Transit commission approves 3-month OC Transpo fare freeze in early 2020

Ottawa’s transit commission on Wednesday unanimously endorsed freezing OC Transpo fares for three months early next year as it deliberated and approved the city’s proposed transit budget for 2020.

The draft municipal budget, tabled two weeks ago, accounted for a 2.5 per cent fare increase going into effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

However, amid ongoing service issues with the city’s new light-rail transit (LRT) system, Mayor Jim Watson and transit commission chair Allan Hubley asked city staff to plan for a three-month fare freeze from Jan. 1 to Mar. 31, 2020, as calls for a suspension amplified following the draft budget’s release.

At its meeting on Wednesday, transit commission voted in favour of a motion to delay the scheduled fare increase for three months. The fare freeze still requires approval from Ottawa city council.

Coun. Catherine McKenney moved a motion asking to extend the freeze to 12 months, starting Jan. 1, but the proposal was defeated 7-4.

The commission heard that OC Transpo’s long-range financial plan would be impacted if the city doesn’t increase fares next year. The transit agency would have to implement a larger fare freeze down the road to make up for the lost “base” income, City Treasurer Marian Simulik said.

If the problems with the Confederation Line persist into late March, Hubley said he’d support extending the three-month freeze “until the service has improved.”

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