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Rural Transportation Solutions for Ottawa

Moving Solutions

Presentation to ARAC 7 Sept 2023

Following is a copy of the presentation script of the Open Mic session of the Agriculture and Rural Affairs meeting  on 7 September

The Slide Show is found HERE

A newspaper article on the topic is found at the West Carleton OnLine Newspaper HERE




Rural Transportation Presentation to ARAC 7 Sep


Rural Transportation Solutions aims to propose realistic, affordable and sustainable transportation options to help improve rural Ottawa’s transportation. We aim to present a range of transportation solutions, and the solutions we seek will be consistent with the priorities of the New Official Plan and the Master Transportation Plan. 

We started Survey #3 in March of this year to better define the transportation needs in terms of time of day, origin-destination, and age group.                                                                                                                  

We have received 356 responses in English and French. Participants have been from all five rural wards, and we have heard from residents of 25 villages.

This morning, I will highlight the patterns of rural transportation, who would benefit from more transportation options, and what some impediments to improvements might be. My colleague Susan Kuravilla will help with the Q&As and any discussion.


Participation in this survey has been primarily by adults and seniors, with adults comprising 70%. We need to do more work to engage the Youth and the Young Adult populations because their transportation needs can differ significantly from the other populations. It is worth noting that the National Capital Region Origin-Destination Study does not survey our youth.

The current situation with no school buses being available in some rural areas has increased the recognition that there are so few transportation options for rural residents.

Engaging high school students in this study continues to be challenging. The situation is not helped by the school boards’ policy to not allow groups like ours to address the schools directly.

To help remedy this, we are working with the Rural Ottawa Youth Mental Health Collective. You may recall from our previous presentation that our rural youth identify the lack of transportation options as their Number 2 problem.

Anecdotally, we hear of it regularly taking some college students more than three hours of their day to get to and from college.

Lack of transportation for our youth and young adults can have a long-term impact on our rural population through a phenomenon that academics call “thinning out.” When youth find that they have to move to the urban area for education or employment….that move is often permanent, and they don’t return to live in rural Ottawa. Not only do we lose talented individuals, but they are also a loss to their families, where they might have been able to assist their elderly parents age-in-place in their rural neighbourhood.

Survey No. 3 shows that 60-65% of rural residents either Strongly Agree or Agree that the rural area would benefit from more transportation. This level of support has been consistent in other surveys and public consultations.

This segment may not, however, be the loudest voice among your residents. The more outspoken tend to be those who have found their own transportation solutions through private automobiles and are not particularly sympathetic toward those experiencing transportation problems.





The TMP staff has been generous in sharing early information on the results of the ongoing Origin-Destination. Our findings are generally similar to theirs.

Our survey has indicated that the top four purposes of travel are: Shopping, Work, Recreation and Healthcare.

The top four destinations are: Outside the Ward, To the Nearest Village, Downtown, and Within the Ward. This distribution can vary by ward, as is also seen in the Origin-Destination study.

The popularity of “Walking and Cycling” was a bit unexpected. While “Active Transportation” appears to be a significant choice for rural residents, they scored its Safety as only 3 out of 10.







This graph shows the distribution of Time of Travel. GREEN is outgoing from the rural, while BLUE is returning home.

The bathtub pattern with the tall shoulders during the peak hours is similar to that seen in the  Origin-Destination Survey. The activity level during the daytime would likely be higher if we had more participation by Youth.

The data demonstrates a significant need for transportation throughout the day.

Because of the small and dispersed populations, this need would likely be best satisfied by an On-Demand shuttle bus system working on set schedules but with variable routes.






About 25% of these survey respondents stated they used OC Transpo service to some extent – but much of that is infrequently. Other surveys have suggested that this is as low as 10%. While not surprising due to the low level of bus service in the rural areas, it is also likely low by choice as potential passengers consider the service to be unreliable. We can only hope that OC Transpo will be able to improve its service and thus make it a much more attractive alternative to the private automobile in the rural area.

Remember, independent of their usage of bus transportation, two-thirds of our Rural Residents already pay taxes for public transit as they are located in Rural Transportation Area “B.”

While there are some advantages to privately owned transportation alternatives, the reality is that improved rural transportation service will most likely have to be based on OC Transpo. However, Ottawa may be able to take advantage of some Public-Private-Partnerships, particularly for the minibus shuttle service among the villages,

             “Ottawa’s Rural Equity and Inclusion Lens identifies many of the needs and challenges of rural residents.

 The City should seek innovative and affordable transportation solutions for the rural area as part of

the Official Plan Big Move 2 – Mobility.”







Notwithstanding that less than 25% of those surveyed used Public Transportation, some two-thirds said they would use it if it were readily and reliably available.

