Extra bus service continues while Ottawa LRT train shortage persists

OC Transpo says one of its drivers has tested positive for the coronavirus. Anyone concerned about exposure can contact Ottawa Public Health. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

OC Transpo is continuing with extended special bus service on Friday and next week as Ottawa’s LRT system continues to run with fewer trains than are needed.

A series of separate infrastructure and power issues on Wednesday evening and Thursday morning left the Confederation Line with a serious train shortage for all of Thursday, as a heavy snowfall blanketed the national capital.

As few as six trains were in service midday on Thursday. There are supposed to be 13 trains on the tracks to meet rider demand during peak travel periods on weekdays, although OC Transpo has a total fleet of 17 trains in the LRT system.

The shortage improved slightly on Friday, with nine trains running every six minutes most of the day, according to OC Transpo boss John Manconi.

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“There were no delays or incidents affecting rail service during the morning peak,” the transportation manager said in a Friday afternoon update sent to media.

To compensate for the shortage, OC Transpo is maintaining extended hours for its supplemental bus service that has been running every weekday morning and afternoon rush hour since the five-month-old LRT system suffered another major train shortage in January.

Click to play video: 'Head of OC Transpo says LRT maintenance group will bring in outside experts to help improve service'
Head of OC Transpo says LRT maintenance group will bring in outside experts to help improve service

In the morning, those supplemental buses (S1 buses) take riders directly into downtown from three major transfer stations: Tunney’s Pasture in the west; and Hurdman and Blair stations in the east.

At noon, the special bus service swaps direction and takes passengers out of downtown directly to those same stations.

OC Transpo is also using a dedicated replacement bus fleet to provide “additional capacity” all day Friday while the LRT is shorthanded. Those buses, known as R1 buses, will run parallel to the east-west Confederation Line and stop at all LRT stations, according to the transit agency.

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Both the S1 and R1 buses are operating during the same hours as the train. They won’t run over the weekend and will resume Monday, Manconi said.

Train shortage expected over weekend, Monday commutes

OC Transpo anticipates there will be only nine trains in service throughout the weekend — running every seven minutes instead of the normal five minutes — but this will be enough to accommodate “the normal volume of weekend customers,” Manconi said.

OC Transpo will deploy R1 buses if service is disrupted, he added.

As next week kicks off, OC Transpo still expects a reduced number of trains on Monday — although Manconi didn’t specify how many.

“We continue to press [Rideau Transit Group] to restore normal levels of service as quickly as possible,” he wrote.

“We are monitoring the situation very closely, including the weather, available numbers of buses, trains and operators and RTM’s progress to restore vehicles to service. We will continue to assess the need for the augmented bus service and will respond as required to provide the best possible service to our customers.”

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Air fresheners in smelly station getting taken down

Earlier Friday, Manconi acknowledged inquiries about air fresheners that had been installed in the underground Parliament Station, which has been plagued by a foul, sewage-like smell for months.

“I have ordered that they be removed immediately. [Rideau Transit Group] will remove them,” Manconi said.

Rideau Transit Group is the consortium contracted to design and build the Confederation Line. Its maintenance arm, Rideau Transit Maintenance, is responsible for maintaining the LRT system for 30 years.

Earlier Friday, CBC News published a story about the air fresheners, reporting that 12 installed in the station were pumping out a citrus-like smell and were a brand of freshener designed for bathrooms.

Linking to the story, Sarah Wright-Gilbert, a citizen member of the city’s transit commissioner, posted on Twitter that passengers who are sensitive to smells may want to avoid Parliament Station.

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Wright-Gilbert said she had written to Manconi to ask they be removed. When the transportation manager confirmed he had ordered them removed, Wright-Gilbert thanked him for his “quick action” on social media.


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