Mon. May 23rd, 2022

“They had no access to toilets, they had no access to food. Some operators were stuck in the middle of nowhere.”

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More than 150 OC Transpo buses were stranded in the blizzard on Monday, with some operators left in the disabled vehicles for more than eight hours, according to the transit agency’s largest union.

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Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 accused OC Transpo of being unprepared for winter service, and President Clint Crabtree urged the agency to return to a special service plan for days with forecasts for winter storms.

“Something needs to be in place,” Crabtree said Wednesday. “We may not be able to provide that much service on those days.”

Where transit customers might refuse at a reduced schedule on a stormy day, Crabtree said the transit service still did not run the best it could on the days when buses were stuck and did not pick up customers.

Crabtree said “more than a handful” of bus operators were stranded for at least eight hours after their buses could not move. An operator was stuck on Hunt Club Road between 6 p.m. 11 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., he said.

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“They had no access to toilets, they had no access to food,” Crabtree said. “Some operators were stuck in the middle of nowhere.”

According to Crabtree, there is no protocol to pick up an operator on a locked bus, even though OC Transpo is doing its best to get to the employee. Sometimes available Para Transpo buses are shipped to get stranded operators, he said.

Operators, however, had trouble getting a response from the control room on Monday, Crabtree said.

About 48 inches of snow fell on Ottawa that day. OC Transpo reported that the LRT system worked well during the snowstorm with minimal delays during an 11-train operation, but the bus system struggled on snow-covered roads.

Crabtree said the union had raised its concerns about bus operation in blizzards before. He believes that a “just-in-time booking” for snowstorms, which results in schedule reductions for customers, is the best way to avoid a large number of stuck buses and outsourced towing assistance.

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“Having so many towing calls in one day is unacceptable. There’s no need for it,” Crabtree said.

The City of Ottawa responded in a statement attributed to the Troy Charter, its director of transit operations.

“OC Transpo provides critical public transport to our residents so they can get where they are going, in all weather conditions. Due to the amount of snow that accumulated in a very short time on January 17, we experienced challenges with all bus types across the city, ‚ÄĚCharter said.

The charter said the transit operations and communications center maintained contact with operators and if a bus was immobilized, the communications center would send assistance.

“As we recognize the unique intensity of Monday’s significant weather event, the safety of our customers and staff has always been and will always be OC Transpos’ number one priority,” said Charter.

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“We are also committed to providing the best possible service to customers under the circumstances. As with all motorists on the road, Transit Services experienced delays, causing challenging driving conditions and a large number of immobilized buses during the weather event. As snow removal continued during the day, customer service improved. “

Transpo works closely with the city’s departments to minimize disruption to the transit service and to prioritize as many routes as possible, Charter said.

“OC Transpo is reviewing the storm response to best practices to adjust how we respond to severe winter weather in the future,” Charter said.

jwilling@postmedia.com

twitter.com/JonathanWilling

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