Ottawa transit chair wants to know why majority of OSTA school bus route cuts are in Kanata area

By Alex Black

The chair of Ottawa's transit commission is expressing concern about recently cancelled school bus routes in the city, especially in the city's west end.

Kanata South Ward City Councillor Allan Hubley has written an open letter to the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority (OSTA), saying that while he understands there is currently a bus driver shortage, he would like clarification on what criteria determines which routes are cut.

He says 81 per cent of the cuts are in the west end, with 31 Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB) routes out of 55 and 15 Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) routes out of 28 cut in the Kanata-Stittsville area.

“I want them to give us the rationale, because myself and two trustees are hearing from literally hundreds of families stranded by this,” Hubley tells CityNews Ottawa.

Hubley is also concerned that some of the cancelled routes were going to schools with specialized programs, like Canterbury High School and Merivale Intermediate, where students come from all over the city.

“It's a lot to ask of the children,” Hubley says. “I've heard from some parents that are saying they're going to have to take their kids out of these specialized programs, that those kids worked really, really hard to get into.”

The transit commission chair says he is working with school board trustees from both the public and Catholic board to get a dedicated bus, but he says it's still not the ideal option because parents would be required to get their kids to Hazeldean Mall to catch that bus.

“Into next year, we need to fix this criteria,” Hubley says. “The first priority is to make sure that we can get the kids to school, so that's top of mind and the first issue I want to resolve. After that's resolved, then I want to look at the criteria for the going forward to make sure that we can fix that for them, and that they take a more balanced approach going forward if they have to cut any routes.”

Hubley also wants to get to the root cause of the ongoing bus driver shortage.

“Is it a fear of being around children, unvaccinated children? What is it that's driving this, because maybe we can look at that and try to resolve that as well.”

Here is the full letter from the councillor to the OSTA:

“Firstly, I want to preface this letter by saying that I am grateful for the work that has been and is being done by OSTA to provide school buses to our city's students and to get the kids to school safely everyday.

However, I do have questions regarding the recent cuts to service due to a lack of drivers that I would appreciate answers on.

How do you determine which routes to cut?

What specific criteria resulted in cutting so many routes in the city's west end?

It has been brought to my attention that 31 OCDSB routes out of 55 and 15 OCSB routes out of 28 in Kanata/Stittsville were cut. That means that 55 per cent of your cancelled routes are from 3 wards, leaving hundreds of students without a school bus.

Why were west end routes cut to schools with specialized programs, like Canterbury and Merivale, with students coming from all over the city?

This has resulted in students relying on OC Transpo routes or other means to get to school and parents are telling me their children are now spending 3+ hours commuting to and from school every day.

I along with the parents of these children, would just like to know why so many Kanata/Stittsville bus routes were cancelled?

Again, I do appreciate the service by the dedicated bus drivers at OSTA and look forward to getting back to full service in the future.

Allan Hubley
Councillor, Ward 23 Kanata South
City of Ottawa”

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