Here’s an article about how we count who benefits from transit. It argues that we tend to undercount transit users when we measure only commuters.
According to research, the vast majority – about 84% of transit trips – are not straightforward home-to-work commutes. People use transit to go to school, drop kids off at daycare, go shopping, go to appointments, visit friends, etc.
If researchers just look at commuting, they’re looking at too few people. For example, the researchers looked at Boston (which has pretty good transit) and noted that only 12% of workers usually take transit to their jobs.
If you are a politician considering whether to add city resources to transit, it looks like you’re helping only a small number of people.
BUT the same study showed that in Boston, 29% of households include someone who regularly takes transit to school or work, and 56% of households use transit for at least some of their trips.
Therefore, politicians considering investments to transit need to understand that more people use transit than they realize.
What does this mean for Ottawa?
Ottawa politicians tend to focus on commuters – getting people from suburbs to downtown – often to the detriment of other routes.
Members of the Ottawa Transit Riders have been complaining that cutbacks have hit non-commuting routes especially hard (see concerns about routes 11 and 28). Other members have talked to us about how frustrating it is to have to go through the city centre when they actually want to go east or west from a point in the southern part of the city (such as Carleton University).
OC Transpo needs to re-think its approach to non-commuting routes.