Transit deficit estimated to hit $85.5M in 2022

·2 min read
A quiet Tunney's Pasture station in January 2022. The province's COVID-19 measures that month are among the factors that have contributed to OC Transpo's deficit, according to a staff report. (Vincent Yergeau/Radio-Canada - image credit)
A quiet Tunney's Pasture station in January 2022. The province's COVID-19 measures that month are among the factors that have contributed to OC Transpo's deficit, according to a staff report. (Vincent Yergeau/Radio-Canada - image credit)

OC Transpo ridership has failed to recover as hoped from the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, leaving Ottawa's public transit agency with a forecast deficit of $85.5 million for 2022.

According to a report to Ottawa's transit commission Wednesday, the pandemic had eroded OC Transpo's budget by nearly $45 million as of June 30. The report blames lost revenue and a decline in provincial support.

Pandemic-related losses amounted to $21 million more than originally predicted, after a tightening of pandemic rules in January prompted a further drop in both ridership and advertising revenue.

There were concerns about ridership projections when the 2022 transit budget was approved.

At the same time, the city has so far received just $11 million from the province for pandemic recovery, less than one-third of the $37 million it was counting on.

On the other side of the ledger, the drop in ridership has saved OC Transpo about $2.8 million in cleaning and other services.

City staff are hoping a pool of money from the provincial and federal governments to cover COVID-related shortfalls will help, but they don't know how much Ottawa will get. The city has received this type of assistance before.

City treasurer Wendy Stephenson said there's a backup plan if the city doesn't get that money.

Convoy also cost OC Transpo

OC Transpo also lost about $4.5 million during last winter's convoy occupation.

About $3.8 million of that was lost revenue due to cancelled routes and free service offered after police cleared protesters from the downtown. Another $700,000 was spent on extra buses for police and outreach staff.

Michael Cole/CBC
Michael Cole/CBC

According to the report, it's expected Public Safety Canada will cover those costs.

In a news release issued Wednesday, the city said OC Transpo has expanded its "We're Here to Take You There" ad campaign "to rebuild positive attitudes toward public transit in Ottawa and to increase ridership."