Is a transit death spiral on its way, or has it already begun?
Is a transit death spiral on its way, or has it already begun?
Here it is folks, the last week of August. Now all the fall fiends, the sweater weather people, are coming out of the woodwork to say how happy they are autumn has almost arrived. Well, nuts to that. Fall doesn’t start until later next month. And in this newsletter summer is the heroic season. End of story.
But with September almost here, it means the start of budget season, and we’re going to lead things off with a look at the coming transit budget (ominous). Plus we’ve got the latest on Pride over the weekend, and a bunch of upcoming events.
Let’s get to it.
— Robert Hiltz, managing editor
Monday: 25 🌡️ 13 | 🌤
Tuesday: +5 🌡️ -5 | 🌦
Wednesday: -4 🌡️ -12 | 🌦
Is OC Transpo’s death spiral well underway?
What happened: The city is planning to hike transit fares 2.5 percent and cut bus service to make up for continuing budgeting difficulties, city staff said in an early budget 2024 report. The city will also increase the transit portion of the yearly tax bill by 2.5 percent — about $21 for an urban home, and $6 for a rural home.
High inflation, low taxes: Once again, the yearly tax hike is planned to be below inflation. Staff said in their report inflation was having a serious effect on the city’s budget.
“The current external economic conditions and supply chain pressures have resulted in inflationary pressures impacting all city services. Increases on construction indices, parts and supplies will have an impact to the 2024 budget pressures,” staff wrote.
Deficit problems: Last year the city hoped the federal or provincial government (or both) would cover its budget hole, but no money was forthcoming. “If funding for cities to sustain transit services is no longer available, then there would be no offset available in 2024 for the lost fare revenue.”
To make the cuts and roll back that deficit, OC Transpo plans to:
Cut bus routes to match ridership levels and patterns;
Look at “on-demand” service to areas with low ridership;
Reduce payments to the private company operating the LRT because of the reduced service (single-car trains, etc.) it is able to offer;
Move or cut staff in support roles in admin, communications and technical areas;
And examine “alternative ways to provide some operational services.”
Backlash: If the city goes through with its plan advocates say it risks driving people away from the service.
“If we start pulling bus routes and we start rejigging so you have to walk farther to your stop, wait longer for your bus and take longer to get where you're going, it's a real hard sell to people,” Laura Shantz, a member of Ottawa Transit Riders, told CFRA.
These kinds of changes are very concerning, and and can actually lead to the “death spiral” faced by transit systems when service continues to degrade and diminish, losing more and more riders, which leads to yet more service cuts and fare hikes…etc 1/
— Sean Devine (@DevineSean)
Aug 25, 2023
The elephant in the city: While staff point out transit volumes have not recovered because of the spread of hybrid work, they ignore the lack of trust the public has in the system. Buses frequently don’t show up at all, and the LRT can only be relied on to run some of the time, even Mayor Mark Sutcliffe has said he understands people can’t currently rely on the system.
Other ways? Not everywhere relies on fares to pay so much for transit. Ottawa tries to have 55 percent of its transit budget covered by fares, but has been only able to cover about 45 percent of the budget because of decreased ridership. During the election campaign, now-Mayor Mark Sutcliffe said it would be foolish to fund a proposed study of the idea, saying it was just a backdoor to free transit.
The Lookout’s view: Despite promises to keep life in the city affordable, raising transit fares while making service worse is a recipe for disaster. It’s absurd that after yet another year with lengthy train shutdowns and widespread disruptions to the whole bus system, staff are proposing to charge people even more for something that will offer even less.
There is a massive rail expansion underway right now, with the north-south Trillium Line set to open late next year, connecting Riverside South and the airport to the main LRT. Not a great time to start pushing people even further away from transit.
Coun. Devine was wrong about one thing, this budget proposal from the city won’t “lead” to a death spiral, years of unreliable and expensive service mean the spiral is well underway.
We’ll have in-depth coverage of this year’s budget proposal in this Thursday’s City Hall Insider. Not yet a member? Sign up today.
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OTTAWA BY THE NUMBERS
🚙 9: The number of people in an eight-person vehicle, which was pulled over after a child was spotted walking around in the back of the van on the 401. [CTV]
📸 63,440: The number of speeding tickets issued by automated cameras in the first half of the year. The camera on Fisher Avenue between Deer Park and Kintyre issued 11,072 on its own. The city has collected $10.7 million in fines over that period. [CTV]
Huge Pride parade marches through town
Nathanael Newton/YouTube Livestream
What happened: About 10,000 marched in this year’s Capital Pride parade, one of the biggest-ever turnouts to the city’s celebration, according to CTV. Thousands more lined the parade route on Elgin, Kent and Gladstone.
There were more than 200 groups participating in the parade this year.
Capital Pride organizers say 10,000 participants are marching in the parade while thousands more line the streets to celebrate. It’s a turnout that symbolically pushes back against rising incidents of hate directed at the LGBTQ community. StatsCan says hate incidents are up 64%
— Judy Trinh (@judyatrinh)
Aug 27, 2023
Proud of Pride: “It is amazing to see our community come together in celebration and solidarity.… We need to be proud of ourselves. We also need to make a world where we can all be proud…without the homophobia and transphobia that surrounds us,” Pride grand marshal Fae Johnstone told CTV.
