Free Transit Ottawa argument in favour of free transit | Unpublished

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Unpublished Opinions

free_transit_ottawa's picture
Ottawa, Ontario
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Free Transit Ottawa is a diverse group of environmental and social justice activists who believe that public transit has a crucial role in combating climate change and promoting social justice. We embrace a number of common principles and values. Find out more at:

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Free Transit Ottawa argument in favour of free transit

July 15, 2022

The City of Ottawa claimed Wednesday that funding universal free transit would increase the transit tax for the average property owner by $482 in the first year. Cue the usual "we can't afford it" and vague appeals to "fixing reliability" instead.

As always, they are looking at the cost, not the savings or benefits. Here is our proposal in a nutshell: 

  1. The city does not have to fund this solely through property taxes! Claiming so is a fear-mongering tactic. They can offset more than half by reallocating money from road widening, increasing (very low!) parking rates and Uber surcharges, ending development subsidies, and increasing charges on low density sprawl;
  2. Is it really worse to ask people to pay more to fund transit than making them spend thousands every year on driving because its the only option? Any tax increase to fund transit is outweighed by the savings on gas, parking, insurance, and upkeep required by using a car;
  3. Fares are a bad way to fund a public service. Getting off them is a first step towards better service. Yes to service improvements, like increased frequency, but why fund it on the backs of low income riders rather than a stable revenue stream? Under a fare-based system, upgrades have to wait until ridership grows - which is backwards. Ridership will not grow until the service is invested in! Permanent operational funding is the way to accomplish this;
  4. We are asking the city to AT LEAST start by providing free bus passes immediately to riders on ODSP and OW, who pay the highest fares as a portion of income. We are pleased to see mayoral candidate Catherine McKenney has endorsed this proposal;