As someone who has only been a member of the workforce for a few years, the situation is palpable. Ottawa is an expensive city. Rent prices and grocery prices have continued to increase across Canada. However, freezes on minimum wage keep low-income workers at the bottom of the bucket, making it very difficult to save or get ahead. I can’t help but picture how much more money I could invest into paying back my student loans if even a portion of my transit bill could be used to pay my debt. This transit increase represents yet another complete lack of awareness on the city’s part as to the financial situation of their citizens. I think that they should completely re-evaluate their equipass program and increase its availability to citizens in the lower-income sector. Currently you must make under $21,000 to qualify for reduced transit price. Either this needs to be tiered (with the separate section for those who make approximately 20-40k paying 60-75% of transit price) or the limit needs to be raised entirely. This way, the buck will be metaphorically passed to those who can afford to pay, while the system supports those that need it.
To put it in perspective, I currently spend about $1,000 a year on transit, and that’s while only working part time. This is supposed to be the cheaper option to buying a car. As Ottawa is a very spread out city, most workers are required to bus or train to work every day - this adds up quickly for someone with a low income. However, we are not a city with the expanse of Toronto. Although a functioning transit system is important in our city, it should be cheaper and easier to maintain than somewhere like Toronto, and kept as a tool for those who need it. Instead, the city is constantly investing millions in new, redundant projects. What was the point if not to save money for the city and the people? It hasn't improved the efficacy or the speed of my commute, and many people now have to make an additional transfer from train to bus. However, we are expected to shoulder the burden of most of this expense, and while the train looks good on paper as a way to promote the city, citizens have been complaining about it since its launch. The only way to fix it? More money, of course. Personally, I would have preferred a cheaper fare to a fancy train.
If you're interested in sharing your thoughts about the fare increase, send an email to [email protected]
Transit Commission 101
As you may know, Ottawa Transit Riders is part of a coalition of local groups advocating for the city to make its upcoming budget more people-friendly. We are angry that the city is proposing to raise transit fares by 2.5% in January.
Are you willing to join us? Here are three things you can do:
- Sign the petition at Horizon Ottawa to stop the fare increase: #FlattenTheFares petition
- Contact your own city councillor and ask them to vote “no” on the proposal. Click here for a list of city councillors
- Sign up to speak at the online Transit Commission meeting on November 18th. You can email Eric Pelot at [email protected] to ask to speak as a delegate.
If you are willing to speak at the Transit Meeting but are nervous about how to make your point, here’s a primer on presenting at the Transit Commission meeting, including some potential speaking points.
Next Transit Commission meeting:
- Wednesday, November 18, 2020; 9:30am (end time is variable).
Main links of interest:
- Agenda for Transit Commission meeting November 18, 2020 (link fixed)
- Ottawa City Council YouTube channel (where you can watch the meeting) https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCUR3i_hvk3-3i8vtrPg6v1Q
How do I get myself on the speakers’ list?
- To be put on the Transit Commission speakers’ list, contact Eric Pelot at [email protected] and indicate that you wish to speak at the next Transit Commission meeting (include the agenda item you wish to address).
How does it all work?
- You’ll be sent a zoom link a day or two before the meeting. If you are concerned about technology (e.g., unreliable internet), you can contact the committee coordinator for the call-in number.
- Make note of the speaking order on the agenda. This will give you a better idea of when your turn will take place, though it is important to note that your turn may arrive early if other delegates are not present.
- You may speak in your official language of choice.
- You’ll have up to five minutes to speak (although it is not necessary to use your full allotment)
- If you want to provide a slide show, send your presentation to Eric Pelot in advance.
Speaking Points (use your own words and talk about whatever you want - these notes are for guidance and consistency only)
- During this difficult time, the people riding public transit are dependent on transit. Many are essential workers, some are low income residents - it is wrong to ask them to shoulder more of the costs.
- We are in the midst of a climate emergency and cities have a responsibility to encourage people to use alternatives to private cars - raising fares DISCOURAGES people from using transit. Ottawa is moving in the wrong direction.
- The LRT has not yet proven itself reliable, especially in winter weather - we should not have to pay more for such unreliable service.
Your presentation will be much more effective if you can talk about your own experience and your own personal reasons for opposing the fare increase.
The Ottawa Transit Riders work to make Ottawa’s transit system more affordable, reliable, accessible, and safe for users.
Many of our members 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.
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.
