OC Transpo

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OC Transpo logo.svg
St-Laurent Station.JPG
Headquarters 1500 St. Laurent Boulevard
Locale Ottawa, Ontario
Service area National Capital Region
Service type bus service, paratransit, bus rapid transit, light rail
Routes 136 (includes school routes)
Fleet 935 buses, 88 wheel trans buses, 9 diesel multiple units [1]
Daily ridership 535,600[2]
Fuel type Biodiesel, Diesel, Hybrid Technology, Ultra-low Sulfur Diesel
Operator City of Ottawa[3]
Website www.octranspo1.com

OC Transpo is the urban transit service of the City of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. An integrated hub-and-spoke system of services is available consisting of:

  1. regular buses travelling on fixed routes in mixed traffic, typical of most urban transit systems;
  2. a bus rapid transit (BRT) system — a high frequency bus service operating on the transitway — a network of mostly grade-separated dedicated bus lanes within their own right-of-way and having full stations with Park & Ride facilities further supported by on-road reserved bus lanes and priority traffic signal controls;
  3. a light rail transit (LRT) system known as the O-Train operating on one north-south route, the Trillium Line; and
  4. a door-to-door bus service for the disabled known as ParaTranspo.

In December 2012, Ottawa City Council approved a major infrastructure project to build a 12.5 km east-west LRT line, the Confederation Line through the downtown to replace the existing BRT by 2018.[4]

OC Transpo routes also provides service to the downtown core of the nearby city of Gatineau, Quebec, especially during rush hour. Rush-hour service is also provided to a park and ride lot in the Township of Russell.


OC Transpo has a fleet of 936 buses (as of July 2013) that run on regular streets, all of which are fully accessible low-floor buses.[1] OC Transpo uses many articulated buses to provide service. Some of the routes that run on the Transitway, including the city's most-used bus routes, are served almost exclusively by articulated buses (e.g., route 95, route 96, and route 97).

In 2001, a pilot diesel-powered light rail service project, the original O-Train known today as the Trillium Line, was introduced. The local government had announced expansion plans for the light rail to other parts of Ottawa, including a possible link to the Ottawa International Airport. Service to Gatineau would have also been possible, over the nearby Prince of Wales railway bridge over the Ottawa River. However, on December 14, 2006, City Council led by Mayor Larry O'Brien had cancelled the north-south light rail expansion project. A new model of the project, to have a city-wide integrated light rail system, has been made and the revised project should be completed by 2007, with work beginning as early as 2008. This new project envisions fully grade separated rapid transit service on the original Transitways from Baseline Station in the west to Blair Station in the east. The gap between the east end west branches of Transitway will be replaced by a new downtown Subway tunnel under Queen and Rideau streets with three underground stations. The O-Train Trillium Line will be converted to a dual track electric LRT and extended to Riverside South and will include a spur to the Ottawa Macdonald-Cartier International Airport, thus creating direct airport to downtown service. As for the suburbs, they will be served by 65 km of new Transitways. The first phase of the project, called the Confederation Line includes 12.5 km of rail between Tunney's Pasture and Blair, including the downtown subway.

For a number of years, OC Transpo has carried bicycle racks on some routes as a part of the "Rack & Roll" campaign. These racks carry up to two bicycles at the front of the bus, and fold up against the bus when not in use. Although it started only on three routes, this service has been expanded to include routes 12, 85, 94, 95, 96, 97, 99, 101, 106, and 118, with bike racks appearing on other routes from time to time. As well, all D60LF and D60LFR articulated (60-foot long) buses, all Enviro500 double-decker buses, and Invero buses 4427-4526 (inclusive) have bike racks.[5] Traditionally, the racks have been available only between April and October, and there has been much debate over continuing the program throughout the year. However, cyclists may use the racks at any time, on any bus that is equipped with a rack (including routes that don't normally offer them), provided there is room for the cyclist in the bus. The O-Train is bicycle accessible year-round.

There are four bus depots located throughout the city. The largest and headquarters is located at 1500 St. Laurent Boulevard, with two other smaller but frequently used depots being located at 168 Colonnade Road (Merivale Garage) and the other on Queensview Drive (Pinecrest Garage). A major new maintenance depot which opened its doors late 2010 is located on Industrial Ave. The Queensview and Colonnade garages are usually for employees working during the rush hour and generally not used during weekends. For the latter two stations, it consists mostly of older buses although some articulated buses (in the 60xx's) can be found at Colonnade and other low-floor buses at both Colonnade (Inveros in the 42xx's) and Queensview (Orion VI).


