Transit users face 2024 fare increase

By Wes Smiderle

Transit is always a hot topic. It's sure to continue to be as OC Transpo faces rising costs, rail troubles and declining ridership. Photo: Wes Smiderle
Despite a push at city council for a fare freeze, OC Transpo fares are increasing in 2024. Photo: Wes Smiderle

The City of Ottawa 2024 budget, approved in December 2023, will leave beleaguered public transit users facing a 2.5 percent fare increase. The OC Transpo fare increase translates into a few more cents at the fare box or about $3 more for a monthly bus pass.

Adult and youth fares have gone up from $3.70 paid through Presto card or ParaPay system ($3.75 cash) to $3.80 ($3.85 cash) while fares for seniors increased from $2.80 ($2.85 cash) to $2.90 ($2.95 cash).

Adult monthly passes have increased from $125.50 to $128.75. Youth passes have increased from $96.75 to $99.25. The cost of a senior monthly pass has increased from $47.75 to $49.

The prices of an EquiPass, Community Pass and Access pass remain unchanged. Children 12 and under still ride for free.

A group of councillors attempted to pass a motion to freeze transit fares for 2024, given the steady drop in ridership and overall lack of confidence in the O-Train line as a result of several service disruptions. The motion didn’t pass. The OC Transpo fare increase has been met with unease by riders already wary over the reliability of public transit, especially the O-Train.

Proposed route 17

In November, OC Transpo trimmed away several bus routes in preparation for the launch of portions of the Trillium Line later in 2024, while also coping with a steady drop in ridership since the COVID-19 pandemic.

However, OC Transpo officials submitted a document to council with several suggested improvements, including a “new weekday peak period route 17” that “would operate from Wateridge Village to Rideau Station via Montréal Road and Brittany.”

Route 7 is the only OC Transpo route serving Manor Park since the suspension of route 17.

The decreased service left many Manor Parker bus riders frustrated.

Affordable yet efficient

The debate surrounding the increase in fares underscores the financial pressures being faced by OC Transpo.

Last year, members of the transit commission and council repeatedly debated the delicate balance the service must somehow find between attracting and retaining riders by keeping the service affordable and efficient, while still generating enough revenue to fund it.

According to a “transit long range financial update” submitted to council last September, OC Transpo will be facing its “most significant budget pressures” in 2024 and 2025 (mostly rail costs and “debt charges”). The organization is also in the midst of a replacement cycle for its bus fleet.