Overcrowded Ontario Northland buses had many travellers complaining over the Thanksgiving weekend — the first holiday weekend without the Northlander train connecting the province.

Passengers said the Northland buses were stacked with people beyond capacity.

"To see people … sitting knees-to-back all the way along the aisle on the floor" was shocking for Marvia Mitchell, who was waiting at the Orillia terminal to pick up her friend.

The Ontario Northland Transportation Commission said it usually runs 24 buses along the routes, but over Thanksgiving weekend it added seven more coaches to accommodate the extra travellers.

Although the situation on the buses wasn't ideal, it wasn’t illegal, according to Doug Switzer, CEO of the Ontario Motor Coach Association.

The Public Vehicle Act permits coaches to be overloaded up to 20 per cent of normal capacity.

"And the reason for that flexibility is that when you do have a peak period, you don't have to leave people standing at the side of the road," he said.

Switzer noted passengers can stand or sit in the aisle, but can't ride on the steps at the front door.

"They're not supposed to be sitting up by the driver or the driver's steps," he said.

"But they are allowed to overload the coach and have standing room only as it were."

ONTC officials said the weekend was busy, but said they handled it without issue.