Ottawa

Bus rider grumbling doesn't bother this equally frustrated OC Transpo driver

Long waits in the cold. Packed buses that speed right by. Routes that don't go where they used to. OC Transpo riders have a lot of complaints, and bus driver Frank Fata wants them to know he feels their pain.

'It is disturbing to hear what they're going through,' driver says as Ottawa sees record January snowfall

A rider boards an OC Transpo bus in January 2019. This month has seen record snowfall in Ottawa, and longtime bus driver Frank Fata says it hasn't been easy on passengers or drivers. (CBC)

Long waits in the cold. Packed buses that speed right by. Routes that don't go where they used to.

Those are just a few of the complaints leveled recently at OC Transpo as the Ottawa transit agency deals with the delayed arrival of the Confederation light rail line and a cold, snowy winter.

Bus driver Frank Fata wants riders to know he feels their pain.

"It is disturbing to hear what they're going through. I know that a lot of other transit agencies in North America are going through the same thing with the weather," said Fata, who's driven an OC Transpo bus for more than two decades.

"I can't remember getting this much snow in one shot."

Snowiest January ever

This month alone, Ottawa has received 97 centimetres of snow, making it the city's snowiest January on record.

Fata told CBC Radio's All In A Day Wednesday it's resulted in buses running significantly behind schedule, and that passengers have been giving him an earful when he finally shows up at the stop.

Gracefully accepting all that vitriol requires "a tough skin," Fata said. Offering up an apology when people board helps smooth things over, he added.

He said it's "aggravating" when drivers can see their frozen passengers waiting a kilometre or two up the road for their bus to slowly inch toward them — and there's nothing they can do. 

"You know they're going to be upset when you pull in at the stop. I would be as well," Fata said.

"There's not any real solution when you're stuck in the traffic because of the weather. If one of our customers took their car, they would've been stuck [too]. So they're no further ahead."

Lots of little delays

Earlier this month, OC Transpo customer services manager David Pepper told All In A Day there are a myriad of reasons for winter delays, from collisions and road closures to sick drivers and bus mechanical issues.

Fata said Wednesday that small things in winter — like riders pulling off their gloves before swiping their Presto cards and delicately climbing over snowbanks just to board — add up over the course of a route to cause further delays.

Both Fata and Pepper agreed riders will experience fewer late and cancelled buses once the new LRT line is operating.

But until then, Fata said passengers should prepare for inaccurate schedules, especially when snow is falling.

"I throw mine on the dash," he said. "There's no way you can keep up with the schedule."

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