Please take a moment to watch: AMI on #ParaParity
Open Letter to Ottawa City Council regarding the proposed OC Transpo fare increase
The City of Ottawa surprised residents and community partners by announcing that it intends to impose an annual 2.5% increase in transit fares. We, the undersigned, are troubled by this move to make life less affordable, particularly for lower income residents and essential workers.
This is a question of fairness and equity. Many low income residents are struggling during the pandemic, seeing their sources of income dry up at the same time as costs for food and other essentials are increasing. While the city has implemented several lower-cost fare options, such as the Community Pass, EquiPass and Seniors’ Pass, these often difficult-to-access measures do not help all those who need it. For example, a person working a full-time, minimum wage job is not eligible for any fare discounts and is expected to pay full fare, even though we know that their budgets are painfully stretched due to high shelter and food costs. In addition, many essential workers rely on transit; increasing fares adds to their stress levels and limits their options to get around Ottawa. Considering that Ottawa has some of the highest transit fares in Canada, it seems cruel to further burden low income residents.
In addition to concerns about the affordability of the system, it should be noted that riders need to have confidence that our transit system can get them where they need to go without significant delays or hiccups. The city’s light rail system remains questionable. Its reliability has improved during the pandemic as fewer people ride the train, but it has yet to prove that it can handle an Ottawa winter. Riders need to see a sustained period of good functioning at regular (pre-pandemic) ridership levels in order to regain confidence in the system.
Climate change is upon us and the best way any city can reduce emissions is to encourage people to walk, bike, or take transit. We know that the city can dramatically cut emissions through the use of an electrified transit network, but increasing fares discourages people from using transit and moves us farther from our goal of a livable, resilient city. In order to encourage ridership, we need an affordable, reliable and efficient transit network that serves everyone in this city - young and old, commuters and those who travel within their own neighbourhoods, individuals with limited means and those for whom cost is not an issue.
We feel that a hike in transit fares is exactly the wrong thing for the City of Ottawa to do. Transit is an essential service and a valuable tool for combating climate change. All over the world, other cities - Paris and Montreal, for example - are building active transportation routes and encouraging people to use alternatives to private cars. Ottawa is doing the opposite. We the undersigned urge Ottawa City Council to vote against increasing fares, particularly at a time when so many are struggling.
Ottawa Transit Riders
Healthy Transportation Coalition
Vanier Community Association
Ottawa Disability Coalition
Free Transit Ottawa
No Such Thing As CAN’T
Lettre ouverte au conseil municipal d'Ottawa concernant la proposition d'augmentation des tarifs d'OC Transpo
La Ville d'Ottawa a surpris les résidents et les partenaires communautaires en annonçant son intention d'imposer une augmentation annuelle de 2,5% des tarifs de transport en commun. Nous, soussignés, sommes troublés par cette décision de rendre la vie moins abordable, en particulier pour les résidents à faible revenu et les travailleurs essentiels.
C'est une question de justice et d'équité. De nombreux résidents à faible revenu luttent pendant la pandémie, voyant leurs sources de revenus se tarir en même temps que les coûts de la nourriture et des autres produits de première nécessité augmentent. Bien que la ville ait mis en place plusieurs options tarifaires moins chères, comme le Community Pass, l’EquiPass et le Seniors Pass, ces mesures souvent difficiles d’accès n’aident pas tous ceux qui en ont besoin. Par exemple, une personne qui travaille à temps plein au salaire minimum n'a droit à aucune réduction sur les tarifs et devrait payer le plein tarif, même si nous savons que leur budget est péniblement sollicité en raison des coûts élevés du logement et de la nourriture. De plus, de nombreux travailleurs essentiels dépendent du transport en commun; l'augmentation des tarifs augmente leur niveau de stress et limite leurs options pour se déplacer à Ottawa. Étant donné qu'Ottawa a un des tarifs de transport en commun les plus élevés au Canada, il semble cruel d'accabler davantage les résidents à faible revenu.
En plus des préoccupations relatives à l'abordabilité du système, il convient de noter que les usagers doivent avoir l'assurance que notre système de transport en commun peut les amener là où ils doivent aller sans retards ni problèmes importants. La fiabilité du système de tramway s'est améliorée pendant la pandémie, car moins de gens prennent le train, mais il n'a pas encore prouvé qu'il peut supporter un hiver à Ottawa. Les usagers doivent bénéficier d'une période prolongée de bon fonctionnement à des niveaux d'achalandage réguliers (avant la pandémie) afin de regagner la confiance dans le système.
