ⓘ OC Transpo


ⓘ OC Transpo

OC Transpo is the public transit agency of the City of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada that carries approximately 97.1 million annual riders. It operates an integrated hub-and-spoke system that includes light metro, bus rapid transit, conventional bus routes, and ParaTranspo.

OC Transpos O-Train is a light metro system consisting of two lines: the North-South Trillium line with five stations, running diesel powered trains, and the east-west Confederation Line, a 12.5 kilometre metro system operating medium capacity electric trains along a partially underground route that cuts through the downtown. The agencys bus system has 170 routes and 43 bus rapid transit BRT stations on Ottawas Transitway. These routes also provide service to the downtown core of the neighbouring city of Gatineau, Quebec, especially during rush hour. Rush-hour service is also provided to a park and ride lot in the Township of Russell. OC Transpo also operates ParaTranspo, a door-to-door accessible bus service.


1.1. History Early history

Ottawas first public transportation system began in 1886 with the operation of a horsecar system. The horse-drawn streetcars travelled back and forth from New Edinburgh to the Chaudiere Bridge. The horsecar would remain a staple means of public transportation until 1891 after Thomas Ahearn founded the Ottawa Electric Railway Company. This private enterprise eventually provided heated streetcar service covering the downtown core. Electricity had been employed in a few places in Ottawa since the first demonstration of the incandescent bulb in 1883 the earliest were Parliament Hill and LeBreton Flats. In May 1885, electric lighting commenced in the city. In 1885 council contracted Ottawa Electric Light Company to install 165 arc lamps on the citys streets.


1.2. History 1970s: Formation, early Transitway and first strike

Transit in Ottawa was provided by the Ottawa Transportation Commission until 1973 when transit service in the city and its suburbs was transferred under the auspices of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. Its formal name was the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission, but the service was promoted in both English and French under the OC Transpo name, whose OC initials are derived from O ttawa- C arleton.

In 1973, OC Transpo introduced the first BRT system in the world. The first element of its BRT system was dedicated bus lanes through the city centre, with platformed stops. This was part of what later became the Transitway.

The 20-day 1979 strike was fought over a wage difference of a nickel and became known as "the five-cent bus strike". A pay increase of 16.5% was rejected by the union.


1.3. History 1980s: Transitway

In the early 1980s, OC Transpo began planning for a bus rapid transit system, the Transitway. Construction of its various stations and segments followed over many years. The first segments were from Baseline to Lincoln Fields in the west end and from Lees to Hurdman two immediate stations in the east end.


1.4. History 1990s: Second strike

The second strike for OC Transpo ran from November 25 to December 16, 1996. The strike ended under arbitration.

On Tuesday, April 6, 1999, former OC Transpo employee Pierre Lebrun, armed with a.30-06 Remington Model 760 pump-action rifle, shot six people, killing four, in a shooting spree at OC Transpos St. Laurent Boulevard garage, before killing himself. Lebrun was fired in August 1997 but later reinstated, and quit in 1998.

An inquest into the shooting revealed Lebrun was the subject of teasing for his speech impediment, and that his complaints to management were not investigated. The inquest revealed an "atmosphere of bullying", described as a "poisoned" environment by an employment equity manager. In response, OC Transpo instigated zero-tolerance policies regarding workplace harassment, a new employee-management communications program, and increased training on workplace respect. However, studies in 2003 and 2004 found there to be lingering elements of a negative work environment, and employee-management communication was reported to be strained following the 1996 strike.


1.5. History 2000s: O-Train Line 2 Trillium, expansions and third strike

OC Transpo launched the O-Train diesel light rail transit DLRT service on October 15, 2001, as a pilot project. The service consists of one north-south line, with major points of interest including Carleton University and the South Keys Shopping Centre. In late 2014, this line became known as Trillium Line, or O-Train Line 2, to allow for expansion of the O-Train brand.

The province of Ontario ordered the amalgamation of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and its component municipalities into a single City of Ottawa municipality. When the new local governance took effect in 2001, OC Transpo became a department of the new city.

Following amalgamation, a bilingual replacement backronym for "OC" was sought, but no suitable candidates have been found. The anachronistic acronym has been kept, instead of the costly task of replacing the decals on all buses, bus stops, bus stations, and promotional material. Thus, "OC" is an orphan initialism.

A new section of the southwest Transitway opened on December 12, 2005, between the Nepean Sportsplex and Fallowfield Station. The new section runs parallel to Woodroffe Avenue and was built at a cost of $10 million. The new section has no stations and has replaced service along Woodroffe Avenue between the Nepean Sportsplex and Fallowfield. The Transitway was further expanded south into Barrhaven with Strandherd opened on January 2, 2007. There are also long range plans for other extensions in the Orleans and Kanata areas to keep up with more growing communities.

