Ndjiwa Yakibonge is a single mom who’s married — to the rural bus schedule.
She works in a downtown office and rides OC Transpo Route 232 from Vars, in Russell Township.
“Rural buses are not the easiest thing,” said Yakibonge.
The fixed schedule, with three runs during each rush hour, means she has to pencil in her life around the bus departure and arrival times.
“By the time it leaves Vars, it’s full,” she said.
Yakibonge used to drive, however, “I used to spend almost $400 on parking and gas just to go to work,” she said.
Taking the bus costs about $120 each month.
While the bus is saving her a lot of cash, it comes with its own cost: Worry.
She’ll have to spend a fortune to get home if there’s an emergency during the middle of the day.
“If the school is to call me if my son is sick, I have to take a bus to St. Laurent and then a cab,” she said.
“And I don’t know how much that would cost me. It’s a long drive.”
She said she’d like to see more runs added.
“The first bus is at 3:40 p.m. If you have to come back before that, you’re screwed,” she said.
Back in the fall, ridership on Route 232 was a little under two-thirds full, said Pat Scrimgeour, manager of transit service design at OC Transpo.
That number could be higher now, but adding more runs is “pretty unlikely” unless the buses are getting closer to full, said Scrimgeour.
Service began in 2002, “and at that point it was one trip in the morning, one trip in the afternoon,” he said.
Overall, “ridership has grown quite a bit and the service has been increased.”
Route 232 is run by OC Transpo, thereby funded by Ottawa taxpayers, whereas the 500 series routes are contracted out to rural partners.
“They don’t compete with OC Transpo because they pick up people outside OC Transpo boundaries,” said Scrimgeour.
Any routes servicing Russell Township are paid for by those taxpayers.
“Each municipality is going to make their own decisions about service level, fare, times of day, things like that,” said Scrimgeour.
So Yakibonge will have to deal with the reality of working one hour away from home.
On the bright side — unlike other lots in Ottawa — there’s ample parking at the Vars Park and Ride.
“I can’t complain about that,” she said.