Safety Enhancements Recommended to Ottawa Transit Commission
Safety Enhancements Recommended to Ottawa Transit Commission

OTTAWA—At the Transit Commission meeting at city hall on Wednesday, consultant firm MMM Group presented its assessment on the need to change the policies for bus crossings at road-level railway crossings in Ottawa.

The report presented findings from a U.S. government study that the rate of accidents would actually rise if buses were to stop at every railway crossing and that increased stopping time added to the likelihood of a train/vehicle collision.

Current practice is for buses to stop at a rail crossing only when warning signals indicate that a train is approaching. The report said this practice is defensible because there is no evidence to the contrary.

Additionally, the report stated that all rail crossings on transit routes should have a barrier arm as well as lights and audible warning signals. The city would need to design and install gates at four locations—Herzberg, Lester, March, and McCarthy roads—and work with Carp residents on Route 203, which also doesn’t have a barrier on its route. 

Not adding the barriers would mean that new routes that don’t cross tracks would have to be found.

The report indicated that it isn’t necessary to change the current procedures for bus drivers by requiring them to stop at every railway crossing even when warning signals aren’t activated. 

John Manconi, general manager of the city’s Transit Services Department, stressed that this is an “interim position for OC Transpo until the Transportation Safety Board findings are released” and is strictly related to safety concerns rather than economic concerns.

A second report focused on the need for a flashing warning sign for the Southwest Transitway in Barrhaven, where a bus and VIA Rail train collided last year killing six people.

Chris Philp, Director, Transportation, with consultant firm CIMA+, recommended the installation of a “Railway Crossing Ahead” sign with a constant flashing light on the Transitway.

The sign would be placed ahead of a long curve on the northbound Transitway to remind drivers of the upcoming rail crossing. The current crossing sign, which doesn’t have a flashing beacon and is located on the curve, is considered to be less effective because it is so close to the rail-crossing site.

Also, the Transit Commission passed a transit bylaw amendment adding a requirement for bus drivers to stop at railway crossings on the Transitway when crossing signals are warning of an approaching train. 

This change will comply with Ontario’s current Highway Traffic Act (HTA). Because the Transitway is not a public highway but rather a private road of the City of Ottawa, it is not subject to the HTA.

The city will apply to the Province of Ontario and the Senior Regional Justice to allow a fine of $250 for non-compliance with the bylaw.

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