OC Transpo Fails to Meet Ridership Targets and Still no Firm Date for Opening of Southern Line

The City of Ottawa Transit Commission met today (Friday) following a nearly five-hour meeting of the Transit Commission and Light Rail Sub-Committee.

After a technical briefing on mechanical and engineering issues regarding the Confederation Line, OC Transpo General Manager Renee Amilcar, along with OC Transpo staff, gave a summary of key performance indicators. The presentation was noticeably rushed. Addressing the meeting’s rapid pace, Amilcar remarked, “We are meeting again in two weeks, anyhow.” It is worth noting that the May 9th meeting of the Transit Commission was cancelled.

Para Transpo service delivery and revenues were up across the board, with $192,000 collected in fares in April and over 71,000 trips conducted. Despite problems with the ceiling at St. Laurent that saw trains skipping the station and R1 buses put into service, O-Train Service delivery was reported to be at 99 percent, with the Bus Service having a service delivery of more than 98.8 percent.

On-time service indicators for conventional bus service were under 80 percent for less frequent routes, with no metric for more frequent routes. Ridership for the bus service was under budget at six million customers per month, leaving fair revenue under budget at $12 million per month.

Councillor Riley Brockington pointed out that, so far in 2024, there has not been one month when OC Transpo has met its forecasted revenue or ridership numbers. Brockington asked staff why this was and asked for a full update on ridership and fare revenue at the June 14th Transit Commission meeting.

The Commission was updated on the progress of the O-Train expansion. The newly built eastern stations for Stage 2 of the Confederation Line are expected to be complete by autumn 2024, with train testing between Blair and Trim stations starting this summer. The handover for the eastern line is scheduled for April 2025. The westbound expansion of Stage 2 is expected to begin train testing in the fall. Handover for the western line to the city is scheduled for November 2026.

During the Southern Trillium Line update, the sub-committee viewed a video showcasing the Trillium Line’s operations and received information about the new features on the extended southbound line. OC Transpo stated that if all opening requirements are met, the city can recommend an opening date to the Light Rail Sub-Committee.

Councillor Brockington asked staff if they could give a date for the Southern Line of the LRT to be handed over at the next meeting. Staff did not provide a firm response but said they need “eight to ten weeks from mid-June to come back with a recommendation.”

Brockington responded that the system is three years late and that an autumn opening is not ideal, given that September has the highest use for OC Transpo services. He inquired once more about the opening date for the Southern Line, and the staff replied that it would be no earlier than mid-August.

Councillor Jeff Leiper questioned staff about the opening process, asking staff why they believed “Council should vote on whether or not to put the train into service?” Staff responded that they did not know the exact process of how, but the thought was “that they (OC Transpo) would bring forward a recommendation.” Leiper responded that requiring a go-ahead from City Council played a role in the bungling of the opening of Stage 1 of the Confederation Line.

The Transit Commission is scheduled to meet again on June 13th