OC Transpo is investigating a report one of its buses ignored flashing lights and rushed through the same level crossing where in September a bus crashed into a Via train, killing six people.
Carmen Salinas said she was driving north on Woodroffe Avenue to work Monday morning when she saw the southbound bus drive through the crossing, despite the flashing lights.
She said the gate had not yet come down and the train was some 30 seconds away, but with poor road conditions and visibility, she felt the driver was travelling too fast and had enough time to safely stop.
"The flashing lights were flashing long enough for them to see them, and considering the road conditions, he should have been driving slower to begin with," she said.
Salinas estimates the bus was travelling along the Transitway at 60 km/h, while most of the cars on Woodroffe were going half that because of poor road conditions. The posted speed limit for the Transitway at the crossing was 60 km/h, but was reduced to 50 km/h after the city introduced safety measures a month after the crash.
"It really scared me, kind of put me in shock again to see that," she said.
Salinas was also a witness to the fatal Sept. 18 crash. She said she was with her daughter about three or four cars behind the rail crossing when the collision took place.
"I saw all the debris, but unfortunately my daughter saw the people being ejected from the bus. It was really hard for her, very traumatizing for her," she said.
OC Transpo said driver could have made judgment call
OC Transpo issued a statement Tuesday saying they have initiated a review based on the report.
"OC Transpo has strict protocols and procedures in place which are geared to ensure a high level of safety. Operators receive extensive training regarding their obligations to follow all provisions identified in the Ontario Highway Traffic Act as well as to apply safe driving practices at all times," the statement read.
"As stated previously, the driver could have made a judgment call and chose not to slam on the brakes and probably knock people off their feet. There is a pretty wide margin of safety, as well, given how long in advance the warning lights start."
Craig Watson, president of Amalgamated Transit Union 279, said drivers know when to stop for the lights and when it is safer to drive through. He said from the time the yellow warning lights begin flashing to the time the gate begins to come down is about 12 to 15 seconds. The gate is fully down about 22 seconds after the lights start.
In the fatal Sept. 18 crash, the preliminary Transportation Safety Board investigation revealed the crash occurred 47 seconds after the lights had been activated.
OC Transpo said it also expects operating staff to follow the rules of the road and practice safe driving.
"The safety of our customers, pedestrians, other drivers and our operators is our top priority," the transit agency said in its statement.
Salinas said she wrote an email to OC Transpo about the incident, but hasn't heard back. She hopes that someone talks to the driver and that at least a warning is issued.
But she said she fears her days of taking public transit are over.
"Just to see that happen again brought back all of those memories all of those fears," she said.
"I would never want to take a bus again after seeing that, I don't feel safe on a bus anymore and...I don't even want my children taking the bus."