Riders in wheelchairs take precedence over strollers on city buses and drivers are left to decide which passengers can board a full bus due to a hands-off administrative approach.
“The City of Ottawa policy is, once again, driver discretion. They don’t want to make a hard and fast policy because they simply say it’s going to be up to common sense,” said Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279 president Craig Watson.
That often leaves OC Transpo drivers in a quandary.
Riders in wheelchairs, walkers, or using strollers sometimes get stranded if there’s not enough room on board.
“If you leave the call (up) to the operator, and if he makes what you believe to be the wrong decision, that’s too bad for you,” said Watson, a veteran operator.
For instance, a driver might say “well, I can’t board that double-stroller ‘cause I know I pick up two wheelchairs in the next two stops. And then if those wheelchairs aren’t there, then somebody complains, right?,” said Watson.
At the same time, if the bus is crammed to the yellow line, “you don’t stop at the stops to tell people you’re full,” said Watson.
Doing so creates unnecessary delays, and even when people see the bus is packed, they’ll often assume there’s enough room left just for them, he said.
But the city says otherwise.
If a passenger with a stroller can’t safely board, “the operator would advise the customer of the reason they cannot be accommodated on the bus, inform that customer of the approximate time of the next bus and notify Transit Control of the route and bus stop location of the waiting customer,” manager of transit operations Troy Charter wrote in an e-mail, adding operators consider the time of day, frequency, weather conditions, customer loads and bus stop location.
There is no maximum number of strollers allowed on a bus, provided they are safe and don’t interfere with other customers or with the safe movement of customers within the vehicle, Charter said.
An accessibility advocate wants to see riders helping each other instead of competing for space.
“I’ve been on buses where a parent has folded up a stroller just to let another parent on with a bigger stroller,” said Catherine Gardner, who uses a walker and service dog.
“We have to change attitudes and we have to accommodate, where possible.”
An open stroller carrying a child must be placed in a wheelchair position if available.
If not, open strollers will be allowed in the aisle unless they interfere with other customers or with the safe movement of customers within the transit vehicle.
Should an open stroller be in a wheelchair position and a person using a wheelchair boards and needs that position, the customer with the stroller will be required to move.
There may be times when a customer with a stroller is declined access on the bus, such as when the bus is at a full load capacity and/or the stroller would create a hazard by interfering with other customers or the safe movement of customers on the bus.
— Source: OC Transpo