Le changement climatique est à nos portes et la meilleure façon pour une ville de réduire ses émissions est d'encourager les gens à marcher, prendre leur vélo, ou les transports en commun. Nous savons que la ville peut réduire considérablement ses émissions de gaz à effets de serre grâce à l'utilisation d'un réseau de transport en commun électrifié, mais l'augmentation des tarifs décourage les gens d'utiliser le transport en commun et nous éloigne de notre objectif d'une ville vivable et résiliente. Afin d'encourager l'achalandage, nous avons besoin d'un réseau de transport en commun abordable, fiable et efficace qui dessert tout le monde dans cette ville -- jeunes et âgés, navetteurs et ceux qui voyagent dans leur propre quartier, les personnes aux moyens limités et ceux pour qui le coût n'est pas un problème.
Nous pensons qu'une augmentation des tarifs de transport en commun n'est pas la bonne chose à faire pour la ville d'Ottawa. Le transport en commun est un service essentiel et un outil précieux pour lutter contre le changement climatique. Partout dans le monde, d'autres villes - Paris et Montréal, par exemple - construisent des itinéraires de transport actif et encouragent les gens à utiliser des alternatives aux voitures privées. Ottawa fait le contraire. Nous, soussignés, exhortons le Conseil municipal d’Ottawa à voter contre l’augmentation des tarifs, en particulier à un moment où tant de personnes vivent des situations difficiles.
Le groupe des usagers de transport en commun d'Ottawa
La Coalition pour les transports sains
L'Association communautaire de Vanier
Ottawa Disability Coalition
Free Transit Ottawa
No Such Thing As CAN’T
Activist groups across Ottawa are working together to encourage politicians to re-think their old assumptions about budgets and create a budget that supports ALL residents.
As part of the #FlattenTheFares campaign, Horizon Ottawa is hosting a petition asking City Council not to raise transit fares.
Please sign and ask friends, family, and neighbours to express support for a kinder approach to transit users.
Des groupes d'activistes de tout Ottawa travaillent ensemble pour encourager les politiciens à repenser leurs anciennes hypothèses sur les budgets et à créer un budget qui soutienne TOUS les résidents.
Dans le cadre de la campagne #FlattenTheFares, Horizon Ottawa organise une pétition demandant au conseil municipal de ne pas augmenter les tarifs des transports en commun.
Veuillez signer la pétition et demander à vos amis, votre famille et vos voisins d'exprimer leur soutien à une approche plus douce à l'égard des usagers des transports en commun.
Traduit avec www.DeepL.com/Translator (version gratuite)
We are looking for your stories, experiences, and feelings about the proposed 2.5% fare increase.
Ottawa Transit Riders in collaboration with Courage Ottawa are launching a social media campaign against the fare increase. We know that Ottawans will be impacted by the fare increase, and we want to show the City leadership how their decisions will hurt the residents of Ottawa.
The campaign is simple. We will connect you with a photographer who will take a picture of you at a location significant to your transit experience. We want to show the City and OC Transpo that there are people that their decisions affect, not just “taxpayers.”
To go along with the picture will be a short write-up. We’ll provide a few open-ended questions, but feel free to speak your mind. This is an opportunity to get your voice heard. If you’re not comfortable writing something, we can schedule a one-on-one chat. If you’re more comfortable with writing, go for it.
The picture and the write-up will be featured on the Ottawa Transit Riders and Courage Ottawa social media channels.
If you’re interested in being involved with the campaign or have questions or concerns, reach out to [email protected].
There is much discussion these days on the struggle of low income residents in Ottawa. Several disability rights groups have banded together to fight for fairer financial support from provincial and federal governments.
A small number of people qualify for reduced fare passes such as the Community pass ($43.25) and the EquiPass ($58.25). However, even these reduced fare passes take a chunk out of people’s budgets. Plus the application process is complicated and cumbersome.
People who don’t qualify for reduced-fares face some of the highest transit fares in Canada. An adult pass costs $119.50 / month ($1434.00 / year) in Ottawa. Compare this to Victoria where an adult fare costs $85 per month. Or Kingston where a monthly pass is $80, London, ONT where a monthly pass is $95, or Halifax where a monthly bus pass is $82.50.
The city of Ottawa is proposing to raise transit fares by 2.5% every year starting in January 2021.