Following the 2006 municipal election campaign, Larry OBrien was elected as mayor and cancelled the light rail expansion project, per a campaign promise. City Council decided to annul the project by a margin of 13–11 on December 14, 2006. The proposed northbound expansions from Bayview onward were later revived with the Confederation Line project, contracted in December 2012.

OC Transpo drivers, dispatchers, and maintenance workers under Amalgamated Transit Union local 279 went on strike December 10, 2008, at 12:01am. The main causes of the strike were disagreements between the City of Ottawa and the union regarding scheduling, payroll and seniority. Rona Ambrose, the Federal Minister of Labour ordered a union membership vote on January 8, 2009 on the citys contract proposal in response to a request from mayor Larry OBrien. Both the city and the union published their positions on respective websites. Vote results released on January 9, 2009, revealed that of those eligible to vote, 64% rejected the offer.

Meetings were held with a mediator throughout the month, but talks were repeatedly broken off. The ATU had requested to send all issues not related to scheduling to arbitration, which the city refused as it requested all issues to be sent to an arbitrator. As the strike entered the 50th day, Ambrose, who had initially refused to table back-to-work legislation, announced that such legislation would be introduced. However, on January 29, the city and the ATU reached a deal that sent every issue to binding arbitration, thus ending the 51-day-long strike. On February 2, 2009, the O-Train Trillium Line started service after being out of service due to the strike. Buses followed the following Monday, February 9, 2009. Not all buses returned at once and OC Transpo said that all buses and routes were due to return by April 6, 2009. OC Transpo offered free transit for a week. December pass holders could either use their December passes until March or could get a refund. December pass holders were also subject to a 60% discount on March passes in order to win back transit users.


1.6. History 2010s: O-Train Line 1 Confederation and bus collisions

In December 2012, Ottawa City Council approved a major infrastructure project to build a 12.5 km east-west LRT line, the Confederation Line through the downtown to replace the existing BRT by 2019.

On September 18, 2013, a double-decker OC Transpo bus #8017, running on Route 76 from Barrhaven to downtown at 8:48 a.m., collided with a Toronto-bound Via Rail passenger train at a level crossing, equipped with active warning systems, near Fallowfield Station in Ottawas southwest end. Six people on the bus including the driver were killed and at least 30 others were injured, of which at least eight were critically injured. There were no injuries or fatalities to passengers or crew of the train. The cause of the accident is unknown at this time. It was announced the following year that Route 76 would be retired and changed to route 72 in recognition of those who died in the accident. Incidentally, this route was spotted under a crossing gate at the Barrhaven Crossing Plaza on November 6, 2014; although no accident occurred, it sparked a lot of fear and questions in Barrhaven on whether these crossings are safe.

On January 11, 2019 another accident involving a double decker occurred, this time at Westboro Station. The bus, operating Route 269, collided with the stations shelter shearing off part of the roof. Three people were killed initially reported as two passengers, and one bystander from the platform. Later corrected to all 3 deaths were passengers and 23 people were injured.

After several delays, the Confederation Line opened to the public on September 14, 2019. This line is also marketed as O-Train Line 1.


1.7. History 2020: Line 1 issues and COVID-19 intervention

The Confederation Line, or O-Train Line 1, continued to suffer from reliability issues throughout the first quarter of 2020. This is in contrast to the Trillium Line, or O-Train Line 2, which has a lower ridership and different technology, but generally good reliability.

On March 16, 2020 as a preventative measure against the 2019–20 coronavirus pandemic COVID-19, OC Transpo began limiting front door boarding and seating to riders with accessibility needs. All other customers must board at the back of the bus. As a result, cash fares are neither accepted nor enforced on buses, but a valid fare is required to begin a trip at an O-Train station. On March 19, due to lower ridership and in consideration of train operators, a small number of seats on O-Train Line 1 vehicles became unavailable to the public.


2. 1999 Ottawa shooting

On Tuesday, April 6, 1999, a former OC Transpo employee identified as 40-year-old Pierre Lebrun, armed with a.30-06 Remington Model 760 pump-action rifle, got out of his black 1997 Pontiac Sunfire, walked in and shot six people, killing four, in a shooting spree at OC Transpos St. Laurent Boulevard garage, before killing himself. Lebrun was fired in August 1997 but later reinstated, and quit in 1998.

An inquest into the shooting revealed Lebrun was the subject of teasing for his speech impediment, and that his complaints to management were not investigated. The inquest revealed an "atmosphere of bullying", described as a "poisoned" environment by an employment equity manager. In response, OC Transpo instigated zero-tolerance policies regarding workplace harassment, a new employee-management communications program, and increased training on workplace respect. However, studies in 2003 and 2004 found there to be lingering elements of a negative work environment, and employee-management communication was reported to be strained following the 1996 strike.


