FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Community Organizations Concerned Over Significant Transit Cuts in 2023 City Budget
OTTAWA - Organizations Free Transit Ottawa, Ottawa Transit Riders, and Horizon Ottawa are raising alarm bells over the priorities in the draft budget. The city is proposing that the bulk of the “savings” will be from $47 million in “efficiencies” from public transit, without clarifying how such savings will be realized. By comparison, over $55 million is being allocated to road widening and expansion.
The presentation made by staff at Wednesday’s council meeting noted that part of that $4.3 million would come from “bus fleet optimization,” meaning that 117 older buses would be taken off the road because they are in poor condition and “too expensive to maintain.” It was noted, however, that these buses would not be replaced. Essentially, there would be fewer buses in reserve, for example, when the LRT goes down again.
“This is not how you grow ridership. What we need is more frequency, not less; dedicated bus lanes, not wider roads; free passes for ODSP and OW recipients, not just freezing already high fares for a year,” said Nick Grover, a member of Free Transit Ottawa. “Bus ridership is so low because the quality of service is terrible after years of cuts and underinvestment. We need to stop this death spiral.”
As for the other $42.7 million, it is not entirely clear from where those cuts are being taken. According to Wednesday’s budget presentation, they are coming from “capital program alignment,” but no other details are given. Further, Mayor Sutcliffe made it clear that if money does not come from other levels of government, we might see even more significant cuts.
“We want to know clearly and plainly where these cuts are coming from and how they will affect service levels.” said Sam Hersh, a Board member of Horizon Ottawa. “For someone who ran on a platform of “fiscal accountability", this lack of information and detail about where these “efficiencies "come from seems quite counterintuitive.”
The groups also brought up concerns about how the proposed budget cuts would exacerbate the multiple crises the city is facing and called for investment to ensure a more robust and functional system.
“One of the best tools a city has for dealing with the climate emergency is encouraging people to use public transit. We are facing increasing cost of living and poor accessibility in this city,” said Kari Glynes Elliott of Ottawa Transit Riders. “Now is not the time for belt tightening; quite the opposite, now we should invest in public transit, especially Para Transpo, to give residents better access to jobs, amenities, education, recreation, and independence.”
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Free Transit Ottawa
Ottawa Transit Riders
Kari Glynes Elliott