OC Transpo ridership dips again after strongest month since pandemic began

OC Transpo’s ridership dipped in October, a month after achieving its highest level since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

New numbers from OC Transpo show there were 5.6 million customer trips in October, 58 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. That’s down from 5.7 million in September, which was the highest figure since March 2020.

September ridership represented 64 per cent of pre-pandemic levels (the service originally said 63 per cent, but said Thursday it has revised that to 64 per cent after more information about U-Pass use).

In a memo to council on Thursday, transit general manager Renee Amilcar attributed the drop to reduced transit use among university students.

“Both uOttawa and Carleton University had their reading weeks in October, which decreased the trip rates for U-Pass holders,” she said. “As the U-Pass is prepaid for the entire semester, the reading weeks do not affect fare revenue.”

OC Transpo revenue was $11.7 million in October, down slightly from $11.8 million in September.

That figure is 44 per cent higher than in October 2021, but still below the forecasted fare revenue of $17.5 million in the 2022 budget.

But the ongoing ridership issues have transit advocates calling for an overhaul of the system.

“I think it’s time to have lots of options on the table,” Laura Shantz of Ottawa Transit Riders told CTV News. “Not everyone is travelling from the suburbs to a downtown office five days a week, and going in at rush hour and coming back in rush hour in the evening.”

“We need to think about other destinations that are important to our communities, and how we can provide that really good service that people need, that makes OC Transpo a first choice instead of a last choice.”

OC Transpo is projecting an $85 million deficit this year, largely due to lower-than-anticipated ridership. Earlier this week the Ford government pledged more than $63 million to help cover the deficit.

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