OC Transpo apologizes for confusion over storm schedule signs

Some ill-timed signage posted by OC Transpo has led to a flurry of confusion over which buses will run during messy weather, and how much snow will fall on Ottawa Wednesday evening into Thursday morning.

The signs posted at bus stops — meant to remind riders that deep enough snow will mean a reduced bus schedule as part of a pilot program — didn’t detail how many centimetres are needed to trigger such a severe storm schedule. 

According to an image posted on social media, one of the signs stated “if a severe storm schedule is in effect, there will be no service on Route 161, 164, 168, 252, 256, 257 and School routes.” 

That’s under big bold red letters that read, “some routes don’t operate during severe storms.” 

The problem? The new pilot only comes into effect after more than 30 centimetres of snow has fallen. 

That means even though Environment Canada is projecting 15 to 20 centimetres before the end of Thursday, the severe snow schedule isn’t likely to come into effect.

Notably, despite what the sign read, route 164 is scheduled to run normally even during severe storm schedules, at least according to OC Transpo’s website. Routes 168, 256 and 257 would still operate on a modified schedule. 

On Twitter, OC Transpo apologized for its error and said it understands how frustrating the mix-up has been. The signs were posted at 25 stops in the west end of Ottawa.

They were then removed on Wednesday, OC Transpo tweeted.

What is a severe storm schedule? 

In reference to future storms, OC Transpo said riders will know about a schedule change well in advance. 

It said passengers will be alerted 24 hours in advance through Twitter, text messages, public service announcements, OC Transpo’s website, and through informational screens posted at stations. 

A severe storm schedule also means more than just a reduced bus schedule. 

According to the transit agency, 31 centimetres of snow triggers a Saturday schedule for OC Transpo, plus some additional morning service and the inclusion of some weekday-only routes.

Most articulated buses, which struggle in deep snow, will also be pulled from service and replaced with 40-foot and double-decker buses. 

Para Transpo and the city’s trains will be unaffected by the schedule change. 

A small number of bus stops on steep inclines or narrow roads won’t be used, OC Transpo said in a tweet. 

Additionally, all 600-series school routes and any school trips on regular routes will not operate. 

A complete list of routes that will not operate during a severe storm can be found on OC Transpo’s website. 

If a severe storm schedule is triggered on a weekend, riders won’t notice a change in routes, but articulated buses will still be replaced with 40-foot and double-decker buses. 

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