Festival transit bill part of Lansdowne deal, says OC Transpo

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Ottawa Asian Fest organizers are scrambling to cover up to $18,000 in transit costs, but OC Transpo says it's always been that way.

Emma Jackson, Metro

Asian Fest organizers knew from the start they’d have to pay for extra transit, OC Transpo officials said Tuesday.

Simon Huang, program co-ordinator for the Ottawa Asian Fest at Lansdowne Park, said Monday that organizers were surprised two weeks ago by “an unbearable cost” for extra buses to its event June 17-19.

The "ballpark figure" is $18,000 – nearly a third of the festival's $65,000 budget. The board of directors will eat the cost, Huang said.

But OC Transpo’s Pat Scrimgeour said that was the deal all along: since Lansdowne opened, any event that attracts more than 5,000 people has to cover any extra transit OC Transpo provides.

"We’re just applying the same rules," Scrimgeour said.

For concerts and sporting events, transit is built right into the tickets, and holders get free rides to and from the park.

But Asian Fest is free.

"It kind of seems like OC Transpo is double charging," Huang said.

Scrimgeour said it’s up to organizers “to decide how they cover the costs of all aspects of their event.”

Outside of Lansdowne, major festivals don’t seem particularly worried about an unexpected bill.

Holly Tarrison, executive director for HOPE Volleyball Summerfest at Mooney’s Bay, said her group charters private shuttles.

“We don’t see there’s an increase in OC Transpo service for us,” she said.

Same goes for the Lebanese Festival, said spokesperson Ray Skaff.

And Greek Fest organizer Eleni Dellis said she hasn’t heard from the transit operator.

OC Transpo tried this year to recoup costs from the Canadian Tire Centre and Bluesfest, but of the $532,000 they wanted, only $100,000 was secured.

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