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OC Transpo reducing bus service by 74,000 hours in 2024

OC Transpo will operate 74,000 fewer hours of bus service across the city of Ottawa next year as part of an overhaul of the bus route network that the transit service says is designed to improve service along “important routes” and connections to commercial and employment destinations.

Transit Services general manager Renee Amilcar says the bus route changes coming in 2024 include the “recalibration of downtown-focused commuter routes to trips that improve connectivity to community hubs such as transit stations and grocery stores” and connecting riders with the north-south Trillium Line when it opens in the spring.

A report for the Transit Commission meeting on Nov. 14 outlines the results of the Bus Route Review, which is intended to address transit use and patterns since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and to prepare for the launch of the Trillium Line next spring. The changes include cancelling many Connexion routes (200 series), redirecting service away from streets with low ridership and increasing service to 15 minutes “at most times” on main transit corridors.

In a memo to council Friday evening, Amilcar said OC Transpo’s new route network is designed to ensure a “sustainable network….to improve service reliability to 99.5 per cent.”

“Improving service reliability is key to building and maintaining a public transit system that customers and residents can have confidence in,” Amilcar says. “The service reliability target of 99.5 per cent means that out of approximately 8,000 trips delivered each weekday, no more than 40 trips would be cancelled in a single day.”

Amilcar says the current OC Transpo bus network was designed to carry 100 million passengers a year, but “recent ridership trends” has the transit system on track to carry 70 to 75 million customer trips in 2024.

OC Transpo is operating approximately 2.111 million hours of bus service in 2023. Amilcar says the new bus route network will provide 2.037 million service hours in 2024, down 3.5 per cent from this year.

The report says once the new bus route network is implemented, customers will see the following:

  • Many Connexion routes (200-series) replaced by other routes. Rapid transit routes on the Transitway will continue
  • More frequent service on many important routes in all parts of the city, with 15-minute service at most times.
  • Improved connections to O-Train Line 2 and Line 4 (The Trillium Line)
  • Improved connections between and to community hubs: More connections to commercial and employment areas, especially newer shopping areas.
  • Redirecting service away from some streets. “Streets with low ridership or that are close to other streets where service will continue,” the report says.

“Customers across the city would see a range of improvements and changes to their trips when the new bus network is implemented in Spring 2024,” Amilcar says.

“Changes include the recalibration of capacity from downtown-focused commuter routes to routes that improve connectivity to community hubs such as transit stations and grocery stores, faster travel times for customers who can take advantage of new O-Train Lines 2 and 4, routes changing where ridership is currently low, and, in some instances, a longer walking distance or an additional transfer.”

Amilcar says for customers who currently use the 200-series routes during weekday peak periods to connect to O-Train stations, “other routes will provide these areas with local service to connect them to frequent, reliable main routes that in most cases run every 15 minutes.”

The changes include transit riders in Kanata and Stittsville seeing Connexion Routes 252, 257, 265, 267 and 279 removed, with nearby service provided by other routes.  In West Ottawa and Nepean, Connexion (200 series) Routes 258 and 282 would be removed, while Barrhaven, Riverside South, Richmond and Manotick riders would see Connexion Routes 270, 271, 272, 273 and 278 cancelled. Routes 290 and 291 for South Ottawa and Alta Vista will be cancelled, and Routes 232 and 236 for East Ottawa and Orleans will be cut.

The report says the new bus route network will provide customers with “more frequent service on some major bus routes. Improved to 15-minute service.”  OC Transpo says there will also be more connections to community hubs and transit stations and faster trips for some customers, “taking advantage of O-Train Line 2.”

The review comes as OC Transpo is projecting a $40.8 million deficit in 2023 and a $35 million revenue shortfall for 2024.

While the report for the Transit Commission does not say when the new bus route network will be implemented, Amilcar says in the memo to council it will be implemented in the spring of 2024.

The general manager of Transit Services has delegated authority to make adjustments to bus and O-Train service in response to operational needs and requirements.

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