OTTAWA -- A citizen Transit Commissioner is calling on the City of Ottawa to consider extending a fare freeze until the end of summer and a free month of transit as “goodwill gestures” to riders.

In an open letter to Mayor Jim Watson and members of the Transit Commission, Sarah Wright-Gilbert says “our ridership is frustrated” by issues along the four-month old Confederation Line and the bus system. Wright-Gilbert proposes the transit freeze until August 31 and a free month of transit, with the cost covered by the Rideau Transit Group.

“The ongoing issues with the LRT and bus service have resulted in customer confidence in our multi-modal system to drop to an all-time low,” Wright-Gilbert wrote Monday night.

The Confederation Line has been operating at reduced capacity since January 20th due to a series of mechanical issues. Only nine trains were available for the Tuesday commute.

Wright-Gilbert says “I truly believe that we need to rebuild our customer’s confidence in the system, but that will not happen until these issues are fixed and the system is reliable.”

The citizen Transit Commission requests that the City of Ottawa extend the current fare freeze until August 31, 2020. She also requests the city consider a month of free transit, adding “perhaps March.”

“I believe that these two goodwill gestures will help our customers see that the city has heard their frustrations, is willing to make amends, and establish some good will,” Wright-Gilbert says.

OC Transpo fares were scheduled to rise 2.5 per cent on January 1 as part of the 2020 budget. The Transit Commission and Council approved a motion from Mayor Watson and Transit Commission chair Allan Hubley to freeze transit fares for three months until March 31.

City staff estimated the fare freeze for three months would reduce revenues by $980,000.

Wright-Gilbert says she is aware of the financial implications of a fare freeze or a free month of transit, adding "given that the current fare freeze is being charged back to RTM/RTG, it would stand to reason that, given our current state of our system, the case could be made to charge these two important measures back to RGM/RTG as well."

OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi told the Transit Commission last Thursday that reports of ridership being down in 2019 are “false.”

Preliminary data showed ridership was up 2.3 per cent in December 2019 compared to December 2018. Manconi adds the Confederation Line carries 159,000 passenger trips a day during the work week. 

An estimated 97.4 million passengers used OC Transpo service in 2019.