Transit fee part of holding events at Lansdowne, councillors say

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Jon Willing, Ottawa Citizen

Festival organizers will simply need to get used to paying a transit fee if they want to use the municipality's premier park.

"It's the cost of doing an event at Lansdowne Park," transit commission chair Stephen Blais said Wednesday.

"They have to pay for all the services they consume. This is to ensure the festival doesn't have a negative impact to things going on around it."

Asian Fest raised concerns this week because OC Transpo wants to charge up to $18,000 in extra transit services provided for the three-day event at Lansdowne this month. There is no admission price for visitors, so the festival would need to absorb the cost somehow.

Transpo is trying harder to recoup money it spends on providing enhanced bus service during special events.

Booking space at Lansdowne comes with a rule compelling organizers to pay a transit fee if there will be more than 5,000 people attending an event.

Transportation planning at Lansdowne has focused heavily on trying to convince people to leave their cars at home and consider other modes, such as public transit. Transpo wants to make sure it has the bus capacity for people choosing transit.

Capital Coun. David Chernushenko, whose ward includes Lansdowne, said festivals should be building the transit expense into their budgets.

"It's the cost of doing business anywhere, not just at Lansdowne," Chernushenko said.

There are taxpayers who aren't attending the festival who are still being charged for the extra transit service if Transpo needs to add buses to routes, Chernushenko noted.

"You're putting the transportation costs on everybody else," he said.

Transpo will consider transit charges for events outside Lansdowne on a case-by-case basis.

Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper, a transit commissioner, doesn't like the idea of dinging festivals with bus bills.

Leiper said he's "disappointed" in the early application of Transpo's policy to collect transit money from special events. He wasn't a fan of forcing Bluesfest to pay a transit fee.

The agreement between Bluesfest and Transpo has the music festival paying $100,000, with annual increases, for extra transit service. The money won't cover the total cost for providing the additional buses, but it will be more than the fare revenue collected from festival-goers in the past.

Blais said Bluesfest will confirm with Transpo the number of tickets sold on each day of the festival so the transit agency can prepare the appropriate number of buses. Knowing how many transit resources to schedule each day could help Transpo save money by not oversupplying buses to the music festival, Blais said.

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