OC Transpo adds new school routes as councillor demands answers on school bus cancellations
OTTAWA -- An Ottawa councillor is demanding to know why so many school bus routes have been cancelled in the Kanata and Stittsville area this month, as school bus operators deal with a driver shortage.
Meantime, OC Transpo is creating two dedicated routes for students travelling from Kanata and Stittsville to Merivale High School and Canterbury High School after school buses were cancelled to the schools.
In a letter to the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority, Allan Hubley says he has "questions regarding the recent cuts to service" due to the driver shortage, including how officials determine which routes to cut.
Hubley says he has been informed that 31 out of 55 routes to public schools and 15 out of 28 routes to Catholic schools in Kanata and Stittsville have been cut.
"That means that 55 per cent of your cancelled routes are from three wards, leaving hundreds of students without a school bus," writes Hubley.
"Why were west end routes cut to schools with specialized programs, like Canterbury and Merivale, with students coming from all over the city? This has resulted in students relying on OC Transpo routes or other means to get to school and parents are telling me their children are now spending 3+ hours commuting to and from school every day."
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority says there have been "multiple changes and cancellations" to transportation services for Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board students this month due to a "severe driver shortage." Some Grade 7 to 12 students have been transitioned to public transit.
The OSTA has said it continues to work with its school bus operators to find "creative solutions" to provide service.
Hubley wants the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority to provide data to show why drivers aren't returning to work this fall, leading to several route cancellations.
"We've got over 200 emails from parents, and I'm hearing that they're afraid their children are going to have to give up on Canterbury or Merivale and go into another school just because they can't get to that school," said Hubley on CTV News at Noon. "I want to try and do what we can to fix that."
Hubley says his office has identified 170 students from his area that attend Merivale High School that don't have school bus transportation to school.
Hubley announced Friday afternoon that OC Transpo is creating two dedicated routes from Kanata and Stittsville to Merivale High School and Canterbury High School.
Starting Monday, Route #88 will run from Terry Fox Station to Centerbury, while route #688 will run from Terry Fox Station to Merivale High School. Both routes will stop at Hazeldean Mall.
According to OSTA’s website, 90 routes have been cut to 38 Ottawa Carleton District School Board schools, while 51 routes have been cancelled to 19 Ottawa Catholic School Board schools across the city. Cuts include both morning and afternoon trips on some routes or just the morning or afternoon route.
In a statement to Newstalk 580 CFRA's Cassie Aylward, the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority said it would outline its efforts to address the driver shortage next week.
"OSTA staff will be preparing a start-up report that outlines what actions have been taken to mitigate the driver shortage and to provide as much service to as many students as possible. This report is expected to be released to OCDSB and OCSB Directors of Education on Tuesday September 21, 2021," said the OSTA.
OC Transpo says the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority asked the public transportation service to carry more students to school this year due to the driver shortage.
"OC Transpo was able to accommodate this request on many routes where capacity is available and by adding capacity on some routes," said Pat Scrimgeour, Director Transit Customer Systems and Planning.
"On many routes, this will mean high-capacity double-decker and articulated buses will run on busy trips, and in some cases additional trips have been added."
Scrimgeour says OC Transpo operates direct trips to some schools where it is "the best solution for transit customers."
"We are continuing to monitor ridership on all routes and may make additional changes as travel needs evolve.”
John Young Elementary School in Kanata has had five morning or afternoon routes cancelled, while three routes to Glen Cairn Public School in Kanata have been cancelled.
St. Joseph Catholic High School in Barrhaven has had five routes cancelled, both morning and afternoon trips, to its school. Three routes to St. Martin De Porres School in Kanata have been cancelled.
The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority oversees school bus transportation to Ottawa's two largest school boards. The OSTA contracts service with bus companies and transportation providers in Ottawa, including 417 Bus Lines, First Student, ML Bradley, Premier Bus Lines, Roxborough Bus Lines and Voyago.
Here is a look at the route information for special OC Transpo buses from Kanata and Stittsville to Merivale High School and Canterbury High School.
Canterbury High School
Route 88 will run from Terry Fox to Canterbury – leaving Terry Fox at 7:35 a.m. stopping at Hazeldean Mall at 7:47 a.m. and arriving at Canterbury at 8:58 a.m.
Route 88 will run from Canterbury to Terry Fox – leaving Canterbury at 3:27 p.m.
Merivale High School
Route 688 will run from Terry Fox to Merivale High School – two buses leaving Terry Fox at 7 a.m., stopping at Hazeldean Mall at 7:10 a.m. and arriving at Merivale High School at 7:50 a.m.
Route 688 will run from Merivale High School to Terry Fox – leaving Merivale at 2:30 p.m.