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The calm before the storm: OC Transpo Winter Readiness

Image - The calm before the storm: OC Transpo Winter Readiness

Winter is (almost) here!

The good news is that OC Transpo begins planning for winter well in advance. 

Ottawa has seen its fair share of winter storms. We never know what mother nature is going to throw at us. Travelling in the snow can be challenging.

Let’s peek behind the scenes to see how OC Transpo prepares and adapts to severe winter weather

Before the storm

Work begins months in advance so that we can continue to offer customers safe and reliable service, regardless of the weather.

Well before the first snowflake, OC Transpo crews begin preparing the O-Train system for winter: 

  • Snow fencing is strategically installed to prevent drifting snow. 
  • Switch heaters are inspected and tested. 
  • Overhead wires that power the trains are inspected and adjusted.   
  • Critical train equipment is cleaned and winterized.  
  • Train heating is activated and heated floors are turned on.  
  • Station heaters are tested, and salt bins are delivered to stations.  
  • Additional resources are secured to assist with snow clearing and removal. 

Transcript and text description

Time On-screen animation On-screen text
00:00 Title appears

O-Train Explained

00:03 Large red O animates to reveal O-Train travelling left to right along track with winter downtown view of Ottawa in background.

Winter ready.

00:07 Scene changes to O-Train travelling left to right with trees in fall colours in the background; the background changes to winter with snow on the ground and falling. Planning for the winter season on the O-Train starts months in advance and many teams are involved.
00:14 The scene changes to the O-Train garage showing trains parked inside. There are plans and procedures for winter to ensure the O-Train system is prepared to deal with inclement weather and to reduce delays caused by winter conditions.
00:25 The scene changes to the O-Train travelling left to right in a winter landscape; an inset of a person in an OC Transpo control room appears as precipitation falls. When the forecast calls for snow or freezing rain, winter operating plans are put in place and weather conditions are closely monitored.
00:34 The scene changes to overhead to show the O-Train travelling along the tracks from left to right; then zooms in closer on the same scene. Additional resources are also brought in, including specialized equipment and extra staff, to ensure service continues to operate for customers.
00:44 The scene changes to the O-Train travelling left to right at night with snow falling. Depending on the weather conditions, trains can run overnight to prevent the build-up of snow on the tracks.
00:51 The scene changes to overhead to show a closeup view of the tracks with ice building up at the switch; the track turns red, heating up to melt the ice. Switch heaters are in place to help keep switches operating by melting ice and snow before it can build up.
01:02 The overhead view zooms out further to show a worker removing ice from between tracks. Crews may also need to manually clear snow and ice from switches under certain conditions.
01:08 The scene changes to bird’s eye view of O-Train travelling from bottom left to top right with a snow fence in the background. Snow fencing is installed at areas along the line to prevent snow drifting and protect the tracks from snow blown by passing snowplows.
01:19 The scene changes to a night view of the O-Train travelling left to right. The O-Train system is designed to withstand winter conditions. In winter months, staff work around the clock and across the system to keep the O-Train running for you.
01:25 The OC Transpo logo and web address animates on-screen. OC Transpo

Keeping the bus and Para Transpo system running in the winter, especially when a storm hits, is all about planning. 

When snow is in the forecast, we do our best to assign buses that perform best.  Articulated buses have a harder time on the road compared to our regular buses. When possible,  buses such as 40-foot buses are strategically deployed instead.  

Bus tires are much bigger and heavier than standard car tires. They have the same traction-boosting features as your winter tires such as wider grooves. 

We'll run a special Severe Storm Schedule for buses on particularly snowy weekdays. It will be in effect when 31 cm or more of snow or other severe weather is expected.  Wondering how you will know if a Severe Storm Schedule is happening? We will always inform you at least a day in advance. 

During the storm 

Before each snow event, OC Transpo closely monitors weather conditions and may adjust service depending on the severity of each event.  

When snow begins to fall, we work closely with numerous City departments to minimize transit disruptions. For example, Public Works will prioritize snow clearing on as many bus routes as possible. They also help keep transitway stations and park and rides clear.  

Throughout each storm, snow is cleared on bus platforms and around shelters. 

On the O-Train, switch heaters help melt ice and snow before it can accumulate. This helps keep switches operating during the winter months. At certain locations, heated train platforms help prevent snow and ice from building up.  Don’t be surprised to see additional staff out working on platforms, on pathways and even on the tracks. 

Additional resources and specialized equipment are brought in to assist during a weather event. 

If snow is falling overnight, you might be confused to see trains sometimes continue to run on O-Train Line 1. No, you’re not seeing a ghost train. Running trains overnight helps to reduce snow and ice from building up. 

How can you prepare for winter storms? 

We do our best to get you there on time, but leaving a few minutes early is never a bad idea. 

During a storm, use these helpful online tools: 

  • Plan your trip in advance using our Travel Planner
  • Sign up to receive alerts by e-mail or text for specific bus routes