Early history

Ottawa's first public transportation system began in 1886 with the operation of a horsecar system.[6] The horse-drawn streetcars travelled back and forth from New Edinburgh to the Chaudière Bridge.[6] The horsecar would remain a staple means of public transportation until 1891 after Thomas Ahearn founded the Ottawa Electric Railway Company. This private enterprise eventually provided heated streetcar service covering the downtown core.[6] Electricity had been employed in a few places in Ottawa since the first demonstration of the incandescent bulb in 1883 (the earliest were Parliament Hill and LeBreton Flats).[7] In May 1885, electric lighting commenced in the city. In 1885 council contracted Ottawa Electric Light Company to install 165 arc lamps on the city's streets.[7]

1973: Formation

Transit in Ottawa was provided by the Ottawa Transportation Commission until 1973, when transit service in the city and its suburbs was transferred to the auspices of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton. Its formal name was the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Transit Commission, but the service was promoted in both English and French under the OC Transpo name, whose OC initials are derived from Ottawa-Carleton.

1979: Strike

The 20-day 1979 strike was fought over a wage difference of a nickel and became known as "the five-cent bus strike". A pay increase of 16.5% was rejected by the union.[8]

1980s: Transitway

In the early 1980s, OC Transpo began planning for a bus rapid transit system, the Transitway. Construction of its various stations and segments followed over many years. The first segments were from Baseline to Lincoln Fields in the west end and from Lees to Hurdman in the east end.

1996: Strike

The second strike for OC Transpo ran from November 25, 1996 to December 16. The strike ended under arbitration.[8]

1999 shooting

On Tuesday April 6, 1999, former OC Transpo employee Pierre Lebrun shot six people, killing four, in a shooting spree at OC Transpo's St. Laurent Boulevard garage, before killing himself.[9][10] Lebrun had been fired in August 1997 but was later reinstated, and quit in 1998.[10][11]

An inquest into the shooting revealed that Lebrun had been the subject of teasing for his speech impediment, and that his complaints to management had not been investigated.[12] The inquest revealed an "atmosphere of bullying", described as a "poisoned" environment by an employment equity manager.[10][12] In response, OC Transpo instigated zero-tolerance policies regarding workplace harassment, a new employee-management communications program, and increased training on workplace respect.[13] However, studies in 2003 and 2004 found there to be lingering elements of a negative work environment,[13] and employee-management communication was reported to be strained following the 1996 strike.[10]

2000s: proposed and completed expansions

The province of Ontario ordered the amalgamation of the Regional Municipality of Ottawa-Carleton and its component municipalities into a single City of Ottawa municipality. When the new local governance took effect in 2001, OC Transpo became a department of the new city.

Following amalgamation, a bilingual replacement backronym for "OC" was sought, but no suitable candidates have been found. The anachronistic acronym has been kept, instead of the costly task of replacing the decals on all buses, bus stops, bus stations, and promotional material.[citation needed]

A new section of the southwest Transitway opened on December 12, 2005, between the Nepean Sportsplex and Fallowfield Station. The new section runs parallel to Woodroffe Avenue and was built at a cost of $10 million. The new section has no stations and has replaced service along Woodroffe Avenue between the Nepean Sportsplex and Fallowfield Station. There are further plans to extend the Transitway south into the heart of the ever-growing community of Barrhaven where a new station called Strandherd opened on January 2, 2007. There are also long range plans for other extensions in the Orleans and Kanata areas to keep up with more growing communities there too.

During the 2006 municipal election campaign, Larry O'Brien (who would be elected as mayor) was sceptical of the light rail expansion project's benefits, and promised to cancel the project if elected, assuming the City's legal position did not preclude this[citation needed]. After multiple votes deciding the fate of the city's north-south light rail expansion project, post-election City Council decided to annul the project by a margin of 13-11 on December 14, 2006. The proposed northbound expansions from Bayview onward were later revived with the Confederation Line project, contracted in December 2012.

December 2008-February 2009: ATU 279 strike OC Transpo drivers, dispatchers, and maintenance workers under Amalgamated Transit Union local 279 went on strike December 10, 2008 at 12:01am.[14] The main causes of the strike were disagreements between the City of Ottawa and the union regarding scheduling, payroll and seniority. Rona Ambrose, the Federal Minister of Labour ordered a union membership vote on January 8, 2009 on the city's contract proposal[15] in response to a request from mayor Larry O'Brien.[16] Both the city and the union published their positions on respective websites.[17][18] Vote results released on January 9, 2009 revealed that of those eligible to vote, 64% rejected the offer.[19]

