OC Transpo to pull most articulated buses from service when more than 31 cm of snow is in the forecast

OC Transpo will pull most articulated buses from service and switch to a Saturday schedule if more than 31 cm of snow is in the forecast for Ottawa on weekdays this winter.

The Transit Service is launching a new “Severe Storm Schedule” pilot for buses on weekdays in preparation for possibly heavy snowfall events or other severe weather, following complaints about articulated buses struggling to operate during heavy snowfall events.

“OC Transpo’s articulated buses often struggle to operate in deep snow, sometimes getting stuck and causing severe disruptions for transit customers,” Transit Services general manager Renee Amilcar said in a memo to council.

“We work closely with other city departments to plan and implement services during challenging winter conditions.”

The Amalgamated Transit Union said when Ottawa received 48 cm of snow on Jan. 17, at least 150 buses got stuck in snowbanks. The union called on the city to develop a better plan to keep buses moving during snowstorms.

Amilcar outlined the plans for the Severe Storm Schedule pilot for buses to council on Thursday.  If the forecast calls for 31 cm of snow or more or other severe circumstances on weekdays, the following will happen.

  • Most articulated buses will be replaced with 40-foot and double-decker buses to improve service reliability, Amilcar said.
  • On weekdays, bus service will be based on a Saturday schedule, with limited early morning service and weekday-only routes. Trips will be added to routes servicing hospitals

There will be no changes to Para Transpo and O-Train service during heavy snowstorms.

Amilcar says when a severe storm is in the forecast for a Saturday or Sunday, the Severe Storm Schedule will not be implemented but some articulated buses will be replaced with 40-foot and double-decker buses to “improve service reliability”.

OC Transpo plans to launch a “robust communications plan” to inform customers in advance of any bus schedule changes during severe weather, Amilcar said. In December, the OC Transpo Travel Planner will be updated so riders can see how their trip will change during the Severe Storm Schedule.

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