Record numbers also showed up Saturday for the Trans March:
Video from our friends at @max_ottawa of yesterday’s March. Thanks for showing up, Ottawa. Couldn’t be prouder. 🏳️⚧️🏳️🌈🥰
— Fae Johnstone, MSW (@FaeJohnstone)
Aug 26, 2023
Local funding: The federal government announced $1.9 million in funding for seven 2SLGBTQI+ community organizations in the city as part of a national funding plan for associations.
Couldn’t make it: One councillor was unable to go because of injury. Rideau-Vanier Coun. Stéphanie Plante was hit by a car while on her bike on Thursday and broke a bone in her wrist, she said on twitter.
NEW LOCAL JOBS
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🤿 Despite the persistence of good weather, Sunday was the last day any of the city’s beaches would have lifeguards, after a summer marred by high levels of bacteria at the public swimming areas. [CTV]
🪧 The secondary school teacher’s union and the province have agreed on a possible plan to avoid a strike this school year and instead head to arbitration after the next round of bargaining, pending approval by the union’s members. Three other teachers’ unions said they would not accept a similar plan, leaving the door open to a strike of elementary, Catholic, and French school board teachers. [CTV]
💐 A 15-year-old passenger was killed overnight Saturday in a crash in Clarence-Rockland. Police didn’t say how many others were in the vehicle. [CBC]
🎓 Over the weekend Sydenham High School in rural Frontenac County celebrated its 150th anniversary by digging deep into the school's archives for photos, films, and memorabilia for the celebrations of generations of local students. [CBC]
⚖️ A woman facing 20 fraud-related charges, and who has previously been banned from suing people because a judge ruled she was using the courts to “harass” others, has been charged with another 17 related counts. Among other things, she’s accused of leaving a dead ferret in a man’s home she was renting for a short time. [CBC]
What to do this week
🖼️ Thursday Nights at the National Gallery, Thursday 5 pm: It’s your last chance this summer to get free admission to the National gallery. Includes refreshments,a local DJ, a tour, and art-making activities. At the National Gallery of Canada, 380 Sussex Dr. Free (reservation required).
🎺 The Woodshed Quintet, Friday 8 pm: A night of jazz and cocktails at Happy Goat, 145 Main St. Tickets $5.
🦞 Lobster Dinner, Thursday 6 pm: A lobster dinner with fresh corn and live music from Josh MacFarlane. House wine is $3.50 red or white. At the Mill Tavern, 5544 Manotick Main St. Tickets $51 (includes gratuity).
🍂 Harvest - A Feast of Fall, Sept. 13: A foodie fundraiser for YouTurn Youth Support Services. At All Saint Event Space, 330 Laurier Ave. Tickets $102.
🏕️ Learn to Camp, Wednesday 6 pm: A workshop hosted by the Ottawa Outdoor Gear Library to teach you all the basics of camping from setting up your tent to building a fire and hiding your food from bears. At Britannia Park, 2805 Carling Ave. Free!
🪚 Make Your Own Ring Toss Game, Wednesday 6 pm: Learn to make your own ring toss game with big power tools including a table and mitre saw. At the end you get to take home your creation. At the Ottawa Tool Library, 877a Boyd Ave. Tickets $97.
🧶 Introduction to Crochet, Wednesday 6 pm: A two-hour class that covers the basics of crochet, from what yarn and hooks to choose, to basic stitches and making your first chain. Hooks and yarn are included in the price of the class. At the Square Lemon Artistic Association, 2350 Stevenage Dr. Unit 14. Tickets $62.
👗 613Flea, Saturday 10 am: As many as 150 vendors with everything from vinyl records to vintage clothing, and everything in between. At the Aberdeen Pavilion at Lansdowne Park. Free admission.
Michael Andlauer is only a few small steps away from (finally) completing his purchase of the Senators, after the NHL’s executive committee approved his purchase of the team. [Ottawa Citizen]
Calling something “the best” is a tricky business, but this really might be the best Italian sausage sandwich you’ll find anywhere.
It was a long and winding road that brought Haile Tecklehaimanot from Eritrea to become a groundskeeper at the Ottawa Stadium. [CBC]
The Rideau Canal isn’t just for boats, it’s for turtles too! [Reddit]
Traditionally made tortillas and house-made salsa. What more do you need to know? This brand new shop is a Mexican food lover’s dream.
We love old photos around here, like this one of Carlingwood in the 50s. [Reddit]
Irenka Farmilo/Ottawa Lookout Reader
Today’s photo comes from reader Irenka Farmilo, who said, “An Ottawa River sunset from last night. The shot is undoctored except that I couldn't get the colour to be closer to vermilion, which would be more accurate. But the soft play of light on the water is still a delight to me.”
Do you have a photo you’d like to share with the Lookout community? Send it in!
Congrats to everyone who got last week’s Ottawa Wordle, the answer was CYCLE, as in the cycling lanes that could be created on Billings Bridge.
For today’s Ottawa Quiz, we want to know what the property tax increase in the city was last year? The first five people to write in with the correct answer will get their names mentioned in the next issue.
What did you think of today's newsletter?