On March 31st, the Transit Commission will receive a report about proposed service cuts to OC Transpo routes to take effect this June. The Ottawa Transit Riders believe that transit route and schedule changes should be based on open and transparent consultation with riders. The people who use the transit system and who will be impacted by these changes deserve to have a say in how they get around. Unfortunately, this is not the path that OC Transpo chose:
No specific public consultation was conducted during the development of this plan; service adjustments have been developed based on ridership measurements and feedback from customers.
There is no indication of what type of customer feedback was received or how it influenced the decisions made.
The first cuts announced are for peak hour commuter connexion routes. While these cuts may be less harmful than some others, they will increase the number of transfers for peak hour commuters, a measure which could make transit less appealing. There are also references to decreasing the frequency of some routes during peak hours, which will create longer connection times for those requiring transfers and will make transit a less efficient way to get around.
Most troubling are the plans to cut some unspecified late night and early morning transit trips. These trips are essential for shift workers and low income individuals, many of whom are working for low wages and have few, if any, other transit options. These riders deserve a safe and dignified way to get to and from work, education and social activities.
In addition, new variants of concern have made COVID-19 more transmissible and will necessitate more strict distancing measures to minimize the risk for OC Transpo riders and operators. Increasing the number of passengers per bus will increase the likelihood of coming into contact with an infected person, a risk that should be minimized.
Last year, John Manconi told members of Transit Commission that short-term service cuts were nearsighted and would take months to undo. As these cuts will take place just before summer, when many decision-makers are envisioning vaccination programs reaching the bulk of the population and more individuals returning to more traditional work arrangements, they seem ill-timed.
On a more positive note, bus service will increase on a handful of routes to provide better access to shopping and healthcare facilities. These are changes that are welcome and which will help workers by reducing the need to transfer between buses
We believe that service cuts move us in the wrong direction and should be a measure of last resort.
We believe that any changes to routes should be led by community consultation so that service can best meet the needs of local transit riders.
We understand that the city of Ottawa is facing a financial crunch, but we disagree that the poorest and most transit dependent people in our communities should pay the price.
We believe that other levels of government need to step up to help make up transit shortfalls. We support the Keep Transit Moving campaign which is advocating for stable, long-term federal funding for public transit operational expenses.
What can you do?
Register to speak at the Transit Commission meeting on Wednesday March 31st by emailing Eric Pelot at [email protected]. You can register to speak up until the start of the meeting.
If you are nervous about speaking, you can also submit a letter.
Become a member of the Ottawa Transit Riders to hear about upcoming campaigns.