Independent safety review of Transitway, stations underway: OC Transpo

An OC Transpo bus stops at a Transitway station in Ottawa on Thursday, April 26, 2012. The Canadian Press Images/Francis Vachon

Close to one year after the fatal double-decker bus crash at Westboro station, OC Transpo says an independent safety review of Ottawa’s Transitway and its stations is underway and will continue into 2020.

Pat Scrimgeour, director of transit customer systems and planning at OC Transpo, said the review began last year and will be comprehensive, covering “all aspects” of the design of the Transitway and Transitway stations, including signs and signals, sight lines, traffic movements and speed limits.

“We’ve hired a professional engineering consulting company to do a thorough, proper engineering standard-based road safety analysis to see whether there’s any recommendations they have to make the Transitway safer than it is already is,” Scrimgeour said in a phone interview.

“We’re asking them for determination of whether they have any short-term measures or long-term measures that they want to recommend to us … anything that they can see that would improve the overall safety of the stations for all of its users, customers, staff, buses and any other vehicles.”

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READ MORE: Trial of OC Transpo driver charged in fatal Ottawa bus crash set for 2021

Questions about the safety of the Transitway and Ottawa’s double-decker buses arose after a westbound express route bus jumped the curb and crashed at Westboro station during the afternoon rush hour on Jan. 11, 2019. The overhang of a shelter sliced through the upper level of the double-decker bus.

The collision left more than 20 passengers seriously injured and killed three public servants: 65-year-old Anja Van Beek, 57-year-old Judy Booth and 56-year-old Bruce Thomlinson.

In a letter published in the Ottawa Citizen in September, members of the Van Beek family questioned why the steel awning at Westboro station “was repaired within days with no change in routes, structure, or types of buses used along the Transitway.”

Scrimgeour told Global News that OC Transpo made the decision to pursue a safety review of the Transitway “very shortly after the collision.” He couldn’t specifically say when the review began, saying it was “later in 2019.”

READ MORE: Ottawa mayor talks Westboro bus crash, LRT woes and coming out in year-end interview

He said moving forward with a review was consistent with a recommendation issued by the arms-length fatal collision review committee, a multi-agency group that meets and shares information following fatal collisions in Ottawa in hopes of reducing the city’s number of traffic deaths.

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They helped us to prepare, perhaps to focus the scope of this study. But they were totally consistent with what we were intending to do anyway,” Scrimgeour said.

A statement sent through the Ottawa Police Service’s media relations department said members of the fatal collision review committee “are subject to a strict confidentiality agreement” and won’t comment publicly about any findings or recommendations stemming from the committee’s reviews.

Asked whether OC Transpo is acting on any of the committee’s other recommendations, Scrimgeour said he didn’t have the answer to that question.

“It’s been a long time since I saw those recommendations. I think [the independent safety review] was the primary recommendation,” he said.
Click to play video: 'Bus driver charged in Ottawa crash that killed 3'
Bus driver charged in Ottawa crash that killed 3

Asked whether OC Transpo will make public the findings of the independent safety review, Scrimgeour said he expects the agency will present them to the city’s transit commission.

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Scrimgeour said OC Transpo is eyeing a mid-2020 completion date for the safety review but would consider extending the timeline if warranted.

“If their research takes them in another way that they want to do more and we think that would be valuable, then we might well ask them to do more rather than to wrap it up by any deadline,” Scrimgeour said of the professional engineers hired to undertake the review.

READ MORE: Global Ottawa’s top local news stories of 2019

The main probe into the cause of the Westboro bus crash was led by the police service’s collision investigation unit.

The investigation took months, culminating in criminal charges against the driver who was behind the wheel of the bus during the fatal crash last January.

Aissatou Diallo faces three counts of dangerous driving causing death and 35 counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and is scheduled to stand trial for eight weeks beginning in March 2021.

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