RTG tests software to fix Ottawa LRT camera issue, platform ‘spotters’ remain in meantime

An Ottawa LRT train waits at Rideau Station with a 'spotter' on the platform to ensure the area is clear before departure. A software fix could soon eliminate the need for a human eye on the LRT platforms. Nick Westoll / Global News

Whistles will remain a regular sound at Ottawa light-rail platforms for the foreseeable future as the company in charge of maintaining the transit system runs a software patch for the on-board camera system through its paces.

Rideau Transit Group, the company that built and does upkeep on Ottawa’s Confederation Line LRT via its maintenance arm, has tapped a group of contractors as “spotters” at transit platforms since the system launched in September 2019.

The main task assigned to these workers is checking the platform for disturbances and blowing a whistle to flag to operators that it’s clear to leave the station.

The LRT trains’ on-board camera feed should be able to provide drivers with a clear view of the platform, however, without the need for an external set of eyes.

OC Transpo rail director Troy Charter said in a press conference following Wednesday’s transit commission meeting there have been a “limited number of circumstances” where the cameras “didn’t populate as quickly as they should’ve,” Charter said, prompting the need for a human back-up on the platform.

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An RTG spokesperson told Global News the spotters are a “short-term solution” and “redundancy” for the electronic camera system on board.

“As with any new LRT system, there can be intermittent technical issues, and we’ve implemented mitigation measures to help minimize any potential impacts to service and ensure a safe experience for OC Transpo customers,” the spokesperson said in an emailed statement to Global News.

Both Charter and the spokesperson said RTG has installed new software on all LRT vehicles to rectify the on-board camera issue, but the fix needs to be validated before OC Transpo will sign off on it.

“When OC Transpo and RTG/M are satisfied that the software is working well, we will no longer need spotters. However, until we are confident that the new software addresses the old challenges, they will continue to be present on the station platforms, and there is no specified end date at this time,” Rideau Transit Group’s spokesperson said.

Charter confirmed there is no timeline for when the on-board camera issue will be considered resolved.

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