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?
- 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.)
- 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.
- Transit riders prioritize affordability, reliability, and frequency.
- 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.
- Drivers were guardedly positive about the experience, but doubtful about the value of free transit in the long term.
- 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.