Ottawa crazy for transit

We might not fancy taking public transit to work but we certainly suck it up and ride it — or cycle — in comparison to the rest of the country.

Ottawa-Gatineau had the third-highest proportion of transit users (20%) in major cities, trailing Toronto (23%) and Montreal (22%), according to 2011 National Household Survey data released Wednesday by Statistics Canada.

“The better your transit service, the more likely people are to use it,” said transit commission chairwoman and Gloucester-Southgate Coun. Diane Deans, noting infrastructure is a considerable priority in Ottawa.

“If we’re investing public dollars in public transit systems, it’s more likely that the public will respond by changing.”

Vancouver finished fourth with just under 20%.

National Capital Region commuters tied third with Kingston (2.2%) in cycling to work, behind those active British Columbians in Victoria (5.9%) and Kelowna (2.6%).

On a national scale, 1.3% of employees cycled to work, and 5.7% of Canadians walked — down from 6.4% in the 2006 Census, although the cycling figure from 2006 remains unchanged.

Overall, 74% of Canadians chose to handle the wheel to arrive at work; with 11.4 million out of 15.4 million commuters driving a car, truck or van, only 5.6%, or 867,100 people, were passengers.

Country-wide, 12% of commuters, or 1.8 million workers, used public transit, a 1% increase compared with 1.6 million workers in the 2006 Census.

“What this says to me is that Canadians are still in love with the automobile,” said Deans.

“Our job, in Canadian cities, is to over time, try and change those trends.”

Building a transit-friendly city means accommodating many methods.

OC Transpo’s Rack & Roll program for spandex-and-helmet lovers continues to grow in popularity.

In addition, “we’re investing in cycling infrastructure,” said Deans.

“We’re trying to close the gap so that more people are able to commute using cycles safely, and to choose multi-mode.”

Residents may choose to walk, cycle, and use transit in one trek, “and that’s what we want to encourage.”

Commuter Jeffrey Szelzki said OC Transpo is “currently unreliable, although it’s financially beneficial for most, currently,” he wrote via Twitter.

“I’ve taken the bus for 10 years and periodically walk home if construction is bad downtown.”

Deans said “there’s a bit of a ‘wait and see’ attitude” in terms of residents converting to transit due to LRT construction.

Twitter: @ottawasunkroche

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