Ottawa's Confederation Line will operate with just 11 trains for two months, but some councillors question why the city would ask to reduce LRT service to save only $160,000.
Fifteen trains usually run in the morning, 13 in the afternoon and 11 during off-peak hours. But, according to staff, riders will still see a train every five minutes and be able to properly distance from others if only 11 run all day long.
OC Transpo officials presented the March and April service reduction during a transit commission meeting on Wednesday, saying it would save the city $100,000 in monthly service payments to Rideau Transit Group (RTG), and possibly another $60,000 on electricity.
LRT ridership is estimated at less than 10 per cent of pre-COVID levels, making now a good time to reduce service to allow RTG to speed up work on fixing wheels, for instance, they said.
"It does seem like a significant reduction in service for a nominal amount. It almost doesn't seem worth it." - Coun. Diane Deans
Transportation general manager John Manconi said he approached RTG about reducing the service, and RTG was not obligated to "give us a dime" but he "squeezed" the $100,000 from it.
Coun. Catherine McKenney, however, said the savings would be pennies per ride.
"This is less than nickel and diming," McKenney said. "We are letting RTG off the hook."
Plan C coming next month
Coun. Diane Deans had asked during budget deliberations whether LRT service could be reduced to find savings to deal with a pandemic-induced transit deficit, but was told it wasn't even possible.
The picture officials presented for the 2021 budget was based on 70 per cent ridership on average for the year, and even that much higher ridership would still leave a $50- to $60-million transit shortfall.
Now presented with two months of a reduced fleet, Deans wasn't impressed.
"It does seem like a significant reduction in service for a nominal amount. It almost doesn't seem worth it," she said Wednesday.
As for tackling that giant deficit in 2021, Manconi said the city has yet to hear whether upper levels of government will come through with millions of operating dollars the way they did with funds for transit capital projects last week.
A list of route cuts is being prepared to close that financial chasm should federal and provincial help not materialize, a list staff refer to as their worst case Plan C. Plan A would see the money come through from upper levels of government, while Plan B involves cutting capital projects.
The criteria for cutting routes will now be presented in March, Manconi said, which is several months earlier than previously stated.
"We need the propping up that we talked about during budget," said Manconi, but added his position remains that he doesn't advocate service cuts and OC Transpo would look at all other options before resorting to the move.