by George Dai, recently arrived from China

New arrivals in the region, particularly immigrants, may find it beneficial to familiarize themselves with the local bus service. This article will provide some helpful information for people taking the bus in the Ottawa-Carleton region. After reading this page, you will have available three powerful tools to help you find your way around, and two ways to pay for your fares.

A good map is your most important tool. You should make sure of your destination before you ever leave home. Find the destination on the map! Be selective when you buy the map: choose one with a street listing and coordinates. In general, Canadian city maps are divided into small squares with coordinates. There are A, B, CÖ symbols for the vertical axis, and 1, 2, 3Ö symbols for horizontal axis. There is a street name index on the rear of the map. Find the coordinates (ie: B2, or A3) of your destination from the alphabetical street listing, and then pinpoint it on the map. Normally, streets in Ottawa tend to be long and straight with many cross streets. So, you should note not only where your destination street is, but also the nearest cross street. Unless you are sure of this information, you risk being taken by the bus some distance the wrong way.

The bus route map is the your second powerful tool. It will tell you which bus to take and where to change to other bus routes. There is a simple name index on the map for the main streets where bus service is provided. The two sides of the map are route lines for regular routes and peak routes. Each bus stop has a notice clearly indicating which bus will pass through that stop. Such information will assist you in choosing a bus station to change to another bus without having to hike some distance by foot.

There is a time-table card for each bus route to help you understand the route in detail, with times for every stop along the route. Pay close attention to the time-table. In general, there are three sections for weekdays, Saturday and Sunday. Some routes do not operate on Sundays.

The transportation service in the Ottawa-Carleton region is provided by OC Transpo Corporation. At every bus stop, there are the regular and peak bus route maps and detailed timetables of all the buses passing through that stop. You should make sure of the direction. On the timetable, sometimes there is an A, B or X extension beside the time. That means the final stop of this bus will be changed to another destination which is less far than the regular route last stop. There is a identification number for every bus stop. You can call OC Transpo (741-4390) or check their web site to find related information about the buses which use that stop.

Let us now see how you pay for your journey on the bus. Coins (cash) and tickets are the two ways for paying. There are three kinds of tickets you can buy: general ticket, day-pass and month-pass. The general ticket is $0.75. Normally, they are sold as a sheet with 10 tickets together, $7.5 dollars a sheet. The day-pass can be used for a whole day, but only paying once. The price of day-pass is $5. The month-pass has several kinds with different prices around the $60 mark. Remember to take a "transfer" from the driver when you use the general tickets or the day-pass. The expiring time is printed on the transfer. The time that you can use the ticket is about 1.5 hours for general ticket, and the whole day until the midnight for the day-pass. You can transfer to any other OC Transpo buses before the printed time.

You can select and buy tickets according to your trip frequency. There is a notice of price in the front of the bus. You should make sure the price of the bus you take is right. For example, you canít use your $57 month-pass to take the bus with price $3.50. You will need to add $1.25 in coin.

Here is a tip which will save you money. For example, on a bus of $2.25 price, you should put $2.25 coins into the machine, but you just need to put into $1.50 if you use a ticket. You save $0.75 each time. Thatís more than 30%. So you will get much better value buying the tickets.

OK, now you are a bus expert too. Find the place, select the route, prepare the tickets, step on the bus.

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