Ottawa's Transit Fares From a Global Perspective

[caption id="" align="alignright" width="300"]A westbound #97 bus near Lincoln Fields Station A westbound #97 bus near Lincoln Fields Station (Photo credit: Wikipedia)[/caption]

Due to a motion passed by the Transportation Committee and City Council in November of 2012, OCTranspo fares increased yet again on July 1, 2013. Ottawa’s ever increasing fares have led to the city’s decline as a sustainable city in comparison with other world cities and Canadian capitals; Ottawa’s cash fares are among the most expensive in the country as are the UPasses utilized by university students. High costs of transit makes transit less appealing and more challenging. It is likely some people will opt to drive over taking transit if they believe it is cheaper to do so. Affordable transit is integral to creating a sustainable and healthy environment for a city’s population as it will decrease private automobile use and subsequent greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, some cities around the world are experimenting with free public transit to really drive up ridership.

City Council should ensure that the city’s public transit remains accessible at a low price for its users. However, on November 28, 2012, City Council approved OCTranspo’s budget which detailed up to 3% increases in its service costs. OCTranspo presented Councillors with a PowerPoint  (Item 1: Link entitled "2013 DRAFT OPERATING AND CAPITAL BUDGET – TRANSIT - Transit Services Budget 2013 October 24.ppt" Page 4) which emphasized that “Fare increases [are] capped at 2.5% overall”. However, the actual detailed budget (Item 1: Link entitled “2013 DRAFT OPERATING AND CAPITAL BUDGET- TRANSIT- 2013 Transit Draft Budget Book.pdf” Page 10) listed that Monthly Regular Adult Passes, Day Passes, E-Purse Regular fares, Regular Student Passes, Senior Passes, and Senior Ecopasses would increase by 2.6%. Cash fares were budgeted to increase by 3% on July 1, and Cash Express Fares by 3.2%. OCTranspo promised a fare increase capped at 2.5% in their public presentation to the Committee, but buried contradictory plans of greater fare increases in their report.

Not only did the budget detail fare increases over 2.5%, OCTranspo’s budget was not reflected upon on July 1. According to the budget, ticket prices were not set to increase but they increased by 15% on July 1. OCTranspo advertised a small budgetary increase of a maximum of 2.5%, but did not follow through.

Ideally, OCTranspo would have accurately detailed its budget plans in its presentation to Committee and Council. While Councillors may have believed they were voting for a small increase of 2.5% (at most), OCTranspo’s presentation was not accurate to its budget, and its budget was not accurate to the actual fare increases made. It is important for City Councillors to discourage any increase in transit fares at all and hold OCTranspo accountable for inaccuracies in their reports.

City Councillors must work hard against increasing fees—even at a seemingly low rate of 2.5%. They should be promoting sustainable modes of transportation, not approving fee increases as Ottawa’s transit fees are already higher than most in Canada. Ottawa is not doing enough to promote sustainable alternatives to driving and its Councillors could learn from other cities which have successfully kept low transit fees.

Transit Fares in Other Canadian Cities (cash fares):

Halifax: 2.25

Charlottetown: 2.25

Fredericton: 2.25

Winnipeg: 2.50

Whitehorse: 2.50

Victoria: 2.50

Yellowknife: 2.50

Regina: 2.50

Hamilton: 2.55

London: 2.75

St.John: 2.75

Vancouver: Ranges from 2.75-5.50

Quebec City: 3.00

Toronto: 3.00

Montreal: 3.00

Calgary: 3.00

Saskatoon: 3.00

Edmonton: 3.20

Gatineau: 3.30

Ottawa: 3.40

 International Cities* Transit Fares (prices converted to Canadian $):

Shanghai, China: 0.34

Jakarta, Indonesia: 0.37**

Seoul, South Korea: 0.97-1.71 (depending on area of use)

Rome: 1.36

Tokyo: 1.67 - 3.14 (based on distance travelled. 3.14 accounts for up to 40 km).

Madrid: 2.04

New York City: 2.50

Barcelona: 2.72

*Cities picked due to high population

**Jakarta received recognition from the UN on their action on climate change and transit system (


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