May take months before riders hear all the stops

With about 6,400 bus stops and 1,600 operators in Ottawa, implementing a system that ensures OC Transpo drivers call out all stops for the benefit of passengers will take some time.


That’s according to city transit planning manager Helen Gault, who said yesterday council’s decision to immediately make it mandatory for drivers to announce all street and Transitway stops would likely take until the end of the year to realize.


“We would hope to have the system fully implemented with everyone trained before Christmas,” said Gault. “This is a large organization — you can’t turn things around overnight.”


The decision to make drivers call the stops comes after the city’s transit committee rejected OC Transpo’s request for an $8-million automated system to make the announcements for drivers after a Canadian Transportation Agency ruling found the drivers often failed to do so.

Starting in the fall, there will be training sessions for drivers and a new operator handbook that highlights the now council-mandated requirement to announce all bus stops for riders — even though that has been official OC Transpo policy for 20 years.

Other changes may include alterations to the “ergonomics” of the current public address system.

“Some of the smaller drivers really have difficulty reaching the public address system,” Gault said. “We are going to look into the possibility of providing clip-on mics, perhaps, to make the job possible.”

Andre Cornellier, president of Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 representing Ottawa bus drivers, is on vacation and was unavailable for comment yesterday.

After training and possible system upgrades, if the operators do not comply with the new standards of service they will face a progressive discipline program.

“The program progresses from a verbal warning to a written warning, which is on file, to a suspension,” Gault said.

OC Transpo has spoken with Toronto Transit Commission colleagues about the problem. The TTC employs a similar address system and said compliance in Toronto rose to about 97 per cent from 19 per cent with training, monitoring and attitude assessment surveys.

OC Transpo will still look to add the automated system to its 2008 budget request in order to guarantee 100 per cent consistency, though Gault said she expects the total to be “significantly less than $8 million.”