With ridership and revenues dipping, OC Transpo faces possible deficit

OC Transpo
File photo.

OC Transpo revenues are down over the first half of 2017, as the transit agency deals with the financial impacts of higher-than-average lawsuit settlements and declining ridership rates.

Over the first half of 2017, ridership on OC Transpo dropped by 1.5 million riders, down from 49.5 million in 2016.

“There was a bit a lull at the beginning of the year,” said general manager of transportation services John Manconi. “It’s improved a little bit, and we’ll track it carefully.

“We’re watching ridership month to month,” said Manconi. “Looking at the data that Pat [Scrimgeour] has pulled together, the detours are exhausting people right now.”

Manconi said that, even though complaints about changes to routing and transfer locations had been noted, there are no concerns that dipping ridership could spell concern for the transition to LRT.

“Most organizations would be very proud of hitting 96 per cent of revenue targets. The sky is not falling,” he said.

“We try to neither celebrate when ridership goes up unexpectedly, nor get excessively worried when ridership goes down unexpectedly,” said Scrimgeour, director of customer systems at OC Transpo, who also admitted that “it would be nice if more people chose to use our service.”

Legal costs could put the transit agency in a tougher spot, though. The city has spent a higher than average amount on settling legal claims this year—principally related to the 2013 bus-train crash—which Manconi admits has contributed financial stress.

The service still says it expects to balance the budget this year, but admits that that could change if more insurance claims need to be paid out.

“We’ve maxed out on our base budget in terms of insurance claims,” he said, noting that the city budgets for the average every year. “Yeah, that could cause us to get into a deficit.”

This article originally appeared in Metro News.