To Mayor Jim Watson and Members of the Ottawa City Council,
In April 2019, Ottawa’s City Council passed a motion acknowledging that we face a ‘Climate Emergency’ stating that there is “a need for massive reduction in carbon emissions in the next 11 years.” The City has also set a target to reduce per capita Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions below 2012 levels by 20% by 2024 and 80% by 2050.
These goals cannot be achieved without widespread changes in transportation. The transportation sector in Ottawa accounts for approximately 40% of the city’s GHG emissions. By adopting measures to encourage public transit instead of private vehicles the City of Ottawa could cut GHG emissions up to two thirds per trip.
COVID-19 poses a grave threat to transforming transportation. Public transit ridership has plummeted as people have lost jobs and/or workhours, moved to working from home or are limiting social interactions. The consequent loss of fare revenue has thrown OC Transpo into a deficit exceeding $120M as of July and estimated at $150M by December 2020, and raises the spectre of service cutbacks.
To meet the goals of Climate and Social Justice in the wake of COVID -19, we need bold measures that attract people to public transit and away from dependence on private automobiles. No single measure advances this better than making transit ‘fare free’.
We call on you to commit to making Ottawa’s public transit system ‘Fare Free’ in the foreseeable future.
We further call on you to ask the Federal government to make its emergency funding for transit permanent, and sufficient to replace the pre-COVID-19  fare revenue
The City’s Role
- We call on you to make transit ‘fare free’ for those receiving OW or ODSP benefits
Of course, more affordable transit is of limited value if the transit system doesn’t reliably and safely take you where you want to go. Based on comments at public forums on transit and ‘Transit Week’ Challenges, we have identified 5 key changes that would bring highly desired immediate improvements and set the stage for others in the future.
We further call on you to:
- Add 50 buses to the weekend service.
- Create neighbourhood bus routes to link residents to local health and social services, community centers, shopping, and entertainment. Priority areas include Vanier, Bay Ward, West Ottawa and Barrhaven.
- Add 40 vehicles to the Para Transpo fleet (a 20% increase).
- Create bus-only lanes during rush hour on the routes with the most habitually late buses (i.e 6, 7, 15 (new #12), 21, 39, 55 (new #103) 75 (new #95), 80, 85 and 87).
- Directly elect the 4 citizen representatives on the Transit Commission and replace 2 of the 8 Counselors on the Transit Commission with representatives of the transit workers union [ATU Local 279]
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* – Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan, https://ottawa.ca/en/planning-development-and-construction/official-plan-and-master-plans/air-quality-and-climate-change-management-plan-aqccmp
** – Ottawa Insights, https://www.ottawainsights.ca/themes/environment-and-sustainability/transportation/
*** – City of Ottawa. Air Quality & Climate Change Management Plan for the City of Ottawa 2014, https://ottawa.ca/en/planning-development-and-construction/official-plan-and-master-plans/air-quality-and-climate-change-management-plan-aqccmp