photo via CBC
When the City of Ottawa initially discussed the inclusion of double-decker buses in OC Transpo's fleet, I had some concerns about their performance in the city--but was mostly intrigued by the novelty of the vehicles. After a little while with them integrated into the transit system, though, questions seem to be coming up about their suitability in Ottawa's climate and within OC Transpo's system.
Last week, it came out that OC Transpo and the union representing bus operators (ATU 279) has reached an agreement that would see double deckers kept off a section Woodroffe Avenue out of concerns for safety after a couple were blown into the ditch due to high winds blowing across the farm fields in the Greenbelt on either side of the roadway.
According to OC Transpo's official Twitter account, the agreement only affects a section of Woodroffe Avenue from the Nepean Sportsplex to Fallowfield Station--a four-kilometre stretch used exclusively by out-of-service buses:
@ptio All DDs will use the Twy from Sportsplex to Fallowfield. Currently, only out of service buses travel along that section of Woodroffe.With that in mind, it's not much of a concern from a rider's perspective; the stretch runs parallel to the Southwest Transitway, so the only change we're likely to see (aside from fewer buses in the ditch, hopefully) is more out-of-service double-decker buses running along the Transitway.
— OC Transpo (@OC_Transpo) July 29, 2013
As a refresher, Ottawa bought 75 double-decker buses at a cost of roughly $82M a couple years back. These buses offer good "horizontal efficiency," so to speak, because they carry a comparable number of passengers to articulated buses but are the same length as a standard 40-footer--a significant benefit given the congestion along the Transitway downtown at rush hour. They also have more seats than an articulated bus, resulting in greater comfort for riders (although the upper-deck seats are not designed for tall people, trust me).
However, due to the time required for loading and unloading passengers, the buses are mostly used for express routes--which means that for most of the day, these buses are mostly parked and unused. They are, essentially, reserved for express route use.
Thing specific change restricting double-deckers from a rather small stretch of Woodroffe Avenue doesn't seem to be a very significant cause for concern, but potential problems navigating windy and slushy road conditions certainly are. (Of course, it's also worth noting that articulated buses can sometimes struggle with Ottawa winters, as well.)
I'm curious: Are readers questioning the suitability of double-decker buses for Ottawa's transit needs?