OC Transpo fares will remain frozen until Ottawa’s new light rail system finally opens, city council decided Wednesday after a spirited debate.
Council did not approve a move by Coun. Diane Deans to offer an olive branch and reduce prices for frustrated customers.
Let’s be serious and show them some love in making sure we have a bus system that actually works.
– Coun. Carol Anne Meehan
Fares had been set to increase on July 1 for the first time in a year, but will now remain at their current prices until the first day of the month after the new Confederation Line opens. Council had earlier decided to forego a Jan. 1 hike.
Many councillors agreed cheaper fares wouldn’t make service more reliable.
Show riders ‘respect’
With LRT delayed a fourth time, Deans argued it was time to reduce fares in line with the reduced service.
“I don’t know how long we can just expect our customers to just stick with us if we don’t show them some respect,” said Deans, who’s worried OC Transpo’s base ridership will drop the longer LRT is delayed.
Some transit riders are turning to ride-hailing companies and taxis or showing up late to work, she said.
Mayor Jim Watson criticized Deans’s plan for being vague.
“We didn’t get elected to simply shake a money tree and somehow find money every council meeting,” Watson said.
Better service, not cheaper
A fare reduction of 30 per cent for the second half of the year would cost the city an estimated $29 million in lost revenue.
Councillors also heeded the opinion of city lawyers who said a court would be unlikely to force Rideau Transit Group to pick up the cost of the fare reduction, as Deans had proposed.
She lost her bid to reduce fares in a 6 to 18 vote.
That spirited face-off over @OC_Transpo fares is over and the vote is in. Deans loses her bid to “show riders respect” and reduce fares. #OttCity will, though, freeze fares until the first day of the month after LRT finally opens (whenever that is). #ottnews pic.twitter.com/CnN3WGY0Rs
And while the fare freeze passed unanimously, Coun. Carol Anne Meehan argued the city needs to improve bus service for riders by September as the LRT delays drag on.
“Let’s be serious and show them some love in making sure we have a bus system that actually works,” she said.
“We’re Canada’s capital and what we’re seeing out there is a disgrace. The bungling has to stop.”
The approved fare freeze is expected to cost OC Transpo about $300,000 per month.
There is no new date for Rideau Transit Group to handover the light rail system.