OC Transpo ridership still lags expectations

OC Transpo ridership numbers are out, and they’re still below expectations.

Sponsored by

Good morning!

Well, that was a bit of a goof. Wednesday’s email ended up sent out earlier than intended, which unfortunately meant that it didn’t get its typical additional read and edit from my colleague. So, if you noticed that the typo quotient was a bit higher than normal, or perhaps the Ottawa Guesser was missing, well now you know why.

The good news is, though, that there are two games today — the Guesser and the Wordle. Double the fun!

Now, why don’t we get to it.

Editor’s note: In Wednesday’s main story, we mistakenly identified the wrong part of the map as where the Rain Ready program will expand. If approved, the plan would extend to the areas in orange. The Lookout regrets the error.

— Robert Hiltz, managing editor


Friday: +16 🌡️ +4 | ⛈️

Saturday: +9 🌡️ +1 | 🌧

Sunday: +11 🌡️ +2 | 🌧

Monday: +15 🌡️ +3 | 🌦


Ridership still below expectations

What happened: The ridership woes continue at OC Transpo, as fewer people are taking the bus and train than the transit agency projected. Ridership in February was 6.1 million trips, 4.7 percent below the projected 6.3 million, according to a report to council.

City of Ottawa

Ridership was up 13 percent from February 2023’s 5.4 million trips. But ridership is still well below pre-pandemic levels. February 2024’s ridership was 27.4 percent below February 2019. 

  • OC Transpo has consistently been overly optimistic in its ridership projections. Changing work patterns, LRT failures, unreliable buses, and deeper and deeper cuts all seem to be keeping riders away.

ParaTranspo ridership, meanwhile, continues to exceed expectations:

City of Ottawa

Running late: On-time bus performance for buses was 79 percent for low-frequency routes that run every 16 minutes or more, and 66 percent for high-frequency buses running every 15 minutes or less.

City of Ottawa

Falling behind: On metrics of service delivery, bus and operator availability, reliability, and more, OC Transpo is falling short, the agency said in an annual update to several key metrics. The measurement is part of a new five-year plan to improve service.

City of Ottawa

No opening date: Transit general manager Renée Amilcar had been steadfast in saying that the new O-Train Trillium line would be open in the spring. At this week’s transit commission meeting, she seemed less enthusiastic. 

  • “We are making good progress, but I know that the question remains, ‘When will it open?’ … Before we can answer that we need to see train operating hours increase, operator training complete and system training advance,” she said, according to CTV.

Invest in the company that won over the Dragons

VCs know how difficult it is to spot promising early investment opportunities. Even the all-knowing Sharks from Shark Tank declined the offer to buy 10% of Ring for $700K.

It’s a decision they would regret when Amazon acquired Ring, turning the $700K into $10M. But what made Ring blow up and change doorbells forever? Retail distribution.

RYSE has launched in +100 Best Buys, but did you know that they pitched on Canada’s Shark Tank, Dragons Den and received two offers?

Exits in the smart home industry have yielded massive returns for early investors (look at Ring and Nest's billion dollar acquisitions) and the Dragons think they’ve spotted a winner in RYSE.


🚛 9: The number of commercial vehicles taken off the road by the provincial transport ministry for safety defects. Inspectors checked 24 vehicles, and laid a total of 31 charges. [CTV]

🏘️ 76%: The percentage of Canadians who don’t own a home who say that owning one feels out of reach. [The Canadian Press]

🚨 14: A transport truck driver is facing this many charges including cocaine possession, after the public reported a possible impaired driver to police. [CTV]

🪙 5%: The Bank of Canada held its overnight interest rate at this level, and signalled rate cuts might be in the future if inflation continues to cool. [CBC]


New federal rules for first-time homebuyers

What happened: The federal government announced new tools for first-time homebuyers to get into the market. Bigger withdrawals from RRSPs and longer mortgage amortizations are going to be offered to certain entrants into the market, CBC reported.

  • First-time home buyers will now be able to withdraw as much as $65,000 and have an additional three years to start paying back those withdrawals without penalty.

And mortgages for those buyers will now be permitted to be amortized for up to 30 years, up from the current 25.

Provincial changes: The provincial government announced a host of new housing measures in a bill Wednesday, including eliminating parking minimums for new construction around current or proposed transit stations, exempting universities from zoning rules, increasing the allowable size of mass-timber buildings, and creating a use it or lose it framework for projects.

  • Partway through its 10-year plan to build 1.5 million new homes, the province has added long-term care beds to what counts as a home to boost the number of housing starts. This allowed the Ontario government to give four cities money for hitting housing targets that they would have otherwise missed, the Globe and Mail reported.

You can read more about the province’s changes in this week’s subscriber-only City Hall Insider.


