Bus riding is an act of citizenship. You burn less fossil fuel, pollute less, and reduce traffic. The federal government made bus passes tax deductible to encourage transit use.
So why did OC Transpo discourage ridership with another fare hike this month? The cheapest option for the occasional rider, the bus ticket, went up 15 per cent, from a buck to a buck-fifteen. The same trip you took in June for $2 now costs $2.30 — if the route you used to take hasn’t been cut.
Nobody rides for free, and everything has its cost, right? OC Transpo’s last annual report cited a rise in costs from $4.37 a kilometre in 2007 to $4.88 last year, an 11.7 per cent rise. Fuel costs were cited as a major cause of the increase, but a subsequent drop in gas prices has failed to produce a fare cut.
The latest hike goes towards the city’s arbitrary goal of paying at least half the cost of transit with fares, the other half coming from taxes. So we penalize those who actually use the service, which, remember, we are supposedly trying to encourage. If the logic seems a little off, so is the math.
These two sources of income are one and the same. There is but one public buying public transit. Every property owner, whether they ride the bus or not, already pays for it.
In fact, it’s the second-costliest item on the municipal tax bill at 13.33 per cent, smaller only than schools, and bigger than everything else in the city. Police, fire, roads, you name it. Renters also indirectly pay property taxes through their rent.
Then, if you actually want to ride the bus (and we wish you would), you pay again.
OC Transpo, out of the other side of its corporate mouth, talks about increasing ridership, and this spring patted itself on the back for only having lost 10 or 11 per cent of its customers during last winter’s 53-day strike.
Fortunately for them, ridership, no matter the disincentives, can only decline so far. Many of OC Transpo’s customers don’t have a choice. They have to get places, they don’t have cars, and they’ll take the bus as long as there’s a bus to take.
During the strike, some of these people lost their jobs, because many bus riders aren’t going to the sort of job where you can work from home or expense a cab or take a personal day.
Now they pay a little more for doing what we supposedly want them to do.