A new severe weather pilot program from OC Transpo will bring in a Saturday schedule whenever a bad storm hits on a weekday and pull most articulated buses out of service.
Articulated buses struggle in deep snow, OC Transpo general manager Renée Amilcar said in a memo issued Thursday about the pilot project. The longer buses with accordion-style connections can get stuck and disrupt service.
This winter, the service will make changes when more than 30 centimetres of snow is expected to fall, or in other "severe circumstances."
Most articulated buses will be taken out of service in severe winter weather seven days a week. If a storm is forecast for a weekday, service will reduce to a Saturday schedule, but will be increased to hospitals.
Both Para Transpo and the O-Train will run normally, but Amilcar said passengers should expect delays. She said customers will be told in advance of any weather-related schedule changes.
Bike racks, winter service changes
The Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents OC Transpo workers, has been calling for more flexibility during winter storms since at least 2013.
It isn't common to get snowstorms that drop more than 30 centimetres of snow in Ottawa. Environment Canada data shows that's happened just once in a day in the last five years (excluding many storms where that amount fell over two days).
Amilcar estimates the new pilot may only be implemented one or two times over the course of the winter.
OC Transpo is also expanding its winter Rack and Roll program that puts bike racks on the front of buses. This winter it's putting racks on all buses after trying it out on double-decker buses last winter.