Transit Commission gets update on OC Transpo COVID-19 precautions, O-Train repairs

OTTAWA – The Transit Commission was advised that OC Transpo customers have been successfully transitioning to wearing cloth masks, as several health and safety measures were introduced on June 15 to help keep everyone as safe as possible before the return to full transit service on June 28.

OC Transpo was the first public transit agency in Canada to implement a new mandatory mask policy as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today’s (June 17) Transit Commission meeting also contained an O-Train update.

 The commission received an O-Train Line 1 operational update. Rideau Transit Group (RTG) provided the city with a plan that prioritizes technical improvements closely linked to performance. During this period of low ridership caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Line 1 has undergone several temporary closures to allow RTG an opportunity to undertake work relating to issues that have impacted service. As RTG executes the work associated with their plan and identifies additional technical enhancements, there may be a need for future temporary closures to Line 1 during the summer months in addition to the upcoming shutdown from June 21 to 24.

Several Finance Services Department reports were presented today, including the 2020 Operating and Capital Budget Q1 Transit Commission Status Report, which indicated the first quarter of the year ended with a deficit of $8 million. The budget shortfall was due to several factors, including:

Increased staffing costs, following the new route network introduced in October 2019.

Augmented S1 bus service that was introduced in early January when RTG was unable to provide a reliable train service between Tunney’s Pasture Station, Hurdman Station, Blair Station and downtown. 

Increased Para Transpo service to meet ridership demand.

Lower fare revenue due primarily to the reduced number of single-ride fares paid by customers starting mid-March, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Operational costs were partially offset by reduced fare control system maintenance costs and Presto fees.

Recommendations in the Capital Adjustments and Closing of Projects report will result in the reduction of $8.1 million in previously approved capital budget authority, return of $6.4 million to capital reserves, $2,000 to the provincial gas tax reserve, and $1.5 million to the Transit development charge reserve, and elimination of $123,000 of debt financing. The Capital Adjustments and Closing of Projects report will go to Council on June 24.

The Transit Commission carried a motion to begin the early procurement process to identify potential revenue opportunities from advertising in stations and inside train cars on O-Train Line 1. In July 2013, the Transit Commission directed OC Transpo staff to review the addition of advertising in Line 1 stations and inside train cars following one year of operation after the launch of Line 1. The procurement process will now occur earlier than planned and staff is expected to report their findings back to the Transit Commission by the end of the year.

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