OC Transpo added double-decker buses to its fleet
The time seemed right for the City of Ottawa in spring 2007 to take a chance on a new bus finally available in North America.
Higher-ups, who are no longer with the city today, told council back then that double-decker buses could offer a better transit experience for customers and even increase OC Transpo’s ridership.
This was the start of Transpo’s buy-in to double-decker buses.
The buses give people unique views of the streetscape from an upper level, with forward-facing seats directly overhead of the driver. More important, the buses have more seats compared to the articulated buses — a.k.a. accordion buses — used as high-capacity vehicles for public transit.
While the accordion buses at the time had 54 seats, the double-deckers had 84. Since the double-decker bus is shorter, it takes up less room at bus stops, too.
Transpo had a successful trial run of a single double-decker through the summer of 2006, followed by coldweather testing that put the bus in a climate chamber, with temperatures dropping to -31 C.
What made the decision even easier for Transpo, and ultimately council, was people seemed to really like the test double-decker in 2006-07.
And there was a viable supplier. Alexander Dennis was producing a double-decker for North America. The city noticed Victoria was using the bus and GO Transit was placing an order to ply Toronto’s commuter routes.
Transpo liked the buses because they suited Ottawa’s vast coverage area, plus the fuel consumption was better than articulated buses.
When the city asked customers what they thought of the double-deckers, passengers praised the outside views above all else.
Council signed off on buying three for a pilot project. By 2011, the city prioritized buying double-deckers over standard or accordion buses. Replacing low-capacity buses with double-deckers was poised to save Transpo $10 million annually.
A study of passengers and drivers at that time wasn’t exactly glowing — 41% of respondents preferred double-deckers, 30% preferred regular buses and the rest had no preference — but most agreed it was a better travelling experience than a regular bus.
Drivers, the business case said, reported the double-deckers are fun to drive.
In early 2013, soon after the city took possession of its first major batch of double-deckers, the bus union spoke out after two double-deckers were pushed off the road by high winds.
On Sept. 18, 2013, six people on a double-decker died when it collided with a train.
The OC Transpo double-decker bus involved in Friday’s crash at Westboro station is towed away yesterday.