ride-hailing services and re-investing such user fees in transit (and biking).

Here’s a list of meetings: https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-engagement/projects/councillor-led-public-consultation-meeting-dates


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De-brief on the WORKSHOP held January 26, 2019

Kari:       So … I hear the workshop was a success?

Sam:      It WAS! Lots of really interesting, engaged people.

Kari:       What were the main issues?

Sam:      ACCESSIBILITY to start with – lots of people with disabilities, some using mobility devices. Lots of really angry people telling stories of being stuck.

Kari:       Well, we knew that would be an issue. We planned on having a sub-committee on accessibility anyways, right?

Sam:      Yup, but looks like we might need to talk about Para Transpo too.

Kari:       Right! What else?

Sam:      Cancellations of course – why are so many buses being cancelled? And resources and better information and restoring bus routes that have been snipped (hello routes 11, 12, 28 …). And pets on buses.

Kari:       So all the things we’ve been talking about for months?

Sam:      Years. Have you seen my twitter account?

Kari:       Um … yeah I have. So what’s next?

Sam:      Budget consultations are going on NOW – we need to mobilize to get people going to as many as possible. We have members in every riding so we’d like them to go to their councillor’s consultations if possible and we’d love to hear what happens.

Here’s a list of meetings: https://ottawa.ca/en/city-hall/public-engagement/projects/councillor-led-public-consultation-meeting-dates

Kari:       And the transit commission meeting is February 20th so we need to get people there demanding accountability. I want the transit commission to take back ‘designated authority’ and give councillors the power to approve and veto route changes.

Sam:      Well yeah. We just had an election where transit was a major topic – pretty sure lots of voters thought that their councillors already had such power.


Putting the public back in public transit!

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WORKSHOP - January 26, 2019

About 80-100 attendees, many using mobility devices, telling stories about poor and declining service.

Much thanks to Vincent Puhakka from Toronto TTCRiders for providing some guidance and advice.

About 25 people volunteered to sit on the organizing committee which will be tasked with drafting bylaws and voting on such issues as

-              The name

-              The vision/mission statement

-              Bylaws on membership, voting rules, code of conduct, etc.


There was some pretty good media coverage:

-              OC Transpo users forming one-voice alliance (Ottawa Citizen) 

-              'Power in numbers': Transit users unite to create advocacy group (CBC) 

-              City transit advocates hoping to create unified organization for riders (Ottawa Matters) 

-              Winter Transit woes (All in a day) 


Keep watching this website or follow us on Twitter (@OttTransitRider) or Facebook for next steps.

We have a lot to do...do you want to help? Email us!

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