Meetings were held with a mediator throughout the month, but talks were repeatedly broken off. The ATU had requested to send all issues not related to scheduling to arbitration, which the city refused as it requested all issues to be sent to an arbitrator. As the strike entered the 50th day, Ambrose, who had initially refused to table back-to-work legislation, announced that such legislation would be introduced. However, on January 29, the city and the ATU reached a deal that sent every issue to binding arbitration, thus ending the 51-day-long strike.[20] On February 2, 2009 the O-Train Trillium Line started service after being out of service due to the strike. Buses followed the following Monday February 9, 2009. Not all buses returned at once and OC Transpo said that all buses and routes were due to return by April 6, 2009. OC Transpo offered free transit for a week. December pass holders could either use their December passes until March, or could get a refund. December pass holders were also subject to a 60% discount on March passes in order to win back transit users.

September 18, 2013: Collision with Via Rail train

On September 18, 2013, a double-decker OC Transpo bus (#8017), running on Route 76 from Barrhaven to downtown at 8:48 a.m., collided with a Toronto-bound Via Rail passenger train at a level crossing, equipped with active warning systems, near Fallowfield Station in Ottawa's southwest end. Six people on the bus (including the driver) were killed and at least 30 others were injured, of which at least eight were critically injured. There were no injuries or fatalities to passengers or crew of the train. The cause of the accident is unknown at this time.[21][22][23] It was announced the following year that Route 76 would be renamed in recognition of those who died in the accident.[24]

OC Transpo routes

OC Transpo has approximately 160 bus routes (as of 2 March 2015)[25] that are grouped both by their number and the colour with which they are represented on system maps and on bus stop flags.

Active fleet

Inside an OC Transpo bus

Only models with at least some buses now in service are listed, and the number in fleet is based on the number originally ordered. All GMDD models of 1982 or before (also known by many as fishbowls or New Looks) were retired by the beginning of April.

In 2006 and 2007, OC Transpo evaluated a double-decker bus on the Transitway and express routes. This bus, an Enviro500 built by British firm Alexander Dennis, can carry nearly 100 passengers. The initial service demonstration ran from June 28 to July 12, 2006, with a further demonstration under winter conditions in February 2007. The City of Ottawa purchased three Enviro500 buses and they were delivered in November 2008. OC Transpo decals were added to the buses in December, but the strike delayed the introduction of these buses. The buses started service in February.

The OC Transpo fleet numbering scheme changed in 1999. Prior to 1999, the two last digits of the year of purchase were the first two digits of the fleet number. The scheme was changed because OC Transpo ordered 140 Orion 06.501, and also because buses purchased in 2000 would have been in the 0000 series, which was not favoured by the computer system. The new numbering scheme starts with 4 for 40-foot buses, 6 for 60-foot buses, 8 for the new Enviro500 double-decker buses, and 5 for the Orion VII NG HEV, followed by a three-digit consecutive fleet number. The three trial double-decker buses, 1201, 1202 and 1203 were retired and sold with the introduction of the new double-deckers.

OC Transpo articulated bus in downtown Ottawa

In August 2010, OC Transpo took advantage of an offer by New Flyer Industries, replacing 226 of its older underpowered 60-foot D60LF articulated buses (purchased between 2001 and 2004) with brand new D60LFR models. The bus exchange was completed in March 2011. OC Transpo also received other incentives as part of the deal, including rebates on the trading-in of the old buses and a credit on new parts. Eighty new D60LFR articulated buses were also purchased from New Flyer, bringing the combined total to 306 buses.[26][27] All of the 2001-2004 D60LFs are now retired. Some of the older New Flyer D60LF sixty-foot articulated buses have caught on fire during the summer of 2006 and the Summer/Fall of 2010, due to overheating engines, effectively putting them out of service.

OC Transpo has created a business plan for its bus fleet. The plan includes a purchase of 75 more Enviro500 triple-axle double-decker buses to replace the older 40-foot models that are in service (namely the buses purchased between 1997 and 1999). These extra double-decker buses would be used mainly on express routes. Double-decker buses use about the same amount of fuel as an articulated 60-foot bus, but only take up the same road area as a regular 40 foot bus, meaning they free up space (especially downtown), and provide increased seated passenger capacity for the longer express bus routes. This will help lower OC Transpo's operating costs. As a result of the purchase, the 60-foot articulated buses will be moved from express routes to Transitway and other mainline routes, replacing the 40-foot models currently used on some trips by those routes. Those 40-foot models will replace the older 40-foot models currently used on local routes. The older 40-foot buses will be retired from service.[28] This plan was approved by the Transit Commission on April 20, 2011. The extra 75 Alexander Dennis E500 double-decker buses are expected to be in service between fall 2012 and spring 2013.