📈 The Ottawa Mission is asking the federal government for desperately needed funding, as overcrowding issues persist. Newcomers now make up 65 percent of its users, with crowding so bad overall people are forced to sleep in chairs in the Mission’s lounge. [CTV]

🔥 The country looks to be in for another intense fire season. Wildfires, and the smoke that comes with them, are of particular concern in the west where much of the country is in at least a moderate state of drought. [CBC]

🏥 Masks are no longer mandatory at the Pembroke Hospital. The hospital said COVID and other respiratory illnesses had stabilized enough. Patients can still request staff to wear masks in their presence. [CTV]

🏛️ Coun. Ariel Troster wants the city to pass a renoviction bylaw that would prevent landlords from misusing renovation provisions to boot older tenants in an effort to charge much higher rent to a new tenant by only minor improvements to the unit. She pointed to a Hamilton law that requires landlords to prove it’s necessary to move a tenant out to do renovations. [CBC]

🚨 A scammer tricked an 81-year-old woman into handing over $17,500 by pretending to be an RCMP officer. Both a bank teller and a Canadian Tire manager tried to tell the woman she might be the victim of a scam, but the person claiming to be an RCMP investigator had told her people would try and stop the woman from helping his investigation. [Ottawa Citizen]

🏡 A number of homes in Britannia Village, originally built as cottages at the turn of the 20th century, were designated as heritage properties. The owners worry their homes are near the end of their lives, or that repairs will now be more difficult to make. At the same time, the designation opens up eligibility for certain grants from the city for repairs. [CBC]

🔍 Renfrew councillors have asked the OPP to step in and investigate the expansion of the town’s rec centre for possible fraud. No individual was named, but staff said the individuals were no longer working for the town. Previously, council had voted for the mayor to step down over his handling of the project, which he has so far refused to do. [CBC]

⚠️ A registered sex offender who police believe may be a risk to reoffend is now living in Vanier. Karl Njolstad has a history of many offences, including sexual assault and making child pornography. [CTV]

🤕 A foam party in Kingston appears to have sent 10 people to the hospital with chemical burns to their eyes. [CBC]


What to do this weekend

🇮🇪 Irish Film Festival Ottawa, Friday to Sunday: Six films representing some of the best of Irish cinema. At the Arts Court, 2 Daly Ave. Tickets start at $12.

🎭 Proud by Michael Healey, Friday and Saturday: A political play that explores the corrosive nature of the politics of division, put on by the Department of Theatre at University of Ottawa. At LabO Theatre, 60 Waller St. Tickets $12.

👗 613Flea, Saturday 10 am: An ever-changing flea market of all sorts of goodies. Clothing, records, jewellery, antiques, food, and more. At Lansdowne Park, Aberdeen Pavilion. Admission is free.

⚽️ Atlético Ottawa home opener, Saturday 1 pm: The city’s Canadian Premier League team kicks off the season against York United. Canadian Blood Services will be there to sign people up for the stem cell registry, as part of the Save A Life event to open the season. At TD Place, Lansdowne Park. Tickets start at $22.

🎻 Spring of Hope - Benefit Concert for Ukraine, Saturday 5 pm: The Maple Hope Foundation hosts a night of music by Ukrainian classical and contemporary composers. Featuring Ukrainian pianist Anna Sagalova and local violinist Carissa Klopoushak. At First Unitarian Congregation of Ottawa, 30 Cleary Ave. Ticket prices vary.

🕸️ Meet Miles Morales at the Black Business Expo, Sunday 3:30 pm: Everyone’s favourite Spiderverse web slinger will be out at the Expo, Lilypad Princess will also be there! Take pictures, make crafts, have fun and receive a special gift. At the Shaw Centre, 55 Colonel By Dr. Early bird tickets $6.

🍁 Fulton’s Sugarbush, until Sunday: The last weekend of sugarbush season is here at Fulton’s. Walk the trails and visit the maple shop. At Fulton’s, 399 Sugar Bush Rd., Pakenham. $9 to walk the trails, free to just visit the shop.


This week in food

Ralf Joneikies/Ottawa Lookout

🍷 Try this deliciously simple aromatic wine the next time you’re having Thai or Indonesian food. (Insiders)

🇹🇷 A new Turkish restaurant opened up on Bank Street, and it’s exactly what this city needed. (Insiders)

🍽️ The Signatures Spring Show had plenty of great local and regional producers showcasing their goods. Our food editor picked out five of his favourites.

Capital EatsHelping you discover the best restaurants, food and drinks in Ottawa and the Capital Region. From the team at Ottawa Lookout. Read by 18,000+ locals.
  • The Ingenium will soon open some of its stored collection up to the public for guided tours. [CTV] 

  • Fancy a night Under the African Stars? Come to the Canada-Africa Community Health Alliance (CACHA) Gala at the Museum of Nature. Details & tickets here. [Sponsored]

  • Carly Rae Jepsen and Tyler Shaw have both been added to the Bluesfest lineup. [CTV]

  • The NAC announced its outdoor summer lineup, including concerts from a boat cruising up and down the Canal. [Ottawa Citizen]

  • Curious about AI? Ai for normal people is the newsletter for you, whether you're a complete newcomer or a seasoned pro, they've got you covered. Sign up for free today. [Sponsored]

  • Want to have your announcement featured? Learn how here.


Think you can solve this week’s Ottawa Wordle? Play now.

Bonus! Do you know where this week’s Ottawa Guesser is? The first five people to reply with the correct answer get their names in the next newsletter.

What did you think of today's newsletter?

Login or Subscribe to participate in polls.