Close Close
Skip to content

Celebrating 50 years of OC Transpo

Image - Celebrating 50 years of OC Transpo

In 1973, Pierre Trudeau was Prime Minister, the Ottawa Rough Riders won their eighth Grey Cup, and public transit in Ottawa underwent a name change.

On May 13, 1973, the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission officially unveiled its new name and brand, OC Transpo, at a ceremony in front of the Chateau Laurier.

One of the very first OC Transpo-branded buses from 1972.

During the unveiling, families filled one of the newly painted buses which also celebrated the inauguration of the Family Day Pass. For $1, families of up to six people could take unlimited trips on Sundays and statutory holidays.

Let’s take a look back on the introduction of OC Transpo and how it has evolved since May 1972.

What’s in a name?

In 1948, the City of Ottawa purchased the Ottawa Electric Railway Company. After 78 years of privately-run transport, the City was now in control and it created the Ottawa Transit Commission (OTC).

A new look and name came for transit in Ottawa in the 1970s. The Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission took over in 1972 and the following year called the service OC Transpo.

OC stands for Ottawa-Carleton. According to an Ottawa Citizen article after the announcement, Transpo was chosen because it’s just catchier than regional transportation commission.

The new colour scheme of cardinal red and white was gradually added to bus fleet as part of the rebrand.

Evolution of OC Transpo

Over the past 50 years, OC Transpo has evolved to expand and improve public transit in Ottawa. Here are some notable moments in OC Transpo history:

  • 1975: OC Transpo launches accessible transit
  • 1983: The first section of Transitway opens
  • 1985: OC Transpo launches its first holiday food drive, supporting the Ottawa Food Bank
  • 1996: With the rise of home internet, is launched to provide information to customers at their fingertips.
  • 1998:  The ice storm hits Ottawa and OC Transpo steps up to provide transportation to military personnel who were called in to remove debris, do wellness checks and help restore power.
  • 2001: Forty-two years after the removal of streetcars, Ottawa returned to rail. On October 15, the eight-kilometre-long O-Train began from Bayview Station to Greenboro Station.
  • 2019: On September 14, O-Train Line 1 brought modern light rail service to Ottawa as it welcomed riders for the first time at 13 brand-new, fully accessible stations.
  • 2022: OC Transpo’s first four zero-emission buses begin passenger service.

Interested in more transit history?

From horse drawn street cars to trains travelling underneath the downtown core, Ottawa’s public transit has a fascinating history. Check out OC Transpo’s virtual museum for a comprehensive timeline of public transit in Ottawa dating back to 1870.