Denley: Ottawa's expensive public transit faces trouble, post-pandemic

By Randall Denley, Ottawa Citizen, October 20, 2020

The City of Ottawa’s plan for an overall three-per-cent tax increase in 2021 was expected, but one number is out of whack, and it’s a troubling one. Break down the components of the proposed tax increase and you see that taxes for the broad range of city services are going up 2.5 per cent, but the transit levy is increasing by 4.6 per cent.

The big transit tax increase is like a flashing red light warning us of a problem that could fundamentally undermine public transit, leaving taxpayers with a huge liability.

Federal and provincial money is likely to fully bail out the city for 2020, but what does the medium term look like? Presumably, the federal workforce will return to downtown, but to what extent? It’s estimated that if even 20 per cent of public servants continue to work from home, 10 per cent of Ottawa’s downtown offices would be vacant. Eventually, the federal government will realize that its current level of spending is wildly unsustainable and start looking for economies. That could mean fewer public servants, less office space and less demand for public transit.

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