City hired consultant to study bus stops at rail crossings
MMM Group, hired in late fall, expected to produce report by spring
The City of Ottawa hired a consultant in the fall to study whether OC Transpo buses should stop at railway crossings, transit commissioner Diane Deans said Wednesday.
Road safety experts from consultants MMM Group were hired by the city after last September's deadly crash between an OC Transpo bus and a Via passenger train near Fallowfield Station.
But news of the study only came to light after a council meeting Wednesday in which Orleans Coun. Bob Monette asked why the city hadn't taken the interim step to force OC Transpo buses to stop at all rail crossings.
Deans said afterwards the city needed more evidence mandatory stops would improve safety and revealed MMM Group had been hired to look into the issue.
"We do not have any evidence currently that suggests that it would be safer for our buses to stop at level crossings," said Deans. "We have to look at the evidence before we make any decisions."
Report due to transit commission in spring
Deans said the city has already paid the consultants $34,000 to conduct the study, which is due to the city's transit commission in April.
Many regions, including the City of Toronto and all municipalities in Quebec, already require municipal buses to stop at all rail crossings.
Transportation Safety Board manager Rob Johnston, however, said the issue is not so simple.
"Although there are places like Toronto and Winnipeg that do require their buses to stop, there are situations where a stopped bus can also cause a problem," he said.
On Tuesday the TSB announced it issued two letters of recommendation to the city following incidents involving buses at the same rail crossing where the fatal crash happened.
In four incidents OC Transpo buses drove through the crossing while warning lights were on but the gates were not down, and in another instance, where lights stayed on and one gate remained closed after a train went by.
The TSB asked that the city make sure buses can safely stop when warning lights are on and recommended OC Transpo and Via rail come up with standard operating procedures for when automated crossings malfunction, as was the case then.