Better use of the Bus-Based Transitway in Ottawa.

Use it as a True Bus Metro System; instead of using it is a dedicated multi-use bus road.

Four years ago I asked the City of Ottawa how many people are carried by the bus system through downtown Ottawa during the morning and afternoon peak travel periods (Rush Hour).
The answer was:

I then asked how many people can an articulated bus carry, and the reply from the City was 100 passengers (combined sitting and standing). Note: There are even larger articulated buses that can carry more than 100 passengers (approximately 180 person, such as manufactured by the Solaris Company), and which have 4 doors for loading/unloading, but which are not used in Ottawa. Use of larger buses would increase the driver and passenger ratio thereby reducing operating costs.

For example, the following image shows a side view of a Solaris bus (in Poland) with 4 doors. 4 doors also allow for quicker loading and unloading of passengers.



Therefore, if you divide 10,500 passengers per hour by 100 (capacity of an articulated bus) then we get a number of 105 buses that could be used the same number of people that are being transported by 198 buses during the same travel period. That is almost half the number of buses that are actually used to move the same amount of people/per hour in downtown Ottawa. i.e. 198 buses are used to move people on Albert Street during rush hour.

Even if we ran the articulated buses at a 90% load this number of people could then be carried by approximated 120 articulated buses.

What this means is that the City is "NOT" using its bus fleet effectively, nor is it using the Bus Transitway as it should be used.

i.e. The Bus Transitway should be operated in the same manner as a rail-based Metro style subway system with only or two different routes traveling on its system.

In contrast to the Ottawa Transitway, a Rail-based subway, or a Metro System imposes a rigorous set of operating rules that simply cannot be changed without drastically reducing the effectiveness of that system.

However, the Ottawa Bus-based Transitway lacks the operating discipline that is seen in rail-based Metro systems. In the present situation there are simply too many buses (based are multiple routes, and empty buses being reassigned to other routes) carrying too few people on the dedicated bus lanes on downtown Ottawa streets.

The core of this downtown transit problem of” too many buses” is the express bus system.

The following image shows how the bus lanes in downtown Ottawa are over crowded with a variety of buses due to the multiple routes that operate in the same bus lane during morning and afternoon peak travel times.



Passengers would get on the next available bus instead of waiting at the bus platform for their specific route number to arrive.

For the present situation in Downtown Ottawa, instead of taking the next available bus, many transit users are waiting for their own express bus to take them back to their suburban destination. This causes delays at each downtown bus stop since all the buses must line up along either Albert or Slater and wait for the other buses to slowly move to each bus stop. This delay is called "dwell time" and the only way to solve this problem is to either remove the express buses from Albert and Slater Streets or to eliminate them from the inner urban area altogether. The express buses also only comprise 8% of the transit users, but they are the cause of the transit delays.

THAT is the problem!

To contrast the operation of the bus way through Downtown Ottawa, imagine instead a subway system where there are 30 different subway routes operating on a single track. People would then jam up on the platform waiting for their Subway car to arrive. The Subway cars would also not be filled to capacity, but would run with many empty seats. That would of course, NOT happen, since you could NOT operate a subway system in such a chaotic manner.

Yet that is how the bus-based transit system in Ottawa is operating.

If we ran the Bus System as a true Bus Rapid Transit System as it was designed, then we would have people getting off at Transitway stops to transfer to dedicated larger buses. Then, the dedicated Transitway buses would carry people on the Transitway east and west, and north and south, and the system would operate in the same manner as a rail-based Metro system.

This is how Commuter Rail, Subway systems, Metro System, Light rail lines, and even Streetcar lines are designed to operate, and do operate all around the world.

Therefore, if the City of Ottawa operated the bus Transitway as a true Bus–Based Metro system there would be seamless, and rapid transit from Kanata, Barrhaven, Ottawa South and Orleans to the downtown core to Ottawa. More people would take the Bus and there would be less road congestion since there would be less people using their cars to get to work. The Bus-based Transitway, as well the exclusive dedicated bus lanes on the Queensway (Highway 417) and Woodroffe Avenue are already in place so it is just a matter of implementing the change from a “multiple route bus road” to a true “Bus-based Metro System” to create a vast improvement in transit service in Ottawa, while also lowering the operating cost of the system as a bonus outcome. Bus operating costs would also drop a corresponding amount since there would be 47% fewer buses running in the downtown core. Passenger waiting time and bus dwell time would drop considerably since passenger would board every bus that come by their stop.

However, since Ottawa has adopted a Light Rail Plan that will go from Tunney's Pasture in the west to Blair Road Station in the East there is still a great need to operate the bus fleet in an efficient manner on the parts of the Transitway that lead to and from these destinations. Express and local buses can be located at various stations away from these two major transfer points. This would ensure that there is no large "Crush" of passengers attempting to transfer to and from the LRT to the buses at either the Tune's Pasture or the Blair Road Stations. It is very important to operate the remaining section of the transitway as a true bus metro since there is no guarantee at this time that there will be funding from the Provincial or Federal governments for Phase Two of the LRT project. We should hope for the best, but plan for the worst. By operating the bus-based transitway as a "Bus Metro" will ensure a smooth transfer between the Buses and the Light Rail Vehicles, which means better, and more cost effective transit service for the citizens of Ottawa.


Michael Kostiuk

You can contact Michael Kostiuk using the following methods:

Go back to Michael Kostiuk's Home Page.

Last Update: October 20, 2014.