Friday, November 28, 2014

I don’t understand Ottawa. I never did.

by Maken D. Bacon
Guest Blogger

A recent trip across the border into New York at Lewiston made me think of the Transportation Safety Board’s advisory letter (12/14) to the mayor of Ottawa.  You know, the one regarding the collision of an OC Transpo double-decker bus and a VIA Rail passenger train.

The TSB’s message to Ottawa bus drivers is to slow down when approaching any railway crossing, look both ways, be prepared to stop, and yield right-of-way to a train. In response, OC Transpo issued internal bulletins advising “when approaching a railway crossing, drivers are to observe posted speed limits, slow down, listen and look both ways before crossing the tracks.”  What?  No requirement to stop?

Now, GO Transit exercises the higher standard that is prescribed by Ontario’s Highway Traffic Act for school buses as follows:
174(2)  The driver of a school bus, within the meaning of section 175, upon approaching on a highway a railway crossing, whether or not it is protected by gates or railway crossing signal lights, unless otherwise directed by a flagman, shall,
(a) stop the school bus not less than 5 metres from the nearest rail of the railway;
(b) look in both directions along the railway track;
(c) open a door of the school bus and listen to determine if any train is approaching;
(d) when it is safe to do so, cross the railway track in a gear that will not need to be changed while rossing the track; and
(e) not change gears while crossing the railway track. 1997, c. 12, s. 13.
Regular passengers of GO Transit Route 12 know the buses stop at not only the protected crossing currently on Centennial Pkwy., but also the abandoned spur line that crosses Bancroft St. in Stoney Creek.

Back to Ottawa.  The city went so far as to reduce the posted speed limit in the vicinity of the rail crossing from 60 to 50 KPH.  However, the TSB’s speed tests showed there was less than 75% compliance with that action.

What does all this have to do with crossing the border into the USA?  The bridge across the Niagara River has a posted speed of 15 MPH (roughly 24 KPH).  Once across the bridge, transverse rumble strips are used to slow vehicles in preparation for a full stop before the inspection stations.

Anyone on a Burlington-bound GO Transit bus knows how effective rumble strips are on the QEW exit ramp to Centennial Pkwy.

If rumble strips are a cost-effective means to warn drivers of a stop or slowdown ahead at high and slow speeds, why won’t the City of Ottawa use them to slow traffic at a railroad crossing on a roadway dedicated for its buses?  Why don’t OC Transpo buses just stop at all rail crossings, period?



Anonymous said...

What was the conclusion for the cause of this crash? And I agree that if it was law that the bus stop at railroad crossings (which I thought WAS the law) then those two passengers who were killed would still be alive.

Maken D. Bacon said...

Anonymous (@9:55),
The TSB has not released their final report; their interim report smacked of conjecture, IMO. There were 6 fatalities (not two), 8 serious injuries and approximately 25 minor injuries.