Riders must ante up to meet 50-50 transit model


If higher transit fares came with better service, many riders wouldn’t mind the city’s planned increases of nearly 23 per cent by 2010, according to transit advocates.

 




But that’s not the case, they say.

 




“The problem is that we are getting the status quo,” said Jean-François Roy, president of Ottawa Transit, a citizens’ group.

 




Roy said it’s unreasonable to expect bus fares to be frozen, but he would prefer increases to stay closer to the inflation rate than the 7.5 per cent hike Ottawa has planned in each of the next three years.





Coun. Alex Cullen of the transit committee said higher interim fares (adult fares will rise $8 to $81 per month, for example) were needed to save riders from the fare-heavy, 55-45 split that had been proposed.





“In the context of this budget, getting agreement to move from 55-45 fares and taxes to 50-50 … is, in my view, a significant advance,” Cullen said.





But critics say increases should be fairly applied. Even though the cost of an express pass will rise, Roy said, it still isn’t reflecting the full cost of longer trips from outlying areas.





“The downtown is basically subsidizing those areas,” he said. “If they were to cover the real cost … the express pass would have to go up more than 20 per cent.”





While waiting for a bus downtown yesterday, Ken Cownley admitted he’s not pleased with the increases, but said it’s reasonable for fares to cover half of operations.





“It’s still cheaper than driving,” he said.





Not everyone understood, though. Algonquin College student Willow Robertson was angry her student pass will rise by $2.90 per month next year.





“The service isn’t getting any better, and now this is less money for other living expenses,” she said.















Ground to make up



  • Ottawa is moving toward having fares and property taxes equally fund transit. That’s better for riders than the 55-45 fare/tax split once proposed, but still leaves users with ground to make up in coming years since fares contribute less than taxes to the cost of operations.