3. Features

OC Transpo has a fleet of 944 buses that run on regular streets, all of which are fully accessible low-floor buses. OC Transpo uses many articulated buses to provide service. Some of the routes that run on the Transitway, including the citys most-used bus routes, are served almost exclusively by articulated buses. Peak hour connexion routes are served primarily by Double Decker buses.

In 2001, a pilot diesel-powered light rail service project, the original O-Train known today as the Trillium Line, was introduced. The local government announced expansion plans for the light rail to other parts of Ottawa, including a possible link to the Ottawa International Airport. Service to Gatineau would have also been possible, over the nearby Prince of Wales railway bridge over the Ottawa River. However, on December 14, 2006, City Council led by Mayor Larry OBrien cancelled the north-south light rail expansion project. A new model of the project, to have a citywide integrated light rail system, was made, with work beginning in 2013 and will be completed in 2023. This new project envisions fully grade separated rapid transit service on the original Transitways from Baseline Station or Moodie dr. in the west to Trim Park and Ride in the east. The gap between the east end west branches of Transitway will be replaced by a new downtown Subway tunnel under Queen and Rideau streets with three underground stations. The O-Train Trillium Line will be extended to Riverside South and will include a spur to the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, thus creating direct airport to downtown service. As for the suburbs, they will be served by 65 km of new Transitways. The first phase of the project, called the Confederation Line includes 12.5 km of rail between Tunneys Pasture and Blair, including the downtown subway.

For a number of years, OC Transpo has carried bicycle racks on some routes as a part of the "Rack & Roll" campaign. These racks carry up to two bicycles at the front of the bus and fold up against the bus when not in use. Although it started only on three routes, this service has been expanded to include routes 12, 61, 85, 88, 94, 95, 97, 99, 101 and 106 with bike racks appearing on other routes from time to time. As well, all D60LF and D60LFR articulated 60-foot long buses, all Alexander Dennis Enviro500 double-decker buses, and Invero buses 4427–4526 inclusive have bike racks. Traditionally, the racks have been available only between April and October, and there has been much debate over continuing the program throughout the year. However, cyclists may use the racks at any time, on any bus that is equipped with a rack including routes that dont normally offer them, provided there is room for the cyclist in the bus. The O-Train is bicycle accessible year-round.

There are four bus depots located throughout the city. The largest and headquarters is located at 1500 St. Laurent Boulevard, with two other smaller but frequently used depots being located at 168 Colonnade Road Merivale Garage and the other on Queensview Drive Pinecrest Garage. A major new maintenance depot which opened its doors in 2010 is located on Industrial Avenue.


4. Routes

OC Transpo has 170 bus routes as of October 6, 2019 that are grouped both by their number and the colour with which they are represented on system maps and on bus stop flags.


5. Fares

OC Transpo fares can be paid in cash or with a Presto card. The latter method must be purchased in advance at various retail outlets, ticket machines or stations.

Transfers are printed for passengers upon boarding by the driver cash only. Transfers are integrated in the Presto cards when using the e-wallet. Such transfers are valid:

  • until 4:30 AM the same day when issued from midnight to 2:45 AM
  • until 4:30 AM the following day when issued from 10:30 PM to 11:59 PM
  • for 90 minutes when issued during weekdays or Saturday, from 6:30 AM to 6:00 PM
  • for 105 minutes when issued Sunday, or from either 2:45 AM to 6:30 AM or 6:00 PM to 10:30 PM during the rest of the week

5.1. Fares 1951–1986

This table only lists the regular adult cash fares. It was, for example, possible in 1955 to purchase a packet of four tickets or "carfares" for 25¢, making the cost of each ride 6.25¢.


5.2. Fares 1996–present

Fares as of January 1, 2018

These were the last fares to accept paper tickets.


5.3. Fares DayPass and multi-day passes

The monthly pass, introduced in 1976, offers the lowest price per day for unlimited rides on OC Transpo. Paper passes were discontinued by 2017, with Presto monthly passes being the sole option.

OC Transpo introduced the DayPass at $5 $7.16 in 2017 dollars per voucher or $6 $8.60 in 2017 dollars cash on July 1, 1998. By 2000, the cash price matched the $5 voucher price. The price for both increased to $6 $7.64 in 2017 dollars in 2003, and since then, DayPass fares were gradually increased to reach $10.25 in 2017. DayPass vouchers were no longer sold since July 1, 2009, leaving only cash and tickets on the bus as a method of payment.

