The Truth About Ottawa Transit (People Will Actually Use It)

On Canada Day, CTV correspondent Glen McGregor made this observation (not in his professional capacity):


I can’t speak to the competence of OC Transpo in this regard, or if it was really possible for them to meet demand on Canada Day.

Aside from reinforcing OC Transpo’s reputation for service levels, something else struck me, people–lots of people–will take the bus.

Okay, okay, I know what you’re going to say. Of course they do, on Canada Day. Of course they do, when it’s free. Of course they do, when they can’t park downtown. These objections are all true, to an extent, but they don’t really get down to the foundation of the issue.

People, Ottawans, will take OC Transpo when they are presented with the proper incentives (and correlating disincentives).

People will take the bus when they want to get downtown…when the transit is priced competitively with every facet of driving (including parking and road use)…when we don’t cater to parking (I’m looking at you, Ottawa city social media staffer)…when there is sufficient service…when they can count on that service.

So what’s our lesson here? If we really want transit to succeed, and we really want a vibrant downtown (and city), we need:

  • Reasonably priced transit: it shouldn’t cost $29 for a family of four to go on an outing.
  • Road tolls: at least during peak hours, this is how we get people out of their cars.
  • Less parking: this is just a waste of precious space, and an inducement to not use transit.
  • Properly priced parking: this is just subsidizing people who don’t use transit.

But…and this is important: the city needs to invest in transit. We need better service. We need more buses on the roads. We need to stop tailoring our transit system to commuters. The bus needs to serve all needs.

So, yeah, we can do this, if we ever have the political will.

One thought on “The Truth About Ottawa Transit (People Will Actually Use It)

  1. Pingback: A tale of two transit experiences | Steps from the Canal

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