Ottawa

Westboro station overhaul would not be cost-effective, safety audit says

OC Transpo will not remove the bus shelter overhang, rebuild higher curbs or lower speeds at the Westboro Transitway station after the fatal 2019 double-decker crash as a report suggests the changes would make little impact and would not be cost-effective.

City has added reflective markings, updated signage for station that will be closed mid-2022

The City of Ottawa has installed high-visibility striping on the bus shelter overhangs at Westboro station following two safety audits commissioned because of the 2019 double-decker crash. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

OC Transpo will not remove the bus shelter overhang, rebuild higher curbs or lower speeds at the Westboro Transitway station after the fatal 2019 double-decker crash as a report suggests the changes would make little impact and would not be cost-effective.

The collision of an OC Transpo double-decker with a bus shelter overhang on Jan. 11, 2019, injured at least 35 people and killed three — Judy Booth, Anja Van Beek and Bruce Thomlinson.

The city paid for two independent safety audits, commissioned after the collision, and made them public this week. A memo from OC Transpo boss Renée Amilcar says the reports could be released because the city has completed updates based on the recommendations.

The audits provide insight on the station design following the trial that acquitted the bus driver involved in the crash earlier this year.

The Parsons safety audit identified 15 safety issues specifically at the Westboro Transitway station, including the proximity of the bus shelter overhang to the platform edge and the lack of protection for transit users on the platform.

That audit was reviewed by the Intus Road Safety Engineering Inc., which concluded the overhang and platform protection present a limited risk, suggesting the city limit the cost of addressing them before the Westboro station is closed for LRT construction in April 2022.

Canopy encroaching the 'Clear Zone'

The Parsons safety audit said the bus shelter canopy is within the station's "Clear Zone," only a half metre from the Westboro station platform edge. The audit recommended removing the canopy or reducing the speed limit from 50 to 20 km/h within the station limit.

The Parsons audit also notes the height of the canopy means it would come into contact with a vehicle where safety features like a bumper or the vehicle's frame wouldn't help reduce the energy or severity of impact.

An illustration of the proposed yellow and black striping for the Westboro station bus shelter canopy as seen in the safety audit review commissioned by the City of Ottawa. (Intus Road Safety Engineering)

The Intus review notes the station design met the standards of the time when it was built, but the Ontario Ministry of Transportation expanded the "Clear Zone" to three metres in 2017, so it is currently "substandard."

However, the Intus review said removing the canopy is "not cost-efficient" and the crash risk is "too low to warrant removal" — they calculate it would be a one in 250-year event — so instead, the engineering firm recommended yellow and black visibility markings.

Intus also said reducing the speed limit to 20 or 30 km/h through Westboro Station would be "unreasonably low" and drivers would find it difficult to comply.

Curb heights, barriers at issue

The Intus report dismissed the Parsons recommendation to add a concrete barrier just under a metre in height to protect transit users from the risk of an errant bus. 

The review said concrete barriers are used in areas where intense pedestrian activity from schools, playgrounds or parks may come into conflict with vehicles leaving sharply curved roads or T-intersections.

The Intus review also said increasing the height of the curb from 100 to 150 millimetres would likely be ineffective at deflecting a bus leaving the roadway — though it conceded it is "intuitively appealing."

The review cited research that suggests such an elevated curb has no ability to redirect a vehicle travelling faster than 26 km/h regardless of what angle it left the road.

Given the upcoming retirement of the station, the review said "there is no undue crash risk, no urgency, and no imminent need to undertake remedial measures"— though it did recommend other measures for the city to undertake at the station.

The yellow and black striping installed in 2021 at the Westboro Transitway station. (Francis Ferland/CBC)

City makes some changes

The memo from Ottawa's transit general manager says the city has installed highly visible black and yellow striping on elements within three metres of the platform edge, reviewed and replaced traffic control signs that were deemed to not be reflective enough, and replaced certain "no parking signs" with "no stopping signs."

Amilcar said the city has reviewed and, where necessary, changed keep-right, object marker and lane-ending signage around the station.

It's also removing loose rock from the shoulders of the road and maintaining proper drainage along the platform and roadway, she said.

Amilcar said city staff will work with Kitchissippi Coun. Jeff Leiper to ensure the memorial for crash victims is respectfully removed when the station is decommissioned for LRT construction.

Read the full Parsons safety audit:

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Read the full Intus Road Safety Engineering review:

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