August 28th, 2007


Fewer vendors selling tickets

Vendors quit selling OC Transpo tickets after policy change

Ottawa transit riders may find tickets harder to come by after some convenience stores announced they have stopped selling them. The store owners made the decision because OC Transpo has changed the way it manages ticket sales.

The city's public transit company used to allow shops to sell the tickets on consignment, but now is asking most vendors to pay for bulk orders of tickets in order to sell them.

Vendors such as Carol Beck said the one per cent profit on sales isn't enough to cover the risks if vendors must shell out $3,000 or $4,000 within 30 days of receiving an order of tickets, which are sold in $950 bags of 1,000 and usually delivered three or four at a time.

"Until we get our consignment back, there's no point in us doing it, 'cause we lose money," said Beck, who runs Nicholby's souvenir shop, one of half a dozen downtown shops that have either stopped selling tickets or say they want to stop.

Beck, who has posted a notice advising customers that the store is no longer selling transit tickets, said that if tickets are stolen, shopkeepers are now on the hook, instead of the city.

The change in OC Transpo policy comes after an audit showed the city could lose a lot of money with the old system, which a few years ago left up to $1 million worth of tickets that had not been paid for available to be stolen, said Helen Gault, the city's manager of transit service, planning and development.

"In some cases they were just hanging about and therefore posing a risk for the vendor themselves and for the city too," she said. In addition, those tickets became working capital for the vendor rather than the city, she said.

The new system is intended to reduce the city's risk of falling victim to fraud, theft and bad debt.
Some shopkeepers told to stop selling tickets

However, Gault said, the company is open to talking to vendors about any problems they may have with the new system and will be meeting with the managers of Nicholby's.

Gault confirmed there are still 366 ticket vendors across the city, but said the city had itself reduced the number of vendors in recent years by asking some shopkeepers to stop selling the tickets, as visits from OC Transpo staff to that many locations was deemed too expensive.

"It’s really trying to get a balance between customer convenience and cost effectiveness," she said.

Some riders unhappy

But disgruntled transit riders such as David Zini suggest the city should try to make things easier for customers who now have to go from store to store trying to find a vendor to sell the tickets.

"Most of the time, they don't carry them. I've missed buses because of it," he said, adding that opening kiosks or selling the tickets near bus stops would help. "Anything would be better than what it is now."

OC Transpo tickets allow riders to pay $1.90 for a regular bus or O-Train fare, instead of the cash fare of $3.