However, critics suggest not everything about the new double-decker buses is good news. Those against the purchase of the new double-decker buses have said the buses are too top-heavy and prone to tipping over. Loading times are longer than with the triple doors of an articulated bus and some passengers have concerns using the stairs when the buses accelerate or decelerate, especially when snow and rain are carried inside.

The maintenance of the fleet was complicated by adding buses from another manufacturer (OC Transpo already had buses from New Flyer and Orion before purchasing the double-deckers from Alexander Dennis). In cold and wet weather, condensation is prone to collecting on the roof of the upper deck, dripping on passengers below.[29]

In service worldwide for many years, there is no evidence to support the view that double deck buses are less stable than comparably high sided vehicles. The most frequent types of incidents concerning double deck buses involve their being driven off route and into overhanging trees or low bridges. As with any other mode of transport, it is a matter for the vehicle operator and ultimately the driver to assess if weather and road conditions are beyond the design dynamics of the vehicle to be driven.

Accessibility is also an issue with new buses, because the ramps on the double-deckers are also not well suited for express routes, where buses travel on various roads without proper sidewalks, and the wheelchair spots have seat belts that do not function as well as those found on the rest of the fleet.

On July 12, 2011, OC Transpo announced that all remaining high floor buses were retired [30] and thus all OC Transpo buses now have low floors, can be further lowered for strollers and walkers, and have flip-out ramps for wheelchairs. The full fleet is air-conditioned for Ottawa's short, hot, humid summers.

The first few double-decker buses arrived in Ottawa on August 23, 2012. The following day Ottawa mayor Jim Watson and transit chair Diane Deans introduced the first of the 75 double-decker buses at a ceremony at Ottawa city hall. The new double-deckers are starting to enter service in October 2012, and will be primarily used on express routes from Kanata, Barrhaven, and Orleans.[31] Express routes 35, 61, and 77 were the first three routes to use the new buses, with several other express routes receiving them over the following months, as they became available. Rapid transit route 93 is also using the new buses.

Two of the new double-decker buses were in service as of September 10, 2012, and were temporarily used on express routes 22 and 30 (serving Orleans). This lasted until a sinkhole on Regional Road 174 was fixed in mid-September.[32]

Eight double-decker buses entered service on October 15, 2012, on routes 30, 35, 38, 60, 61, 62, 70, 71, 76, and 77. Six more entered service on October 29, 2012, on routes 20, 21, 31, 34, 41, 68, and 93. On November 5, 2012, six more entered service, bringing the total number of double-deckers in service to 20 buses, and introducing them on route 66 in addition to the aforementioned routes. As of April 21, 2013, all 75 buses were in service, with these buses being used on routes 27,40 and 67 in addition to all previously mentioned routes. Route 232 will be the first rural express route with a double-decker bus, effective January 22, 2014.[31]

Some time in 2015, OC Transpo will introduce Wi-Fi networks on some of its double-decker buses. They are also looking into the possibility of adding Wi-Fi networks to older buses, but improving the bus system is a higher priority.[33]

Handicapped/disabled access denotes wheelchair accessibility

Retired fleet

  • This is a list of retired GM, Ford, Orion Bus Industries, Nova, and Alexander Dennis bus fleets.[38]


OC Transpo fares can be paid in Canadian coins, bus tickets or with the Presto card. The two latter methods must be purchased in advance at various retail outlets or bus stations for a lower fare. Transfers are printed for passengers upon boarding by the driver upon cash or ticket payment. Such transfers are valid for 90 minutes during weekdays and 105 minutes during weeknights, weekends and holidays.[40]


This table only lists the regular adult cash fares. It was, for example, possible in 1955 to purchase a packet of four tickets or "carfares" for 25¢, making the cost of each ride 6.25¢.

Year Rate Rate in 2015 dollars[41]
1951 $0.10 $0.90
1954 $0.15 $1.34
1961 $0.20 $1.62
1968 $0.25 $1.67
1970 $0.30 $1.87
1976 $0.40 $1.61
1977 $0.50 $1.84
1978 $0.55 $1.86
1980 $0.60 $1.68
1981 $0.65 $1.61
1984 $0.90 $1.87
1986 (peak) $1.50 $2.87
1986 (off-peak)[42] $0.75 $1.44


OC Transpo ticket prices were stable from 1996 to 2008, but after the ATU 279 strike, prices jumped.
Year Rate Rate in 2015 dollars[43]
Adult Senior Adult Senior
1996 $1.85 $2.64
1998 $2.25 $3.12
2002 $2.50 $3.14
2004 $2.60 $3.14
2005 $2.75 $3.24
2006 $3.00 $3.50
2010 $3.25 $3.52
2012 $3.30 $2.00 $3.44 $2.08
2013 $3.40 $2.55 $3.52 $2.64
2014[44] $3.45 $2.60 $3.49 $2.63
2015 $3.55 $2.70 $3.55 $2.70
2016 (proposed) $3.65 ? $3.65 ?

