OTTAWA -- OC Transpo finished the first three months of 2021 with a $3.1 million budget surplus, despite lower ridership from COVID-19.

In a report prepared for the city's transit commission, city staff say the surplus is a result of lower spending, due to vacant job positions, and an injection of funding from other levels of government.

The federal government's Safe Restart Agreement with the province of Ontario provided $40.9 million to OC Transpo to cover pandemic-related shortfalls as well as pay for enhanced cleaning and personal protective equipment, staff said.

The net budget for OC Transpo in Q1 was just over $94 million, but the transit commission report says the first quarter came in at just over $91 million.

"The Q2 Status Report, which includes a forecast for the year, will provide a better indication as to the overall year-end position," the report states.

Ridership on OC Transpo has been at much lower levels since April 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which is keeping many workers in Ottawa home. A stay-at-home order in January 2021 brought ridership down to about 18 per cent of pre-pandemic levels. There were some gains in February and March, with the first quarter ending at around 26 per cent of normal levels.

However, another stay-at-home order was issued in April, which brought levels back below 20 per cent.

Temporary route suspensions

Planned suspension of some routes between the suburbs and downtown is scheduled to begin Saturday. OC Transpo says this move, alongside the reduction of 70 jobs through attrition, is intended to save about $5.5 million in 2021.

OC Transpo says the following nine routes will be temporarily suspended, with their last day of operation on Friday:

  • Route 17 from Wateridge – Customers can use Routes 7 and 27
  • Route 224 from Beacon Hill – Customers can use Route 24 to connect to Blair Station
  • Route 225 from Orléans and Chapel Hill South – Customers can use Route 34 and adjusted Route 32 to connect to Blair Station
  • Route 233 from Orléans – Customers can use Route 33 to connect to Blair Station
  • Route 235 from Orléans – Customers can use Route 35 to connect to Blair Station
  • Route 251 from Bells Corners – Customers can use Route 57 to connect to Tunney’s Pasture Station
  • Route 266 from Kanata – Customers can use Routes 63 and 64 to connect to Tunney’s Pasture Station
  • Route 275 from Barrhaven – Customers can use Route 75 to connect to Tunney’s Pasture Station
  • Route 284 from Manordale – Customers can use adjusted Route 82 to connect to Tunney’s Pasture Station

"These routes will be temporarily suspended until system ridership recovers to closer to normal levels," staff said.

OC Transpo's summer service begins June 20.

Service on many 200-series "Connexion" routes will be reduced to every 30 minutes, while several other routes will see frequency reductions during peak periods Monday to Friday.

Some routes are to be shortened while others will be extended, staff say, noting that service to downtown has declined significantly but routes serving hospitals, shopping areas, and some employment locations have remained up to 80 per cent of normal levels.

The transit commission meets Wednesday at 9:30 a.m.