The union representing OC Transpo drivers is calling on the city of Ottawa to develop a better plan to keep buses moving during snowstorms, including reducing service.

Ottawa received 48 cm of snow on Monday as a major winter storm moved across the region, bringing travel to a standstill.

Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 president Clint Crabtree says at least 150 buses were stuck in snowbanks on Monday, leaving drivers stranded for hours.

"It should have minimal service instead of full service. Why would you be putting out full service if you are aware that a storm of that magnitude is coming to this city?" said Crabtree in an interview with CTV News Ottawa.

"We get them every year, and we are putting out full service to have, what, buses stuck across the whole city. My members stuck on these buses with no way to get to washroom facilities, no way to get any nourishments, any food, anything and they're stuck on these buses for I'm hearing over eight hours for some of my members."

Crabtree says there was "poor to no communication" from OC Transpo dispatch to operators during the storm.

The city of Ottawa declared a "significant weather event" on Sunday, warning it would not be meeting its winter maintenance standards during the storm.  Snowplows didn't begin clearing residential streets until Monday evening, 12 hours after the snow started to fall.

"The issue is the residential neighbourhoods. The main arteries of this city, the main roads for transit are maintained and are plowed, and they were plowed for this storm," said Crabtree.

"It is off the main arteries, all those buses that travelled in the residential areas and the side streets of this city were the problem areas."

OC Transpo warned of significant delays on many routes during Monday's heavy snowstorm, while there were no issues with the Confederation Line.

The Amalgamated Transit Union is calling on OC Transpo and the city to look at priorities during heavy snowfall events, and make "significant improvements" to how they deal with winter service.

"They should do a review; they should do a review of everything to do with these type of storms. This is nothing new to the city; we're going to have this again, possibly this winter and for sure again next year," said Crabtree.

"We've been going through this every year and at this point, there's no excuse for it. This should have been reviewed a long time ago; let's review it, let's get it right and let's reduce the amount of service that is normally needed because we're having these storms and we're going to continue to have them."

In a statement to CTV News Ottawa, Director of Transit Operations Troy Charter says OC Transpo is reviewing the storm response for "best practices" to adjust how it responds to severe winter weather events in the future.

"Acknowledging the unique intensity of Monday’s significant weather event, the safety of our customers and our staff was and always is OC Transpo’s number one priority. We are also committed to providing the best service possible to customers under the circumstances," said Charter Wednesday evening.

"As with all motorists on the road, Transit Services experienced delays, which caused challenging driving conditions and a high number of immobilized buses throughout the weather event. As snow clearing operations continued throughout the day, service to customers improved.

"During all severe weather events, OC Transpo works in close partnership with the appropriate City departments and services to minimize transit service disruption and to assist all commuters and prioritize as many routes as possible."

Charter says OC Transpo's Transit Operations and Communications Centre maintains communication with all operators, and if a bus becomes immobilized, assistance will be dispatched.

In a separate interview with Newstalk 580 CFRA, Crabtree said OC Transpo should assess whether to use the articulated buses during heavy snowfall events.


Coun. Riley Brockington is asking OC Transpo staff about the possibility of snow tires on buses.

"(Monday's) snow accumulation was significant and slowed transportation down in many regards. I ventured out twice yesterday, once in the later afternoon and again in the early evening," wrote Brockington.

The councillor wants staff to confirm the fleet is not equipped with snow tires, and whether there are ways to procure snow tires for all buses.

"OC Transpo buses stuck during a snowfall is not unique, it is common. Improving overall service reliability needs to be our consistent focus," said Brockington.