OC Transpo expects to cut buses 3.5 percent

OC Transpo expects to cut bus service by 3.5 percent. Plus what to do around town this week.

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Good morning!

It’s a big, big week at city hall. Draft budgets for 2024 are being presented mid-week. It’s the first real chance for the mayor and council to really set their direction for the city (the 2023 budget happened so soon after the election, there’s no real time for a dramatic course change) but now they’ve had a full year to get prepared.

But beyond that, expect marathon meetings on Lansdowne once council reviews the budget. Starting Wednesday, and possibly extending all the way through Sunday, it’ll be Lansdowne, Lansdowne, Lansdowne as councillors wrap their heads around the massive proposed project and deal with countless amendments to change its size and scope. It’s gonna be a long one.

Plenty to get to before then, so let’s get to it.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor

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Monday: +4 🌡️ +5* | 🌧 

Tuesday: +10 🌡️ -5 | 🌧

Wednesday: +2 🌡️ -5 | ☀️

(*It’s expected to be warmer overnight than during the day.)


💰 Draft budget: At Wednesday’s council meeting, draft budgets for the city and its departments will be presented to councillors. Final votes on the budget are expected Dec. 6.

🚂 Rail Stage 2: The finance committee will decide whether to approve $193 million in new funding for the construction of the Stage 2 rail extensions east, west, and south.

🏃 Lansdowne marathon: City council will debate a series of motions this week about changing the Lansdowne 2.0 plan, and ultimately approving (or not) the re-redevelopment plan. There will be an almost unprecedented five days of debate this week, running Wednesday through to Sunday. [CTV]


OC Transpo cutting service by 3.5%, dropping many routes

What happened: The city will significantly cut back bus service across the city in the spring, according to a memo from transit chief Renée Amilcar. OC Transpo will run buses for 74,000 fewer hours, a 3.5 percent reduction, as part of its cost-cutting program. The new bus schedules are expected to go into effect in April.

  • The agency has been facing large deficits and unreliable service, both for bus and train riders.  

Changing focus: The major challenge for OC Transpo is the system is designed as a commuter network to bring people from outlying areas to the core during rush hour, in a world where full-time in-the-office work is no longer the norm. 

  • With federal government offices only requiring workers in-person two or three days a week, and other office workers having more flexible schedules, the transit service has struggled to adapt from its commuter-focused design.

Pivot: In the memo, Amilcar said the agency is looking to provide 99.5 percent reliable service, meaning only 40 of the city’s 8,000 bus trips a day will be cancelled. OC Transpo will attempt to pivot to offering more service within communities. 

In the route review outline which will be debated by the Transit Commission on Tuesday, city staff lay out the five main changes people will feel with the new bus alignment:

  1. More frequent service on major routes, with the goal of 15-minute service on many;

  2. Faster north-south trips once the Trillium line is active;

  3. Main routes to have more connections to local community hubs, with a focus on shopping areas and grocery stores;

  4. Longer walking distances as routes with lower ridership are eliminated, pushing riders to more frequent major routes;

  5. Longer travel times or more transfers, as fewer routes that come frequently means individual buses need to cover more ground.

Overall, city staff said “buses will be more crowded than current levels as capacity is aligned with actual ridership.”

The build up: Laying the groundwork for the review, Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said it would not lead to cuts in service. “This is not about cost cutting. In fact, we're adding more money to the public transit budget next year,” he said in a YouTube video.

  • Both fare and taxed-based funding are expected to increase by 2.5 percent* this year at OC Transpo while the city undertakes this 3.5 percent cut of total bus trips. 

Train relief? At the start of the year, it was expected that the north-south Trillium line would be handed over to the city by now. That date has consistently been pushed back. The city now hopes to have the train running by the spring, but has moved away from setting a date. The new routes are based around the new line running and with this city’s luck with trains nothing is guaranteed.

  • Riders on LRT are feeling the squeeze right now, with many trains only running at half length, leading to crowding and passengers left on the platform.

One last thing: The city made Amilcar’s memo announcing the overall cuts to bus service public after 6:30 pm last Friday. Typically, putting out important information on the evening before a weekend is a long-standing PR tactic to bury news and minimize the attention it gets. It’s a sign the city knows the move is unpopular.

