OC Transpo added dou­ble-decker buses to its fleet

Ottawa Sun - - NEWS - JON WILL­ING

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.

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