The Family DayPass was launched concurrently with the DayPass. At launch, it was available on Sundays and statutory holidays, allowing up to two adults and youth age 12 or older to ride the bus with up to four children age 11 or younger at the same price of a DayPass. With the discontinuation of DayPass vouchers on July 1, 2009, the Family DayPass was also made available on Saturdays.

On January 1, 2018, OC Transpo launched multi-day passes 3, 5, or 7 days. This allows multiple days of DayPass service, up to a week, to be purchased in advanced at a lower cost. Multi-day passes cannot be used as a Family DayPass, cannot be loaded on a Presto card and are emitted as a paper transfer. Passes are activated immediately upon purchase.


5.4. Fares Other prices

Tickets for the O-Train light rail line were initially sold for $2 each at ticket vending machines in 2002 $2.60 in 2016 dollars when paying cash, lower than the $2.50 bus cash fare but pricier than the $1.70 $2.21 in 2016 dollars ticket fare at the time. Train tickets can be exchanged for a bus transfer on board of an OC Transpo bus. O-Train ticket prices increased over time, but remained lower compared to bus cash fares until July 2013, when OC Transpo increased O-Train ticket prices from $2.85 to $3.40 to match the bus cash fare. This represents an increase of over 19% and happened after the Presto card launch completed. This card is accepted at O-Train stations for a lower train fare. Bus tickets and DayPass vouchers cannot be used on the O-Train. Bus transfers, however, are accepted.

Monthly and annual passes are also available for all route classes with cost differences for adults, students, and seniors. Passes require an OC Transpo photo ID card, which is available at extra cost. Additionally, Ecopasses reduced-rate monthly passes are available through participating employers in the city, providing applicable OC Transpo riders with single-card indefinite passes in exchange for a flat bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly payroll deduction.

In July 2008, fares were increased by 7.5% because of a shortage in funding for the City of Ottawa. This fare hike was supposed to be in effect until 2010 including a 6.5% hike in 2009. This meant Ottawa residents saw regular adult passes rise from $73 a month to $81 and adult express passes from $90 to $101 a month. However, cash fares remained the same.

On 18 January 2013, OC Transpo starting the final testing of its Presto Card deployment as part of the NEXT-ON program. Ten thousand customers were able to order a Presto Card online or pick one up at select OC Transpo transitway stations, activate it, and use it for OC Transpos final testing of the loadable cards. As of January 2013, over 10.000 Presto cards have been distributed. A limited number of Presto cards were available at Baseline Station on 22 January 2013, and at Fallowfield Station on 24 January 2013. The final full release date for Presto in Ottawa was on 18 May 2013. Cards can be either loaded with cash and used like tickets, or loaded with as a monthly pass, which unlike the photo pass, is usable by family and friends. As of 2017, yearly and monthly photo passes have been discontinued, as they are not accepted at the new fare gates being installed along the Trillium Line.

The Province is encouraging all Ontario transit systems to adopt Presto, and the OC Transpo installation has been complex, requiring installation of readers at the front doors of all buses and all doors of articulated and double-decker buses, as well as a computer with a Presto fare database on each bus. The database was originally refreshed every night with updates of the days Presto fare purchases when the buses return to the garages; this required users to wait up to 24 hours before cash loaded onto their card accounts is recognized by the readers. In 2014, the readers were upgraded to refresh up to 6 times a day using cellular data. There are now new fare gates and ticket vending machines at all O-Train stations. Unlike the TTC and GO Transit facilities, OC Transpo did not launch full Presto ticket machines until November 2017, when all O-Train Line 2 stations except for Bayview featured a new fare gate system. The full machines allow riders to check and reload a card prior to boarding.

On January 1, 2017, the express fare was abolished, and express routes now Connexion routes use the regular fare.


6. Para Transpo

Para Transpo is an accessible paratransit service available to Ottawa patrons who find it extremely difficult or impossible to use the conventional OC Transpo routes. Service is provided directly to the residences of eligible users who book trip appointments with a call centre at least one day in advance. Para Transpo drivers will provide some assistance to passengers to board designated vehicle and to access building entrances.

Para Transpo operations were contracted to First Student Canada, previously operated by Laidlaw. On January 1, 2008, the City of Ottawa assumed complete control of this service.

The transit strike of 2008 did not interrupt Para Transpo service. However, Para Transpo service did encounter delays, facing the traffic increase due to the strike.


7. Advertising

Advertising on OC Transpo buses is contracted to Pattison Outdoor Advertising. Advertising on bus shelters is contracted to Branded Cities. There has also been local funding to advertise on local TV stations such as CTV and CTV Two.


8. Amalgamated Transit Union – Local 279

The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 279 is the OC Transpo employees union consisting of over 1700 members consisting of bus operators as well as other staffing positions within the company, including mechanics located at various garage depots throughout the city.