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OC Transpo LRT train. Right: Presto card.

OC Transpo LRT train. Right: Presto card.

If you live or travel in Ottawa, you might be able to hitch a free OC Transpo ride on soon. The city is toying with the idea of free transit, but in looking at the options, it might still cost a pretty penny and some people aren't happy about it.

In a memo sent on July 11, City of Ottawa Chief Financial Officer Wendy Stephanson and General Manager Renée Amilcar noted that "no charge fares for all riders" would cost most property owners $482 every year in transit tax.

The city promises that will reduce mobility barriers, boost the labour force and city activities, increase ridership, reduce vehicle use, and lower costs of fare collection.

But some people aren't so keen on it.

"Hard no. Free does not mean reliable. And if it reliable i dont mind paying. City has a lot of work," wrote a Twitter user about the no fare option.

Over on Reddit, someone chimed in and said "I'd pay $1000/year for functional transit. I'm already paying $1500 for an unreliable one."

Someone else posted saying, "$40 a month instead of the 130 now? Uh ok. I'm sure this would also free up a lot of resources in the entire presto card service, security and fare gate maintenance that could be used elsewhere." While, another Redditor responded with, "Or in most people's case, $40/month instead of $0 now."

Yet another user offered a counter-argument to this: "Drivers/non transit users don't realize that this benefits them too. They're not paying $40 for nothing. It benefits them to get people out of cars and off the road into transit. Traffic congestion gets better. Or at least stays stable as the population of Ottawa increases."

Right now, the city is paying for public transit through rider fare and transit tax.

But since the pandemic hit, fewer people have been paying up for OC Transpo. So, the City of Ottawa has been looking for more stable ways to pay for its buses and trains.

"If the fall shows clearer stabilization and/or recovery trends, staff will be in a better position to complete the work to update the Transit LRFP based on more solid projections," the memo notes.

The City of Ottawa will be undergoing some intense research on how to pay for the system. Staff estimate that will cost the city between $700,000 and $900,000.

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