OC Transpo fare increase coming in May

One of the most expensive transit systems in North America is about to get even pricier to use.

OC Transpo fares will increase by 2.5 per cent in May, Ottawa’s transit commission heard Wednesday. The increase will bump the price of an adult monthly bus pass by $3, to $125.50 a month. Single-trip fares will rise to $3.70.

The fare increase was originally planned for Jan. 1, but council voted to delay it until the LRT system can operate with its full complement of 15 trains for a month.

Transit head Renee Amilcar told the city’s transit commission Wednesday that Rideau Transit Maintenance has been able to provide 15 trains for 20 of the first 28 days in March.

She staff are confident that 15 trains will be available daily for four weeks in April. That means the fare increase will kick in on May 1.

Many transit advocates have been pushing for fares to be frozen due to the pandemic and the city having declared a climate emergency.

However, OC Transpo is facing a large operating deficit in 2022: about a $41.3 million shortfall in fares.

OC Transpo’s monthly pass is among the most expensive in Canada, trailing only Toronto, Mississauga, Brampton and Vancouver.

Ridership continues to lag

New numbers released Wednesday show OC Transpo ridership this year is up, but continues to lag well below pre-pandemic levels.

Bus and train ridership in January and February reached 35 and 41 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, respectively. That’s up from 19 and 26 per cent in 2021.

However, it’s below OC Transpo’s forecasted levels for those months. The service had anticipated 60 per cent in January.

It has not been a typical January and February in Ottawa, though. The Omicron wave continued to affect ridership, officials said. The ‘Freedom Convoy’ trucker protest also led to many downtown routes being redirected. And there were significant snowstorms that affected service.

In December, which was free for riders due to the nearly two-month LRT shutdown in the fall, ridership reached 45 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership. Transit commission heard that the fare-free month cost the city $9 million, which it plans to recoup from Rideau Transit Group.

The year has been without typical: The trucker convoy led to many routes downtown being re-routed, there were snowstorms and the Omicron wave of COVID-19 continued to keep people at home.

Para Transpo ridership in 2021 was 42 per cent of total 2019 ridership. In December, it was 61 per cent of December 2019 ridership.

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