OTTAWA — OC Transpo riders will pay more to board the bus and the O-Train next year, but the transit service has no plans at this time to cut service levels in 2021 to reduce costs.
“The overarching theme is no one is stranded,” said OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi as he presented the 2021 transit budget to the Transit Commission.
The 2021 draft budget includes a proposed 2.5 per cent hike in transit fares, effective Jan. 1. If approved, an adult monthly bus fare would increase $3 a month to $122.50, while a senior monthly pass will increase $1.25 to $46.75.
COVID-19 related pressures are estimated to be $62.8 million to $72.8 million for 2021. The City of Ottawa has been told that Safe Restart funding from the Ontario and Federal Governments will cover costs until the end of March. The shortfall for 2021 is expected to be between $47 million and $55 million.
The Transit Commission says if funding from the upper levels of government does not come through, a list of service cuts will be presented in the spring to find $23 million to $31 million in savings.
Manconi told the Transit Commission that OC Transpo is forecasting a $50 million to $60 million shortfall in ridership revenue next year if ridership remains low during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Manconi said the budget does not recommend cuts to routes because that would affect people who need the service the most.
“Introducing service cuts that’s going to impact those that need it most is not what we’re recommending. They depend on it for their day-to-day live, their livelihood and their wellbeing,” said Manconi.
“It will hamper your mitigation and recovery strategy; both in dealing with COVID now, from social distancing to getting people around, and the longer view in terms of recovering.”
Transit Commissioners asked Manconi about cuts to routes now, and then reinstate service at a later date as ridership increases.
“Once their instituted, recovering them and reinstituting them is a lengthy, expensive process,” said Manconi.
Staff did propose $30 million in savings to help balance the transit budget, including eliminating supplemental buses for the Confederation Line and reducing WSIB costs.
The transportation services general manager told the Transit Commission that staff are preparing for three scenarios to cover the remaining budget shortfall of $47 million to $55 million.
- Plan A: Best care scenario is additional funding from the upper levels of government
- Plan B: Use funding from the OC Transpo capital budget to backstop funding if the funding from the upper levels of government does not come through
- Plan C: $23 to $31 million in service cuts
Manconi told the Transit Commission that staff have started to work on possible service cuts, which will be presented to the Transit Commission next year.
Transit staff came up with five scenarios for ridership in 2021. The worst-case scenario is 40 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership levels, which would result in a $125 million budget shortfall. The best-case scenario is 85 per cent of pre-pandemic ridership, which would result in a $31 million budget deficit.
The Transit Commission will vote on the 2021 budget on Nov. 18.
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