The article that started this:
OTTAWA -- An internal e-mail, obtained by the Citizen, lays bare OC Transpo's contingency plans for cutting service on select routes to deal with day-to-day problems that may arise such as unexpected staff shortages.
The e-mail suggests that any one of 40 or so routes could be affected by a service change at any given time.
The transit system's website may show that bus service is normal while a bus that usually runs every 15 minutes may suddenly and temporarily appear only every half hour. The next day, it might be back to normal while service on another route is stretched out from every six to every 12 minutes.
Even transit managers won't know from day to day which routes need to be cut or for how long, the e-mail says.
The internal memo asks supervisors to switch around the cuts so that no single route suffers all the inconvenience.
Transit service design staffer Paul Siedl wrote in the e-mail dated Sept. 3, "here is a list of runs that could be cancelled by Transit Operations on a day-to-day basis which will minimize the impact to on-street service.
"The list contains 22 additional runs for the morning peak and 26 more runs for the afternoon peak. ... If the list needs to be used, please rotate through the runs so that the same trips do not get cancelled each and every day," Siedl went on to write.
"The trips on this list are not being removed from the planned schedule and public information. They may be cancelled occasionally by Transit Control depending on the available resources on a particular day. Again, we avoided premium-fare express routes, rural express routes, school routes, employment routes, first and last trips, and consecutive trips on a particular route.
"Please forward to those who need to know. Thanks."
Mike Aldrich, acting head of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 279, says abrupt changes such as are proposed in the e-mail would be disastrous for riders and drivers alike.
"As far as I'm concerned, the public needs to know. If a member of the public looks (at the website), it's going to show you that the 64 leaves at 6:50 a.m. so you say, 'oh great, I have to be downtown by 7:30, so
that's the bus I'm going to take.' You go out to take that bus at 6:50, but it's not going to show. It's cancelled but they don't let the public know.
"They don't want any waves during the (Oct. 25 municipal) election," said Aldrich.
"They are trying to hide everything from everybody. That's why they have these, what I call, secret lists."
Angry passengers will yell at the drivers that they're late, but in fact, they are right on time -- the time that managers had set, Aldrich said. Recently, union members voted 61 per cent against a proposed agreement that would have resolved key points of contention, including scheduling.
Laurie Blackstone, OC Transpo's manager for transit operations, says Aldrich has misunderstood. She said in an e-mail: "Such lists have been a part of normal operating procedures for years.
"These e-mails do not mean these routes and runs were not done. They simply show we had a plan to adjust operations if we had needed to."
As to notifying the public, she said: "Whenever we feel a service change will impact riders unduly, we will issue notices via several channels, including but not limited to, social media."
Beyond that, the service is going smoothly, with the most of the 9,000 plus trips on time, she said.