The Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is the backbone of Ottawa’s public transit and is heavily depended on during daily commuter travel. However, the system has become significantly inefficient due to the volume of buses and passengers travelling to and from the downtown core, specifically routes that service Albert St., Slater St., and the Mackenize King Bridge. These inefficiencies have become increasingly evident during morning and afternoon peak travel times and are therefore subject to policy recommendations that aim to increase the efficiency and sustainability of the BRT system.
In 2012, Ottawa city council alongside OC Transpo determined that five of the 137 Orion VII hybrid buses would be equipped with diesel propulsion systems to save money on fuel costs (Willing, 2012). Studies determined that “hybrid buses perform best on routes with slower speeds and frequent stops. Tests have shown that when speeds increase, the fuel consumption is similar to a conventional diesel bus” (Willing, 2012). OC Transpo believes that since many buses travel with higher speeds, more diesel is utilized than battery power. However, the Transportation Master Plan outlines a contrary vision for Ottawa’s 2031 bus fleet.
To minimize energy use and environmental impacts of the OC Transpo bus fleet, the Transportation Master Plan recommends that OC Transpo and city council integrate greater quantities of hybrid, biofuel/biodiesel, and electric buses to create a bus fleet with the cleanest propulsion technology (City of Ottawa, 2013). The report recommends OC Transpo phase-in diesel-electric hybrid buses over three years on low speed routes with frequent stops (such as those in the downtown core) to maximize environmental benefits (most notably, emission reductions). Furthermore, there should be increased monitoring opportunities to acquire zero-emission buses when they become commercially available (City of Ottawa, 2013). A bus fleet becomes technologically sustainable when emissions decrease, especially since Ottawa’s bus fleet has over 1,000 buses servicing the city daily. With these implemented changes, Ottawa’s bus fleet would encompass greater environmental and economic sustainability since greenhouse gas emissions would decrease and highly susceptible costs of fuel would be offset by innovative technologies that utilize less fuel or no fuel at all, such as electric vehicles. Although technological sustainability will benefit Ottawa’s bus fleet, the system remains susceptible to traffic congestion in the downtown core.
A significant portion of OC Transpo buses are funneled down two streets in the downtown core: Albert St. servicing passengers travelling west and Slater St. servicing passengers travelling east. Buses also service the Mackenzie King Station in the east end. The City of Ottawa’s current “operation of traffic signals has a major impact on stops, delays and travel times for various users of the transportation system. The...