To Mayor Jim Watson and Ottawa City Council

I am a resident of the City of Ottawa and I am writing to ask that you consider the transit needs of Ottawa’s most vulnerable and eliminate fares for public transit for ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) and of OW (Ontario Works) recipients.

While ODSP and OW recipients qualify for reduced transit fares, our most vulnerable residents still struggle to pay for rides.  The Community Pass, which costs $43.25 per month, asks ODSP recipients to pay 3.6 percent of their $1,169 monthly income to take public transit. An OW recipient who qualifies for an EquiPass, pays $58.25, or 8 percent of their $733 monthly income.

To put this in perspective, were Ottawa City Councilors to pay 3.6 percent of their monthly salary of $8,400 for transit, they would be paying $302/month. If they were paying 8%, the figure would be $672/month!

No one in Ottawa is asked to pay this amount. Even with the discounts, we are asking the people with the least to give up the most for transit. For many, if not most of them, this is an impossible task given the immediacy of the need to buy groceries, pay rent and/or utility bills. ODSP and OW recipients report that they cannot afford the cost of commuting to work, seeking out employment opportunities, getting together with family or attending support groups. Many even report missing essential health care appointments.

It is true that many of Ottawa’s social service agencies purchase transit tickets which they give to clients. But given their limited resources, there are never enough to meet the need. Many low-income community members have reported feelings of embarrassment in using these tickets as it requires them to declare they lack the means to pay for essential transit. 

Finally, I want to point out that the cost of transit compromises the fight against COVID-19. It is far more difficult to stock up on essentials when you can’t afford transit. This places ODSP and OW recipients at a higher risk of exposure to infection, threatening their own health as well as that of the broader community

For the ODSP and OW recipients who overwhelmingly rely on public transit to meet their transportation needs, fare-free public transit would allow them to travel throughout the city. Expanding the mobility of ODSP and OW beneficiaries opens their horizons by facilitating the social connections that cultivate a sense of belonging. Fare-free transit would mark a real step towards making Ottawa a City that is inclusive and livable for all

I am aware that 64 local organizations recently sent a letter to City Council, asking you to eliminate public transit fares for Ottawa’s beneficiaries of ODSP and OW.  I join these organizations in their effort to make our city one that lives up to the ideals of inclusion.  

Sincerely,

Organizational Endorsements

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ACORN
Action Lead, Climate Action Carleton
Action Sandy Hill
Alliance to End Homelessness
APUO
Avant Law
Benjamin Books
Black Squirrel
Board of Directors – Healthy Transportation Coalition
Britannia Woods Community House
Carlington Community Association
CAWI
Center Town Connections
Centretown Citizens Association
Centretown Community Health Centre
Centretown Emergency Food Centre
Centretown Grass Roots Group
Child Care Now Ottawa
Climate Justice Ottawa
Community Legal Services of Ottawa

Cornerstone
CUPE local 942
Dalhousie Food Cupboard
Drug Users Advocacy League
Ecology Ottawa
Equal Chance
Federation of Community Associations
Free Transit Ottawa
Gotta Go
Harmony House
Heron Park Community Association
Hintonberg C.A.
Immigrant Women Services Ottawa
Interval House
James Coulter Law
Kanata Beaverbrook Community Association
Katimivak-Hazeldean Community Association
Lowertown Community Association
Nepean, Rideau & Osgoode Community Resource Centre
No Such Thing as Can’t
Octopus Books

ODAWA
Orléans-Cumberland Community Resource Centre
Ottawa Biosphere Eco City
Ottawa Carleton Association for Persons with Developmental Disabilities
Ottawa Coalition to End Violence Against Women
Ottawa Community Food Partnership
Ottawa Disabilities Coalition
Ottawa Health Coalition
Ottawa Transit Riders
Overbrook Comm Association
Parkdale Food Centre
Planned Parenthood Ottawa
PSAC-NCR | AFPC-RCN
St. Luke’s Table
St. Mary’s Home
The Board of Horizon Ottawa’
The Bridge Engagement Center
The Catholic Centre for Immigrants, Ottawa
Traffic and Safety Committee of the Old Ottawa South Community Association (OSCA)
Vanier Community Association
Women’s March Ottawa