OC Transpo pulls buses after AC breaks down

Air conditioning on several dozen OC Transpo articulated buses breaks down, just as Environment Canada issues its first humidex warning of the year.

Air conditioning on several dozen OC Transpo articulated buses broke down Tuesday, just as Environment Canada issued Ottawa's first humidex warning of the year.

The Ottawa transit authority has pulled 18 older articulated buses off the road for repairs after cooling units broke down, said transit commission head Diane Deans.

"With motor vehicles you are always going to have problems and they require a certain amount of maintenance. And…dealing with it is the issue," said Deans.

Deans said the city has 300 new articulated buses on the roads, so service should not be interrupted.

But drivers with the Amalgamated Transit Union say the air conditioning on at least 20 new buses are acting up too, bringing the total so far to 38.

OC Transpo knew of problems for weeks: union

Union president Gordon Queale said OC Transpo had known for a month that there were problems.

"Why wait till it's 30-plus degrees and the buses start breaking down when there could have been preventative maintenance on these vehicles?," he said.

Rick Mitchell was taking a long ride to Richmond Monday night on a bus when first the air conditioning and then the bus itself broke down at Lincoln Fields. He and other passengers had to wait for a smaller bus to take them home.

"Picture all the men standing in the aisle and all the women and children sitting on the sides. And no air flow in the back… just sweating up a storm," said Mitchell.

"It was extremely hot…and muggy, and people were complaining. And it was horrible."

The repairs came as Environment Canada issued a special weather statement for Ottawa, warning the temperature would hit 32 C Tuesday, with the humidity making it feel more like 42 C.

Though the grid is not near capacity, Hydro Ottawa is asking that people still conserve energy. "Maybe they would consider turning it at 25 or 26 degrees, which will still be significantly cooler than outside," said spokeswoman Linda Bruce.

CBC meteorologist Ian Black said it will be uncomfortably warm and sticky overnight and into early Wednesday morning, with a low of 23 C, but after a front moves over the city between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. less humid air was forecast to move in behind it.