Fare freeze won’t cut it, fed up OC Transpo riders say


Despite a fare freeze extension ordered by Ottawa city council Wednesday, some public transit users remain hot under the collar over what they’re calling poor service by OC Transpo.


Many transit users say they’re fed up with cancellations and breakdowns as the aging bus fleet chugs toward the light rail finish line.

Back in February, John Manconi, the city’s general manager of transportation services, admitted the city’s public transit system was unreliable, and said the problem would only be addressed once LRT is up and running.

The Rideau Transit Group (RTG) has failed meet four deadlines to deliver the $2.1-billion Confederation Line to the city. It was originally due on May 24, 2018.

Regular cancellations

Now, more than a year later, Stefan Ruest said he and other transit users in the city are paying the price.

I’m helpless. If the bus doesn’t show up, I’m stuck there. There’s nothing I can do.

– Stefan Ruest

“I’m helpless. If the bus doesn’t show up, I’m stuck there. There’s nothing I can do,” Ruest said.

Ruest tries to catch the Route 267 at 6:58 a.m. each weekday near his home in Kanata’s Glen Cairn neighbourhood, but said it’s cancelled three to five times a week.

“It’s been tough to try to plan to get to work for 8 o’clock every morning because a lot of the times the bus won’t show up,” Ruest said.

“Then I’ll show up [at work] at a quarter to nine and I’ll have to explain to my bosses why I’m late again for the second time this week, the 10th time this month,” he added.

Ruest said transit users need real incentives — not just a fare freeze — to keep using OC Transpo.

Commuter Stefan Ruest, who takes the 267 bus each morning, says he’s noticed an increase in cancelled buses in the last few months. 0:41

Frequent breakdowns

For Steve Horvath, another OC Transpo customer, frequent bus breakdowns are the problem. He travels from the Canadian Tire Centre park-and-ride to his job downtown, normally on the 261 or 263.

Horvath said in his experience, the buses fail to make it to their final destination between two and four times a month.

“So it happens quite often on the highway where you have to wait for a replacement bus,” Horvath said.

Aside from the breakdowns, Horvath said the service is fairly good and he’s hopeful things will improve once LRT comes online.

Stittsville Coun. Glen Gower said he understands the frustration riders are feeling, and is working with OC Transpo to solve the problems.

“People have every right to be frustrated,” Gower said. “The level of service that people are having, the delays, the cancellations, the crowded buses — this is not what anyone should expect, and it’s not what the City of Ottawa wants to deliver.”

Steve Horvath said bus breakdowns are becoming a frustratingly regular part of his daily commute. (Robyn Miller/CBC)

‘We do understand’

In a written statement, Troy Charter, director of transit operations, said OC Transpo delivers approximately 8,500 trips per day, approximately 98% of which go as planned. 

That means that on average, about 170 trips are cancelled each day. 

“We recognize that cancelled trips have an impact on our customers and we have seen a decrease in our reliability in recent months,” Charter said.

“We do understand how frustrating cancelled trips can be for customers and staff are working diligently to minimize the impact and provide the best service possible.”