So, I attended my first City of Ottawa Transit Commission meeting yesterday. Two main motions were discussed and passed.
The first motion related to how many regularly scheduled meetings the Transit Commission should hold in a year. With a goal being optimization, the Council Governance Review recommended the frequency be dropped to 8 per year from the existing once per month but allow for the continued ability to schedule Special Meetings should the need arise. The delegation from CAWI (City of All Woman Initiative) was counter to the reduction of meetings as it stated that there would be less opportunity for the public to interact with the committee curbing their democratic rights. CAWI also brought up multiple points related to the difficulties the public has with meetings such as last minute changes to the agenda causing lengthy wait times for the public and the challenges of English as-a-second language speakers. After a few procedural questions posed by council the motion was passed. Will there be enough meetings to handle the issues that need to be brought before the Commission? Will the public see improvements and have ample opportunity to bring forward their opinions, suggestions and concerns? And will there be a need for multiple Special Meetings and if so will it even be possible to insert them into the schedule. Time will tell.
The second motion was for the approval of the draft Transit Commission Draft Operating and Capital budget that was first tabled Feb 4. Council was informed of the types of decisions they could make, including examining whether the fares should be set to fund 55% of the operating cost up from 53%. This would represent a 2.5% increase in bus fares across the board or a 0% to 3.8% increase depending on the fare type. The delegations from COA (Council on Aging of Ottawa) requested the fares continue to fund 53% and hold the line on fares for seniors. Both the delegation from COA and the GottaGo! Campaign requested more public toilets. CAWI also requested that fares stop rising every year. A number of other requests and suggestions were presented by the public including
- Bus passes for children be introduced
- Re-visit O-train free service currently being provided to some
- Improve Para Transpo including rural service
- Increase property taxes instead of fares
- Use savings from falling gas prices.
No questions were posed by any of the delegations or individuals who presented.
Councillor Nussbaum requested some clarity related to the budget increases for salary and overtime.
The draft budget was passed unanimously. They approved an increase of $7,935,000 over last year’s operating budget for the Transit Commission (page 5), all user fare increases (page 9) and the list of projects (pages 16-33). The recommendation is to go to council on March 11.
– Fran Armstrong, Ecology Ottawa Volunteer, Streets Team