OC Transpo buses shouldn't stop at open railway crossings, study says

A group of road safety experts believe it would be more dangerous to force OC Transpo buses to stop at railway crossings when warning devices aren't activated, as detailed in a study shared with Ottawa's transit commission.

Study ordered after fatal bus-train crash in Barrhaven left 6 people dead

Study finds buses should not stop at railway crossings without warning signal. 2:50

OC Transpo buses should not stop at railway crossings when warning lights aren't activated because it might be more dangerous to do so, according to a study by road safety experts.

The study from MMM Group consultants, shared with the transit commission on Wednesday afternoon, suggested forcing transit buses to stop could increase the likelihood a train would strike a bus, create a larger workload for bus drivers and create a higher chance of crashes between buses.

There are currently 75 railway level crossings in Ottawa and 20 of them are crossed by OC Transpo buses.

The study was ordered by the transit commission in the fall after the fatal bus-train crash in the south-end community of Barrhaven in September 2013, which left six people dead. 

Ottawa does not force transit bus drivers to stop at railway crossings that don’t have flashing lights. Only school buses are forced to do so.

Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act also does not require transit buses to stop at railway crossings when warning devices aren’t activated. Toronto, Cornwall and all municipalities in Quebec do force transit buses to stop at crossings.

MMM was paid $34,000 to conduct the study. OC Transpo General Manager John Manconi added neither scheduling nor money influenced the study.

Also on Wednesday, Manconi said gates would be installed at four level railway crossings in Ottawa. Those crossings are located at March Road, Lester Road, Herzberg Road and McCarthy Road.

In the fall, the Transportation Safety Board of Canada requested the city make sure buses can safely stop when warning lights are on and recommended OCTranspo and Via Rail come up with standard operating procedures for when automated crossings malfunction, as was the case then.

The TSB has yet to release its final report on the fatal bus-train crash.

In recent weeks, the Fallowfield railway crossing has malfunctioned on multiple occasions and Via Rail continues to monitor that problem.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.