The City of Ottawa is on a mission to eliminate bus bays that are scattered throughout the city in an effort to encourage more people to use public transit.
The city is currently doing restoration work along Greenbank Road between Baseline and West Hunt Club, including taking out the divots in the curb where buses can pull out of traffic to take on and drop off passengers.
The elimination of these bays is part of a policy the city implemented before the 2001 amalgamation, said Bay Councillor Alex Cullen, chair of the city’s transit committee.
“The city originally thought (bus bays) would be a convenient way to pick up and drop off passengers … but the buses get marooned, particularly during rush-hour traffic, and this throws them off their schedule,” Cullen said. So the city has been removing the road features when the time comes for major reconstruction.
College Councillor Rick Chiarelli does not agree with elimination of the bus bays. “We built those for a reason: so the buses could pull in and cars could keep going.”
While the intent of the policy change was to encourage people to take the bus, Chiarelli said, he does not think this is the right way to do it. Removing the bus bays will only slow other vehicle traffic, he said, which might make buses more attractive by comparison, but “I don’t think you can punish people into taking the bus.”
Cullen said the city had received some letters from drivers who thought the removal of bus bays was an inconvenience, but maintaining the reliability of the city’s transit system would be a priority.
“I think it’s important that our transit system work well, and the short inconvenience that cars will have to go through when a bus stops is minor,” Cullen said.
Rick Zarzosa, chief engineer of the city’s transit priority section, said the bus bays were being removed as part of roadway reconstruction throughout the city.
A few bus bays on Meadowlands Drive have already been removed, and those on Bronson Avenue, Hunt Club Road and March Road are next on the list.
Zarzosa said he could not provide an exact number of bus bays in the city.
“Without the bus bays, we save money on the transit-operation side and the on-winter road maintenance,” he said, adding that fewer buses were required when time was saved and buses kept to their schedules.