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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