OC Transpo bus reliability has fallen short of targets each month for more than a year and dropped further in July and August following the Line 1 LRT closure, according to data shared at the city’s Transit Commission meeting on Sept. 14.

City councillors wanted to know why.

“Looking at the stats over the last year, you have not hit that target once […] and over the last few months there’s been a downward trend,” said River Coun. Riley Brockington during the meeting.

“Bus reliability is a number one priority or a main priority, and if we’re aware of the factors that are contributing to bus reliability then what I expect is a clear explanation. ‘We know what the factors are that are contributing, here’s what we’ve done in the last month to address those factors, to reduce the challenges that we’ve had with bus reliability,’ Brockington said to Renée Amilcar, general manager of OC Transpo at the meeting.

“First, we need to stabilize the service,” said Amilcar. “When we have an issue with the LRT and we have to provide our own service, it cannot be possible to achieve the 99.5 [per cent target]. It’s a very aggressive target.”

“For sure we need to have more bus drivers, just in case we have to face the problems that we had to face in July and August,” she said.

OC Transpo is advertising a large number of jobs to address the shortage of workers.

Ottawa’s Line 1 LRT was closed from July 17 to Aug. 7 following an issue with the axle bearings on the trains. Before the closure, the month’s conventional transit delivery rate was at 98 per cent. According to the data shared by OC Transpo at the transit commission meeting, the need for buses to replace the Line 1 LRT service accounted for 25 per cent of undelivered trips in the latter half of July.

The route No. 2 LRT replacement bus, the route No. 11 and the route No. 6 were the city’s three least reliable routes in July. Data received by Capital Current earlier this year placed both the route No. 2 LRT replacement bus and the route No. 6 amongst the 10 busiest bus routes in the city.

The route No. 2 LRT replacement bus was the least reliable bus route in July delivering 92.5 per cent of trips as planned. The No. 2 LRT replacement bus travels from Bayshore to South Keys in place of the Line 2 LRT which is to reopen later this year.

Route No. 11 also delivered 92.5 per cent of services as planned. It travels from Parliament to Bayshore, connecting downtown Ottawa to the west end. Route No. 6, which travels between Greenboro and Rockcliffe along Bank Street, completed 93.7 per cent of trips as planned.

“If someone is willing to drive their own vehicle, [pay for] gas, insurance, wear and tear, $20 or more for parking, […] it’s a more attractive option for them than taking public transit. We have to answer the question as to why that's the case,” said Brockington, a member of the transit commission.

“Transit can be free and there will still be people who choose not to take it because of reliability issues, and that's always been the Achilles’ heel of OC Transpo,” he said.

“It’s service delivery that is the most important, where the buses go and when they come in,” said Barrhaven East Coun. Wilson Lo, a member of the transit commission. "This was a central message to the argument against free transit during the campaign, that free transit is still going to be bad transit in the state of flux that we're in right now.”

Data shared at Thursday's transit commission indicates that OC Transpo failed to hit July's conventional ridership and revenue targets as well. OC Transpo fell short of July's revenue target by $2.7 million, the largest gap seen this year. Monthly fare revenue targets have not been hit once this year, despite a shift to hybrid workplaces for many federal employees.

The next transit commission meeting is Oct. 12.