Transit revenues down across Canada, StatsCan finds

OC Transpo’s not the only one scrounging for change between the O-Train seats.

New data from Statistics Canada shows passenger bus and urban transit revenues were down across the country in 2014, falling 3.7 per cent from the year before.

Expenses, meanwhile, went up 4.5 per cent.

According to the federal data, human resources eat up the largest chunk of operating expenses – 57.3 per cent on average – and in the urban transit sector passenger fares make up 54.4 per cent of the revenue.

Two-thirds of 2014’s collective $11.4 billion in operating revenue came from 90 urban transit operators, mostly in Quebec and Ontario, StatsCan said.

For every dollar earned, transit operators received $0.79 in subsidies, StatsCan said.

Ottawa’s transit operator isn’t immune to discouraging market trends.

General manager John Manconi has long lamented the city’s stagnating ridership, which started to drop suddenly in 2012 and is only starting to show signs of recovery this year with a 0.6 per cent uptick for 2016 reported in June.

Financially, OC Transpo has struggled to balance low costs with low fares. It faced an $11.6-million deficit at the end of 2015, and has been using hiring and spending freezes to reign in costs.

It caused some controversy this year as it tried to recoup extra transit expenses from festivals like Bluesfest, which can cost the service hundreds of thousands for extra staff, gas and maintenance to get hordes of festival-goers to the site.

Staff have also maintained an annual 2.5 per cent average fare increase, which they argue is necessary to keep the transit network stable in the future.

But advocates for the city’s poorest residents – including several city councillors – have said regular fare hikes on top of higher-than-average ticket prices are driving potential riders away, and are leaving low-income residents without an affordable way to get around.

This article originally appeared on on July 25.