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Ottawa mayor, transit chair call for transit fare freeze following LRT woes

Mayor Jim Watson and the city's transit chair Allan Hubley are asking the city to implement a freeze on rising transportation fares due to issues with the new LRT system.
Mayor Jim Watson and the city's transit chair Allan Hubley are asking the city to implement a freeze on rising transportation fares due to issues with the new LRT system. Beatrice Britneff / Global News

Ottawa Mayor Jim Watson and the city’s transit chair and councillor for Kanata South Allan Hubley have penned a letter asking the city for a fare freeze following over a month of issues with the city’s new light-rail transit (LRT) system.

The letter recommends a temporary fare freeze from January to March but suggests that if issues are not fixed by the end of March, the freeze may continue.

READ MORE: OC Transpo can’t say when Ottawa’s LRT will be stable — ‘The system isn’t good enough yet’

“Also, please be prepared to bring forward a funding plan to extend the freeze beyond March 2020, should service to our transit passengers not improve the city’s satisfaction,” the letter read.

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On Wednesday, the city tabled a draft budget that if voted through, would implement a 2.5 per cent fare increase beginning Jan. 1, 2020.

Now, after mounting frustrations with delays on the new Confederation Line, and just hours after a train stopped once again during the morning commute hours, Watson is asking that increase to be rolled back, at least temporarily.

READ MORE: Train breakdown causes more delays on Ottawa’s Confederation Line during morning commute

On Wednesday, after the draft budget was announced, citizen transit commissioners Sarah Wright-Gilbert and Anthony Carricato said they would rather see fares frozen in January because of the ongoing LRT problems.

“I absolutely believe that fares should be frozen across the board,” Wright-Gilbert said on Wednesday. “I’m going to be spending my weekend looking for offsets in the budget to offset the $4.9 million that they say that a fare increase will bring in.”

In the letter tweeted out by the mayor on Friday, Watson and Hubley thanked “several councillors and transit commissioners” who approached them with what they called “a sensible proposal for a temporary freeze.”