Current fares

OC Transpo fares as of July 1, 2015
Type Age Presto Tickets Cash
Adult 13 to 64 $2.84 $3.20 $3.55
Senior 65 and up $2.14 $2.70
Express 13 and up $4.28 $4.80 $5.00
Child 6 to 12 $1.57 $1.60 $1.90
Child 5 and under Free

Tickets for the O-Train light rail line are $3.45 each (cash, $2.77 using Presto and cannot be purchased using tickets), and are sold at O-train stations. They can be exchanged for bus transfers.

Monthly and annual passes are also available for all route classes with cost differences for adults, students, and seniors. Passes require OC Transpo photo ID card, which available at extra cost. Additionally, Ecopasses (reduced-rate monthly passes) are available through participating employers in the city, providing applicable OC Transpo riders with single-card indefinite passes in exchange for a flat bi-weekly, semi-monthly or monthly payroll deduction.

Since the December 1, 2005, fare increase, OC Transpo had the highest basic cash bus fares of any major transit service in Canada.[citation needed] This fare was matched by STO, the transit operator across the Ottawa River in Gatineau, Québec on January 1, 2006. OC Transpo & York Region Transit have the highest cash fares in Canada, at $3.45.[citation needed]

On July 2008, fares were increased by 7.5% because of a shortage in funding for the City of Ottawa. This fare hike was supposed to be in effect until 2010 including a 6.5% hike in 2009. This meant Ottawa residents saw regular adult passes rise from $73 a month to $81 and adult express passes from $90 to $101 a month. However, cash fares remained the same.[45]

On 18 January 2013, OC Transpo starting the final testing of its Presto Card deployment as part of the NEXT-ON program. Ten thousand customers were able to order a Presto Card online or pick one up at select OC Transpo transitway stations, activate it, and use it for OC Transpo's final testing of the loadable cards. As of January 2013, over 10,000 Presto cards have been distributed. A limited number of Presto cards were available at Baseline Station on 22 January 2013, and at Fallowfield Station on 24 January 2013. The final full release date for Presto in Ottawa was on 18 May 2013. Cards can be either loaded with cash and used like tickets, or loaded with as a monthly pass, which unlike the photo pass, is usable by family and friends. When fully implemented, yearly and monthly photo passes and tickets will be phased out.

The Province is encouraging all Ontario transit systems to adopt Presto. However, the OC Transpo installation has been by far the largest and most complex, requiring installation of readers at the front doors of all buses and all doors of articulated and double-decker buses, as well as a computer with a Presto fare database on each bus. The database was originally refreshed every night with updates of the day's Presto fare purchases when the buses return to the garages; this required users to wait up to 24 hours before cash loaded onto their card accounts is recognized by the readers. In 2014, the readers were upgraded to refresh up to 6 times a day using cellular data. The O-Train also has readers at the entries of the five stations and the whole train platform is considered a Proof-of-Purchase (POP) zone where riders must show a pass or transfer to inspectors upon request. Unlike the TTC and GO Transit facilities, OC Transpo lacks publicly accessible machines that check Presto fare history without deducting credit.

Para Transpo

Para Transpo is an accessible paratransit service available to Ottawa patrons who find it extremely difficult or impossible to use the conventional OC Transpo routes. Service is provided directly to the residences of eligible users who book trip appointments with a call centre at least one day in advance. Para Transpo drivers will provide some assistance to passengers to board designated vehicle and to access building entrances.[46]

Para Transpo operations were contracted to First Bus Canada, previously operated by Laidlaw. On January 1, 2008, the City of Ottawa assumed complete control of this service.[46]

The transit strike of 2008 did not interrupt Para Transpo service. However, Para Transpo service did encounter delays, facing the traffic increase due to the strike.


Advertising on OC Transpo buses is contracted to Pattison Outdoor Advertising. Advertising on bus shelters is contracted to Clear Channel Outdoor. There has also been local funding to advertise on local TV stations such as CTV and CTV Two.

Amalgamated Transit Union - Local 279

The Amalgamated Transit Union, Local 279 is the OC Transpo employees' union consisting of over 1700 members consisting of bus operators as well as other staffing positions within the company, including mechanics located at various garage depots throughout the city.

Gallery of bus models

See also


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