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OC Transpo’s Transit Operations Centre: A Rare Look Inside

OC Transpo’s Transit Operations Centre: A Rare Look Inside
OC Transpo’s Transit Operations Centre: A Rare Look Inside

When major events take place in the nation’s capital or when the city is hit by bad weather, the dozens of employees at OC Transpo’s Transit Operations Control Centre (TOCC) spring into action.

“We have a very dedicated and professional team of train controllers, bus controllers and special forces controllers here who are doing everything they can to minimize disruptions,” said Brad Tubman, TOCC manager.

“In a normal month we would get about 35,000 calls just on the bus side from bus drivers to the bus control department. During a snowstorm that would really increase and we could have thousands of calls coming into the control room per day.”

Tubman says there are normally about seven controllers who answer all the calls during times when demand is highest.

He adds that communications coordinators are also working hard to meet the demand.

“The interactions are very quick. They’re very short and to the point,” Tubman said.

“We provide instructions as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

The TOCC also functions as a safety and security centre. OC Transpo railway companies have access to more than 5,000 CCTV cameras throughout the public transport network. Special officers are stationed in a special command that monitors more than 2,000 cameras.

Employees work closely with emergency services to call for help if there is a conflict or medical emergency near public transportation.

OC Transpo’s fleet consists of 52 trains, 738 buses and 80 Para Transpo vehicles. According to the public transport service, a total of more than 200,000 customer journeys are carried out every working day.

However, many customers report being disappointed and frustrated by the lack of consistency in service.

“I have been using public transport since the 80s and I have seen it go from bad to worse and eventually impossible.

“It’s improving a little bit, but there’s still a long way to go,” said Kurtis Kitagawa.

“I think I will use public transport in other places too. If you want to increase the number of passengers, you need reliable service.”

Other riders share Kitagawa’s concerns.

“Sometimes the bus drivers just drive right past you. You’ve been waiting there for 20 minutes and they ignore you,” said Delilah Mes-Grealy.

“Sometimes they just don’t show up. My bus line goes right past my house and half the time it just doesn’t show up,” said Jacob Harvey.

Kitagawa says he lived in Calgary when the C train first went into service and there weren’t nearly as many delays and cancellations compared to what the O train has today.

He adds that he knows from experience that other cities offer more reliable service.

“I was in Edmonton and saw that system take off. I’ve been on the subway in Montreal, the subway in Toronto, the subway in London, England. You don’t see these kinds of problems there, so we’ve got a long way to go,” he said.

“Transparency will help, but I think we need another intervention here. If we want a public system that functions well and is adequately funded, we need to encourage more people to use the system and get out of their cars.”

For major events such as Bluesfest, public transport services are ramped up to meet increased demand.

“We have extended the service to all OC Transpo services including Para, O-Train and our buses. Customers attending Bluesfest who have a ticket can travel for free three hours before the concert and two hours after the concert,” said Katrina Camposarcone-Stubbs, OC Transpo spokesperson.

“On Sundays the service is also an hour longer, so this is the best way to get to Bluesfest.”