Independent safety review of Transitway, stations underway: OC Transpo

Close to one year after the fatal double-decker bus crash at Westboro station, OC Transpo says an independent safety review of Ottawa’s Transitway and its stations is underway and will continue into 2020.

Pat Scrimgeour, director of transit customer systems and planning at OC Transpo, said the review began last year and will be comprehensive, covering “all aspects” of the design of the Transitway and Transitway stations, including signs and signals, sight lines, traffic movements and speed limits.

“We’ve hired a professional engineering consulting company to do a thorough, proper engineering standard-based road safety analysis to see whether there’s any recommendations they have to make the Transitway safer than it is already is,” Scrimgeour said in a phone interview.

“We’re asking them for determination of whether they have any short-term measures or long-term measures that they want to recommend to us … anything that they can see that would improve the overall safety of the stations for all of its users, customers, staff, buses and any other vehicles.”

Questions about the safety of the Transitway and Ottawa’s double-decker buses arose after a westbound express route bus jumped the curb and crashed at Westboro station during the afternoon rush hour on Jan. 11, 2019. The overhang of a shelter sliced through the upper level of the double-decker bus.

The collision left more than 20 passengers seriously injured and killed three public servants: 65-year-old Anja Van Beek, 57-year-old Judy Booth and 56-year-old Bruce Thomlinson.

In a letter published in the Ottawa Citizen in September, members of the Van Beek family questioned why the steel awning at Westboro station “was repaired within days with no change in routes, structure, or types of buses used along the Transitway.”

Scrimgeour told Global News that OC Transpo made the decision to pursue a safety review of the Transitway “very shortly after the collision.” He couldn’t specifically say when the review began, saying it was “later in 2019.”

He said moving forward with a review was consistent with a recommendation issued by the arms-length fatal collision review committee, a multi-agency group that meets and shares information following fatal collisions in Ottawa in hopes of reducing the city’s number of traffic deaths.

They helped us to prepare, perhaps to focus the scope of this study. But they were totally consistent with what we were intending to do anyway,” Scrimgeour said.

A statement sent through the Ottawa Police Service’s media relations department said members of the fatal collision review committee “are subject to a strict confidentiality agreement” and won’t comment publicly about any findings or recommendations stemming from the committee’s reviews.

Asked whether OC Transpo is acting on any of the committee’s other recommendations, Scrimgeour said he didn’t have the answer to that question.

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