Councillors demand fix for bus No. 12 woes

Downtown councillors are demanding a fix for OC Transpo route 12, which they say is notoriously unreliable and routinely leaves passengers stranded.

More than 300 buses were no-shows between January and March

Downtown councillors want service on OC Transpo route No. 12 to be improved after there were more than 300 no-shows between January and April 2018. (Trevor Pritchard/CBC)

Downtown councillors are demanding a fix for OC Transpo bus route 12, which they say is notoriously unreliable and routinely leaves passengers stranded. 

The No. 12 runs from Blair Road to Montreal Road, down Rideau Street and finally ends its journey on Bank Street.

It was a no-show more than 300 times between January and March of this year, and riders say when it does arrive, it's often packed to the brim. 

The goal should be zero [cancelled trips].- John Manconi

"Every time you get on it's overcrowded, cheek to jowl" said frequent rider Sue Fortin. 

While the number of cancelled trips is higher than the city-wide average for OC Transpo routes, the No. 12 still shows up 97.9 per cent of the time.

However, cancelled rides make people less confident in the system and more likely to forego taking the bus, said Rideau-Vanier Coun. Mathieu Fleury.

John Manconi, the city's transportation general manager, agrees.

"The goal should be zero [cancelled trips]," he told the city's transit committee Wednesday.

'Peak' detours

Light rail construction is largely to blame for the delays, Manconi said.

The work is forcing buses to share already congested traffic lanes, he said, making it difficult for drivers to start their routes on time.

"You're at the peak of the peak of detours," he said.

Manconi told the committee he rode the route recently to get a sense of where the problems are, adding it was easy to see where drivers were getting squeezed.

Coun. Mathieu Fleury says frequent bus cancellations hurt riders' confidence in the OC Transpo system. (Laura Osman/CBC)

Cancelling trip a last resort

Delays and cancellations aren't unusual for routes that travel through downtown without dedicated bus lanes. But according to transit officials, cancelling a trip is always a last resort.

When a driver doesn't make it on time, OC Transpo tries to redeploy other buses located at standby locations so the city can make quick adjustments — but that's not always possible.

City staff are now looking at ways to make route No. 12 smoother, including the installation of priority bus lanes and advanced green lights.

That may not be enough for Fleury, who represents some of the neighbourhoods along the No. 12 route.

"If the bus physically doesn't pass, it doesn't matter that the light is green or that you have a dedicated bus lane," he said.  "You just don't have the bus."

Overhaul years away

The problems are expected to ease once the Confederation Line opens and the construction is cleared away.

After that, the city is expected to overhaul its transportation master plan, which is nearly 10 years out of date.

Councillors hope that changing the plan could alleviate the delays transit users face when trying to board routes like No. 12.

But Manconi cautioned it will take a year after the LRT opens just to gather data.

It will likely take another year after that, he added, to put together a plan that takes into account changes to the road network, train service, bikes, pedestrians, companies like Uber and Lyft, and perhaps even autonomous vehicles.