The desire to use public transportation decreases with the distance to the pick-up point or Park & Ride. There is twice the interest if the drive to a P&R is 1 km versus 10 kms. There is some threshold at which the traveller says: “ I have travelled this far just to catch the bus….maybe I should keep going and drive to my destination.”

The Carp Park & Ride is an example. Carp residents must drive more than 10 km to the Carp Park and Ride. How many more passengers could we attract if the P&R were in Carp?   We believe every rural village should have a Park & Ride.






Regarding a reasonable bus fare, respondents do not expect a ‘free ride, ’ and have been thoughtful. They know the current OC Transpo fare and the fares charged by the partnership bus lines.

The chart at the upper right shows preferences for cost-sharing between the rider and the general taxpayer. While some 45% would prefer that the system be 100% user-pay, one can express that opinion as 55% agree that the general taxpayer should bear some percentage of the costs. About 25% are happy with the current formula, where the rider pays 50% of the cost. Slightly more - 28% - would be prepared for the rider to pay 75% of the cost.

The bars in the chart on the LEFT show preferred fares for different types of trips. The DARK GREEN bar shows favour toward a standard rural bus fare of up to $5…that is, about 25% higher than the current bus fare. This fare could apply throughout the rural area.

We are working to develop a Business Case based on the Rural Fare being higher than the Urban Fare and including reducing the charge on the average residential tax bill.





What are the patterns of use of transportation?

The solutions must provide transportation service throughout the day - not just during the Peak Hours. Additionally, the Peak Hours service needs to recognize the increasing flow of workers TO the rural area…not just FROM the rural area.


Who would benefit from more transportation options?

The current public transportation options in the rural area primarily serve those heading ‘downtown’ or those planning a day’s worth of activities downtown.

The breadth of the beneficiaries of improved rural transportation is identified in the Rural Equity and Inclusion lens and includes:

  1. Youth will have more and better options for transportation to and from school, social activities, employment and other opportunities to be connected to their communities. They will be able to better connect with important mental health programs and services only available in urban Ottawa.
  2. Adults will have more transportation options throughout the day to get to their place of employment and to conduct the range of other activities associated with their personal and family life.
  3. Many older adults will not have to rely on family members, not-for-profit driving schedules and caregivers for transportation. Our Community Partners will continue to assist in these areas to better support our seniors to ‘age in place.’
  4. The growing diversity of residents in rural Ottawa. Improved transportation options would increase the opportunity for social connection to other diverse neighbourhoods and communities within urban and suburban Ottawa.

In addition, rural economic development requires workers and customers/clients to move in and out of the rural area. Improved public transportation will be an essential contributor to rural economic development.

What are the impediments to more Public Transportation for Rural Ottawa?

The most significant impediments to more public transportation for Rural Ottawa are Lack of Vision and Direction. The Official plan’s aspirational goal of having most trips conducted sustainably could have better recognized the rural challenge. The Official Plan punted the rural challenge to the Transportation Master plan, but the TMP continues to neglect this area.






Transportation Master Plan.

Implementing a complete set of transportation solutions will take some time … although some steps in that direction can be taken relatively quickly. The best way to get the small steps approved is when they are part of a long-range plan.

Long Term Plans and the Term of Council Priorities will play an increasing part in what will move forward and what will not. For this reason, we have been working hard to incorporate the Rural Transportation needs in the Transportation Master Plan.

In a previous Open Mic presentation, we recommended the wording on this slide be included in the TMP policies. That has not yet happened, but the list of policies is still open for tweaking. Rural Councillors need to send such a recommendation now.

                                                    TMP: The City should seek innovative and affordable transportation

solutions for the rural area as part of the Official Plan Big Move 2 – Mobility.”

OC Transpo 5-Year Road Map.

OC Transpo is working on a 5-Year Road Map to improve service and efficiencies. This ‘review,’ however, appears to have a limited mandate to consider significant new programs.

However, you could request that this review specifically include the rural routes.

We also recommend that you support the recommendation that OC Transpo consider extending a bus line to service the Carp Road Corridor BIA – something that would be entirely in line with the Rural Economic Development Plan.






Our “Have Not” Villages

In September 2002, OC Transpo and the Transportation Committee recommended bus service to 18 rural villages. This service was to operate during the peak hours and be a combination of OC Transpo routes and those of partnership bus lines that originated outside the city.

Twenty years later, half of those recommended 18 villages still do not have bus service.

We have assembled outlines of the 2002 proposal with updates provided by Transportation staff. We will send them to you for your input on whether these proposals are valid.



Thank you for your attention. Can we answer any of your questions or further discuss any aspects of the work of Rural Transportation Solutions?