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OC Transpo courts hybrid workers to ride public transit

OC Transpo is ramping up efforts to encourage federal workers to use public transit when going into the office two or three days a week.

A new campaign targeting hybrid workers features the tagline, "To your office and back, any day of the week". It comes as the federal government phases in a return-to-the-office plan for tens of thousands of employees in Ottawa and Gatineau.

"The campaign objectives are to primarily increase ridership, attract new and returning customers, educate new and returning customers on how to use the system and how to plan their commutes, and ultimately to build trust in OC Transpo," Jocelyne Turner, OC Transpo's director of strategic communications, told the transit commission Friday morning.

"We want people to know that transit is a cost effective, flexible and convenient option to get to the office, and we have a number of fare products available to suit the needs of every customer, including those working hybrid."

OC Transpo is partnering with Gatineau's STO on the campaign. It will include social media posts and feature advertising on digital, social media, radio and on city-owned billboards and bus shelters until the end of May.

Turner told councillors that OC Transpo staff will work to reach customers directly at festivals and in the workplace.

"We will also be doing targeted outreach so that OC Transpo staff can reach potential customers directly to promote our services," Turner said. "We'll be taking advantage of the upcoming festival and event season, as well as working with employers to be physically present in offices across the city."

OC Transpo ridership was at 62 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in January.  A total of 5.5 million passenger trips were taken on OC Transpo buses and the O-Train in the first month of the year, while the budget was 5.8 million trips.

In an attempt to make transit more appealing for people working two or three days a week in the office, staff are looking at options for a new monthly pass that will appeal specifically to hybrid workers.

Pat Scrimgeour, Director of Transit Customer Systems and Planning, told councillors options for a hybrid fare system will be presented to transit commission this spring.

"A fare product that is part way between the price of a single ride fare and the price of a monthly pass, which might give people a further option and further encouragement to choose transit for their trips," Scrimgeour said.

Coun. David Hill questioned why OC Transpo is launching an advertising campaign to encourage hybrid workers to use public transit even though a new fare option is not ready.

"We know that hybrid workers are back in the office now, it started in January and it has been a slow ramp up, but the work has begun already to have people to return to the office," Turner said.

"So we want to capitalize on this opportunity to start connecting with workers today as they return back."

Hill says the number one selling point to bring riders back to public transit is reliability.

"We need to make sure that the service we're providing is reliable, that it's safe, and once we have that we need to make sure that we communicate well," Hill said.

"If somebody expects their bus to arrive at 7:02 in the morning, we need to make sure that we deliver that service."

Hill will introduce a motion at the next transit commission meeting to look at ways to further incentivize hybrid workers to return to transit.

Transit commission chair Glen Gower says it is important for the transit service to answer riders questions through the new campaign.

"So some of it is looking at the fare structure, some of it is looking at bus service, some of it is about marketing," Gower said.

"I talked about some of the questions that we're getting from residents; there's people who haven't taken the bus in two or three years, so they have some really good questions about how service might have changed or about park and rides. It's all these kinds of questions and feedback that we need to help answer."

The campaign directed at federal workers will last for several months.


OC Transpo is launching a review of all bus routes as ridership remains well below pre-pandemic levels.

"We have begun to look at all of the bus routes across the entire network, both as travel patterns may have changed during or because of the pandemic, as well as the changes we'll have to make to knit the bus route network in with the O-Train extensions coming over the next few years," Scrimgeour said.

Staff will also conduct phone surveys about the transit system, along with engaging customers, staff, councillors, stakeholders and major employers.

There is no word on how long the review will take.

With files from CTV News Ottawa's Peter Szperling Top Stories

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