We are advocating for long overdue changes to Ottawa’s transit system that would make it much more reliable, convenient, and attractive for all riders. This will improve service for those who depend on transit and help reduce emissions by drawing new riders away from cars. Further, at a time of large job losses and economic hardship, these changes would increase the number of secure, unionized jobs as part of a just recovery and transition to sustainability.

  1. Make transit fare-free for OW and ODSP recipients
  2. Add 50 buses to the weekend service
  3. Add 40 vehicles to the Para Transpo fleet
  4. Create ‘neighbourhood’ bus routes linking citizens to local services, shopping and entertainment beginning in Vanier, Bay Ward, West Ottawa and Barrhaven
  5. Create dedicated bus-only lanes during rush hours on the most habitually late bus routes: 6, 7, 15 (was 12), 21, 80, 85, 39, 75 (was 94) and 55 (was 103)
  6. Directly elect the 4 citizen representatives on the Transit Commission and replace 2 of the 8 Councilors on the Transit Commission with representatives of the transit workers union (ATU Local 279)

Fare Free Transit

The broad goals of climate and social justice include making transit ‘fare free.’  Taking this step would also serve to do away with fare enforcement, which only serves to add to the over-policing of Black, Indigenous and other people of colour.

Replacing the roughly $200M in revenue OC Transpo derives from fares is beyond the limited sources of financing available to the city in the context of the pandemic. The federal and provincial governments already committed to a Safe Restart Agreement that saw Ottawa receive $75M for transit. 

This operational funding needs to be made permanent and increased by an additional $125M. This should be based on progressive forms of taxation that target the income of Canada’s richest citizens.  The tax rate paid by individuals in the top two income brackets (those earning over $150,00 and over $214,000 annually) could be increased and/or a Wealth Tax could be imposed on Canada’s richest citizens.  For example, a Wealth Tax of a mere 1% on individuals with $20M or more in wealth would generate some $7 Billion in revenue. Ottawa’s share ($214M) based on its population would more than replace the lost fare revenue.

Financing Our New Vision

The cost of the service improvements we are calling for would be roughly $70M and could easily be financed from local sources of revenue.  Much could come from reallocating spending from road widening budgets, and there are several possibilities for financing the remainder.

The fees paid by companies like Uber and Lyft in lieu of serving disabled people are well below recommended levels and should be increased.  There is also room to impose new taxes and fees designed to reduce GHG emissions. Parking rates which have been frozen since 2008 could be increased, as could the development charges on low density suburban development that reinforces reliance on private cars.  A congestion charge could also be introduced.

Finally, the property tax system could be made more progressive so as to increase the contribution of Ottawa’s wealthiest citizens to the city’s revenue.