How often are Stittsville buses late or cancelled? Data shows reliability can be uneven

Cameron Scobie at a 262 stop in Stittsville.

Photo: Cameron Scobie says he’s getting annoyed at the recent unreliability of the 262 route that serves Stittsville. (Photo by Devyn Barrie)

A nosedive in OC Transpo’s reliability of late has Cameron Scobie reconsidering his decision to leave the car at home in favour of the 262 for his daily commute.

“Within the last two months I’d say the service has become entirely unreliable,” Scobie said. Late buses have stopped coming at all during afternoon runs he relies on to get home to his daughter at a reasonable time, he said.

Scobie has taken the 262 since 2014 because he thought it would be cheaper and simpler than driving to work downtown, he said. But now he wonders if it’s really a more convenient option.

“When you have an hour that goes by and no bus comes… that’s just not acceptable for a city that’s trying to encourage people to take the bus,” he said.

Scobie is unlikely to be alone in Stittsville, where complaints about poor bus service tend to be quite common in conversation. And OC Transpo’s own data shows frequent tardiness on the part of the three connexion bus routes serving Stittsville.

Data that OC Transpo posts on their website shows the 262 can be particularly unreliable, with 32 per cent of morning runs turning out late between January and June 2017.

That makes the 262 the seventh worst connexion route in the city for the time period — the worst being the Glen Cairn route 267, with 40 per cent morning runs late during the same period.

Most regular bus routes fared better than the connexion routes. The only regular bus that was late more often than the 262 was the Bridlewood route 168, at 33 per cent of morning runs during that period turning out late.

Overall, the on-time average for the period was 75 per cent for connexion routes and 63 per cent for other types of buses.

January-June 2017 morning runs

Route More than 2 min early Up to 2 min early On time Late
261 0% 1% 76% 23%
262 0% 1% 66% 32%
263 0% 1% 74% 25%

July-December 2016 morning runs

Route More than 2 min early Up to 2 min early On time Late
261 3% 9% 72% 16%
262 0% 2% 69% 29%
263 5% 8% 68% 19%

Data for afternoon runs is not posted on the transit agency’s website.

Official cancellation rates are not published by OC Transpo but the cancellation of individual buses is usually tweeted by the agency.

Out of 270 afternoon trips in June, five 262 runs were canceled. In May, one morning trip (out of 300) was canceled and so was one afternoon.

For the 261, one afternoon trip was canceled in June and none in May. The 263 had not seen a bus canceled since two were in May.

Coun. Qadri says LRT will bring relief

When asked for reaction, and what is being done to improve bus reliability, Coun. Shad Qadri said upcoming LRT should alleviate the issues.

“The reliability of all bus services that operate to, from, or through downtown is currently being affected by traffic congestion and detours resulting from construction,” Qadri wrote in an email. “The opening of the new O-Train line… will end many of the construction-related detours and delays and will remove most bus operation from downtown streets, where most of the delay and unreliability occurs.”

In addition to traffic and construction, he said some delays may also be attributable to staff issues such as illness.

“I will continue to work with OC Transpo staff in order to resolve the issues within our control,” he wrote.

Cancelling buses a ‘last option’: OC Transpo

Scobie’s main complaint about 262 service is afternoon buses not showing up. In a statement relayed through the city’s media relations department, an OC Transpo official said cancelling a bus is considered a last resort.

“A cancelled trip is often the result of unplanned and uncontrollable factors; common causes are inclement weather, traffic congestion, construction and collisions,” said Troy Charter, director of transit operations in the statement. “OC Transpo’s operational staff continuously monitor service on the transit network, in order to prevent and react to these types of disruptions.”

He said transit staff will attempt to replace or re-allocate buses in the system to fill trips that are at risk of being cancelled. As well, drivers and buses are “strategically placed” around the city in order to rapidly react to situations, he said.

“Cancelling a trip is always the last option after all other ways of adjusting service have been exhausted,” Charter said.

OC Transpo did not provide their cancellation policy, as requested by this newspaper.

All said, Scobie has one piece of advice for OC Transpo.

“At this point, it’s really just stick to the schedule,” he said. “We have no other way to get home.”


4 thoughts on “How often are Stittsville buses late or cancelled? Data shows reliability can be uneven”

  1. How do these cancellations compare to other routes across the city? If they are due to problems in the downtown core, then other suburbs and rural areas should be experiencing the same thing.
    Is there a protocol that says that if a particular route has seen cancellations that month that it’s somebody else’s turn today?
    If it’s due to breakdowns or driver illness, is that unique to these routes or distributed somewhat evenly across the city or are these buses and drivers somehow more prone to being unavailable?
    If the buses on a particular route or group of routes are consistently unreliable, shouldn’t something be done to correct that? Saying it’s due to this or that doesn’t get people home – the other half of that is “… and here’s what we’re doing about this specific route.”
    What are they going to blame when (if?) the LRT opens? What about the new batch of construction delays while the rest of the LRT is built which will take decades? The chaos that’s on Albert, Slater and Queen will just be moving to Scott St. next and then will roll out across the western end of the city until it eventually reaches Kanata by which time they’ll be making plans to extend it to Stittsville and maybe Carleton Place. Most of us probably won’t see the end of it in our lifetimes – is that how long we should wait for reliable transit to be able to get home to our families in the evening?

  2. I wonder if the pending lay off of 300+ OC Transpo staff has created a lack of give a f__k factor directly translating into late bus syndrome. But if us far Westenders think the commute is bad now, wait until we all have to scramble at Tunney’s for the same train during rush-slush hour starting in November-(ish).

  3. A key statement is that cancellation of buses is “usually” tweeted. Cancelled 262 are rarely tweeted, and if they are the tweet comes out 30 minutes after the bus was to start picking up passengers or later. In addition their mobile app is never updated showing these cancelled buses.

    To improve service the first step would be force drivers to turn on their GPS so app users can actually get updates on bus timings.

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