*Editor’s note: In Friday’s edition of the newsletter we wrote the transit budget was expected to rise 2.5 percent, which was incorrect. When in fact it’s the transit levy portion of the budget that is expected to rise 2.5 percent. But we won’t know the final size of the transit budget until it’s tabled later this week. The size of the overall budget change depends on the city’s growth and other factors. The Lookout regrets the error.


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🍽️ 56%: The percentage of restaurants in the city who say they’re at risk of going under because of rising costs, and lower consumer spending. [CTV]


Check out the new open positions in Ottawa.

  1. Membership dues and information management officer at the Public Service Alliance of Canada

  2. Grant officer at International Development Research Centre

  3. Event planner at the Better Business Bureau

  4. Electrician at Francis Home Environment Heating & Air Conditioning

  5. Vehicle systems engineer at the City of Ottawa

Local jobs are selected by the Lookout team and are not paid ads, unless specifically noted. 


🏛️ The city is looking at ending its insurance program for some community associations, replacing it with a grant program. Currently, only some associations are eligible for the city’s insurance, while others have to purchase their own to host events. [CBC]

🚨 A pedestrian hit by a driver Thursday night in Orléans has since died from his injuries. [CBC]

🪙 Tips at Bridgehead coffee shops are now being shared not just among staff, but portions of tips are now going to management as well. [CTV]

🏒 Several Sens decided to wear neck guards, after a former NHLer died in a skate accident in England last week. [CTV]

🩸 The loss of blood and blood products at the General hospital fire has been a challenge for staff to come back from. [Ottawa Citizen]

📺 Workers at TVO will be back on the job today after an 11-week strike ended over the weekend. Union members voted to accept wage increases of 7.7 percent over three years. [CBC]


What to do this week


📓 Renaissance, Zine 0006 Launch Event, Wednesday 6 pm: The Ottawa Design Club is launching the sixth issue of their zine, their biggest yet. With an art exhibit, food, drinks, live music and more. AtWall Space Gallery + Framing, 1090 Bank St. Donation requested.


🍂 Autumn Concert by the Ottawa Woodwind Project, Saturday 7 pm: A medley of songs to fit the season-a few spooky tunes, songs written during the war in recognition of Remembrance Day, and some old favourites inspired by the fall season. At the Unitarian Fellowship of Ottawa, 400 MacArthur Ave. Free!


🥂 Discover Champagne Collet, Wednesday 12:30 pm: A representative from Collets Americas, a producer who started in 1911 and is identified with the Art Deco period of the 1920s. At CA Paradis, 1314 Bank St. Tickets $80.


🧱 LEGO Bricks and Functions, Sunday 1 pm: Build one of several different gear-driven toys from helicopters to pirouetting ballerinas, plus the chance for kids to build their own creation afterward. At Staples in Barrhaven and Kanata. Free in Barrhaven and Kanata.

  • Based at the Canadian Geographic Society, Jill Heinerth, one of the world’s most renowned cave divers, spends much of her time exploring the caves under the Ottawa River. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • Looking to up your golf game? Check out Just The Tips, the #1 golf newsletter with tips, reviews and all the latest news you need before your next tee time. Join for free here. [Sponsored]

  • A new Safari, this time checking out Shawarma, kicks off with a look at this local chain serving up great wraps.

  • The Sens got zapped by the Tampa Bay Lightning, losing 6-4 on Saturday. [The Canadian Press]

  • It’s national adoption week, and Furry Tales Cat Rescue has plenty of sweet cats for adoption. 

  • Vendors along the Rideau Canal skateway are hopeful that this year the weather cooperates and the rink can open. [CBC]

  • This restaurant takes its name from the originator of the now-ubiquitous vertical cooking spit. You won’t want to miss their beef wrap.

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Congrats to everyone who got last week’s Ottawa Wordle, the answer was FIRED, as in Pierre Dorion who was fired by the Senators. 

For today’s quiz we want to know what percentage of Ottawa restaurants say they’re in danger of going under? The first five people to write in with the correct answer will get their names mentioned in the next issue.

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