Students entering on the Route 88 Hurdman bus. Photo credit: Myriam Landreville

With many students returning to campus for in-person courses this semester, OC Transpo has welcomed back riders to the transit system.

A total of 9,014 U-Passes had been issued to Algonquin College students for this semester as of Sept. 22 according to Card Services. Citywide, approximately 80,800 U-Passes were issued to full-time students at participating institutions, according to the City of Ottawa.

For many students, however, there is dissatisfaction with OC Transpo.

“It feels like a waste of time,” said Étienne Paré, a computer engineering technology student.

Paré said it typically takes him 90 minutes or more to get to school from Orléans “and I can’t practically do homework during that time.”

This commuting time is not uncommon for Ottawa. According to the Moovit, an online and mobile application that helps riders map out their routes, an average Ottawa commuter spends 84 minutes a day on the bus and 86 per cent of riders spend over two hours riding. In Toronto, the average is 52 minutes, and in Montreal it’s 47 minutes.

OC Transpo says that the commute from Orléans to Algonquin College should take approximately an hour.

Other students are pointing out how packed buses can be.

“The 88 specifically is always packed like sardines,” said Nadia Desormeaux a business-marketing student.

“It’s draining when I’ve had a long day at school and I have to stand next to everyone squished together. And more often than not there is always someone sick who chooses not to wear a mask.”

OC Transpo has launched a new ad campaign with a budget of $625,000 approved by city council.

One of the advertisements has received particularly harsh criticism online. The advertisement, which says “A pass costs less than gas,” has made some customers angry.

A thread on Reddit Ottawa has many commenters calling for better service, not more ads. “A pass costs less than gas…BUT I can fill up my tank and know that I won’t get fired for not making it to work on time,” one commenter wrote.

“The campaign is not being received well. People are feeling that the ads and by extension OC Transpo are gaslighting them in their experiences. It is a bit tone deaf,” said Sarah Wright-Gilbert, a member of the transit commission, during the commission’s most recent meeting.

Commuters are pointing out that the monthly OC Transpo pass for adults is $125.50, which is one of the highest prices in the country.

However, students are able to get a U-Pass at a rate of $223.48 per semester with an administrative fee of $5.65 per academic year, which is cheaper than the adult pass.

The price of the U-Pass has jumped by $15.96 and the administrative fee has jumped by $2.23 since the 2018/2019 academic year.

“I am not worried about prices yet, but if it keeps increasing I will be” said Paré.