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OC Transpo cuts 35 jobs citing loss of ridership

OC Transpo is staring at a $3.7-billion decline in fare revenue over the next 25 years. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)
OC Transpo is staring at a $3.7-billion decline in fare revenue over the next 25 years. (Spencer Colby/The Canadian Press - image credit)

Ottawa's public transit agency said Tuesday it has cut 35 jobs as costs rise and ridership lags.

Transit services general manager Renée Amilcar said in a memo 25 of the jobs are unionized and 10 are "management and professional employees."

The cuts do not affect OC Transpo's operators, mechanics or apprentices, she wrote, noting the service is still trying to hire those kinds of workers.

"Today's changes ensure that management and administrative support levels are aligned with our department's business needs and consistent with supervisory levels across the corporation," Amilcar wrote.

Jamie Larkin, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1760, represents the 25 unionized workers affected. He said some of them are station attendants — the workers who wear the red vests and provide information to riders.

He said they do an important job directing customers to their destinations, especially during LRT shutdowns.

"We all know the train has a tendency to break down and unfortunately there's not going to be anybody there to help out," he said.

Larkin said some of the other affected positions are in the warranty department.

'A really difficult day'

Transit commission chair Glen Gower said the news means "a really difficult day for OC Transpo." He said it's a direct result of lower ridership that remains well below pre-pandemic levels.

Gower said he is unaware of any plans for further job cuts.

OC Transpo was staring at a $50-million budget hole in the fall, with ridership forecast at just three-quarters of 2019 levels and costs mounting faster than revenues.

Those missing riders mean a reduction in fare revenue, which Amilcar called a "permanent gap in OC Transpo's annual funding" on Tuesday.

OC Transpo used up most of its reserves to help fill that hole this year, along with a fare increase, service cuts and reducing payments to its LRT contractors.

Amilcar also wrote Tuesday that OC Transpo is retiring older buses, freezing what spending it can and putting off some other costs.

She had warned during the budget process that layoffs could happen.

Cities in Ontario have to present balanced budgets, and Mayor Mark Sutcliffe stuck to his campaign promise to limit Ottawa's property tax increase to 2.5 per cent.

Ridership is expected to be a problem for a while, with more residents working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the next 25 years, staff say the city can expect a $3.7-billion decline in fare revenues, or $100 million per year in net present value.