This is a huge blow to everyone who uses transit, but it is especially hard on low income residents. Transit is an essential service – to persons with disabilities, to teens, to seniors, to low income residents.
Ottawa Transit Riders is fighting to #FlattenTheFares – do you think we should be going further and advocating for Free Transit?
Here is an article from Winnipeg in 2018 about how to make cheaper fares available: Fast Facts: How to Make a Low Income Bus Pass Work
An online budget consultation will be held Monday, October 19, 2020 from 6:30PM to 8 PM hosted by
Councillor Kavanagh - Ward 7 Bay - [email protected]
Councillor Leiper - Ward 15 Kitchissippi - [email protected]
Councillor Brockington - Ward 16 River - [email protected]
To participate, please email baywardbulletin.ca or contact one of the councillors directly.
Democracy is more than a once-every-four-years exercise in voting. These consultations should be an opportunity for residents to express opinions on the direction the city should be moving and how our money should be spent.
The pandemic has shone a light on our inequalities and frailties. Where would we be without grocery staff, pharmacy employees, and healthcare workers? Did you bang pots and pans in appreciation for essential workers?
Does the budget reflect our values?
Victoria, BC has announced that it will continue to offer free transit passes to youth aged 18 years and under.
The original plan (agreed upon in 2019) was for the city to purchase about 7,000 youth passes and distribute them to eligible residents. Unfortunately, fewer youth than expected requested the passes and then transit was free for everyone during the pandemic lockdown.
For the revised plan, Victoria intends to buy fewer passes in advance and provide them upon demand.Youth passes are about $135 per year in Victoria.
The pilot project is funded by Sunday parking fares.
Could this work in Ottawa?
Youth passes are much more expensive in Ottawa - $92.25 per month or $1,107 per year.
Victoria started charging for Sunday parking in May 2019 and expects to collect between $600,000 to $1 million per year.
For such a plan to work, OC Transpo would have to reduce its youth fares and the city would have to consider charging people to park on Sundays.
Were we misled?
At first, we were relieved to hear at the September Transit Commission meeting that the Transit Commissioners believed OC Transpo should freeze fares until commissioners were satisfied that the LRT was fully functional and had proved its ability to withstand an Ottawa winter without persistent issues. During a global pandemic that has left many struggling financially, this seemed to be a sound and sensible decision.
However, on October 6th at the Finance and Economic Development Committee (FEDCO) meeting, the Mayor announced that the city is planning a 2.5% fare increase for 2021, with the exception of EquiPass, Community Pass and Seniors’ passes. During the COVID-19 lockdown, most people still riding transit are transit dependent. Increasing fares is bad for equity and will disproportionately affect these individuals who include many low income workers (grocery and retail workers, cleaners, personal support workers, etc.) and people with disabilities. Not all of these riders are eligible for discounted fares, and others do not use the lower cost programs due to the red tape, yearly hassles and lack of dignity involved in applying for them. Transit will take an increasingly large bite out of their already overstretched budgets. If we really believe in promoting equity in our community, freezing transit fares is a simple way to ensure that everyone has a safe, reliable and truly affordable way to get around.
As the Transit Commission noted, we also do not have enough confidence in the performance of the LRT to justify raising fares. We do not know if last winter’s issues have been resolved, and with lower ridership volumes it will be difficult to determine whether service is indeed improved or if the lack of ridership is simply masking issues that still exist. A fare increase should not be contemplated at a time when riders do not have full confidence in their transit system.
Finally, the decision to raise transit fares undermines the City’s declaration of a climate emergency. We know that one surefire way to reduce emissions is to reduce our use of personal vehicles and instead opt for public transit, cycling, walking or mobility devices. If we want to encourage transit usage, we need to make transit affordable and reliable so that it represents a viable, convenient and economical alternative to a personal vehicle for most trips. Increasing transit fares discourages ridership and pushes people toward continued car usage.
An increase of transit rates will make life harder for many, particularly those who can least afford to spend more money on transit. It will further reduce ridership among those who have other alternatives, and with no guarantee that the LRT will perform well in winter conditions, we do not even know if the service we are paying so much for will be reliable. Please join us in fighting for fair fares by calling, writing or reaching out on social media to your city councillor, the mayor and the transit commissioners to let them know how you feel. You can tag them in your social media posts using the hashtag #Fight4FairFares. We need to call out City Council and OC Transpo and let them know that citizens deserve a fare freeze.