OC Transpo offering free transit on New Year’s Eve despite public health advice to stay home

OTTAWA — OC Transpo is offering free rides on New Year’s even again this year, even through Ottawa Public Health is recommending people only celebrate the holidays with members of their household only.

“The risks associated with impaired driving remain prevalent, and by offering no-charge transit with mandatory masks and other safety precautions we can help reduce impaired driving while maintaining a safer transit system,” said OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi in a statement to CTV News Ottawa on Thursday.

On Wednesday, the transit service announced that OC Transpo and Para Transpo will be “no-charge” after 8 p.m. on Dec. 31. The free service is in partnership with Mother’s Against Drunk Driving Ottawa and the Safer Roads Ottawa Program.

“This annual partnership is to help prevent residents from drinking and driving, and it’s been a proven success for many years,” said Manconi.

OC Transpo offers “no-charge” service on New Year’s Eve every year.

In a media release, the city said, “Remember to celebrate with members of your household, to wear a mask when using transit and follow Ottawa Public Health recommendations to prevent the spread of COVID-19 during the holiday season.”

On Tuesday, Medical Officer of Health Dr. Vera Etches reiterated that Ottawa Public Health recommends holiday celebrations “happen only with the people you already live with, virtually or physically distanced from anyone else.”

Ottawa is currently in the “orange-protect” zone of Ontario’s COVID-19 restrictions. Last call at bars and restaurants is at 9 p.m., and establishments must close at 10 p.m. 

Manconi says the decision to offer no-charge service on New Year’s Eve was made in consultation with Ottawa Public Health.

“Public health is supportive of this decision and worked with us on messaging to the public,” said Manconi.

OC Transpo is encouraging everyone to follow Ottawa Public Health guidelines regarding gatherings this holiday season:

  • Keep the number of people you interact with small:  those in your household plus essential supports.
  • For social gatherings, this can include limiting gatherings to those who live in your household and those providing essential support services such as a caregiver. 
  • If you live alone (single parent, student, etc.), one or two contacts outside your home can be important social supports to draw on.   

Manconi adds, “It is our priority to ensure that a safe and practical choice exists for those travelling on New Year’s Eve.”

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