Public transit becomes a harder sell the further out of town you go, so it’s sad to see cuts to existing rural bus runs, like OC Transpo Route 245, which will cease service south of Manotick next month.
There are arguments in favour of the cut. It’s expected to save $25,000, and ridership on the cancelled portion was low, but it was done in a rather underhanded fashion.
During budget deliberations, the city’s budget, audit and finance committee drew up a list of $3 million worth of proposed route cuts, and then backed down in the face of public opposition. Not a single one of those cuts was made.
Route 245, however, was not on this list. It was instead targeted in a bit of a sneak attack by Coun. Glenn Brooks, who represents the area and proposed the cut late in the budgeting process.
Many of his constituents, who don’t use the service, resented paying for it, and since Brooks is responsible for the ward, nobody else on council seemingly saw any gain in opposing the cut. It was quickly approved without any input from the people it would affect.
Last Monday, an aggrieved group of Brooks’ constituents showed up at City Hall with a 170-name petition and hopes of saving Route 245.
They included Mike Nemesvary, a quadriplegic and activist for spinal cord injury research, who says his only option for getting into town now will be to shell out for Para Transpo at $27 a pop. Also in the delegation was Joaquim Rodriguez, who came from Cuba four months ago, doesn’t own a car and rides the 245 every weekday as part of his job search. These stories are not told by raw ridership numbers.
Because the cut had already been dealt with in the budget, under normal procedures it couldn’t be revisited. A special vote was taken by the transit committee on whether to give the riders of Route 245 a chance to have their say. The committee voted against letting them speak.
And so that’s it. Brooks did what he thought was right and voters will pronounce on these and other decisions in the fall.
By an administrative quirk, residents south of Manotick will still be paying a special $80 transit levy until the end of the year, even though they will no longer be getting any bus service.
This service reduction could have been debated on its own merits with public consultation. Instead, it was enacted though the back door, setting a dangerous precedent for future cuts by stealth.