Transportation Information – Route Planning and Driver Shortage Update

Last Updated on: 8th September 2021, 07:57 pm

OSTA has been working tirelessly to prioritize student success, health and well-being by offering safe transportation solutions Ottawa-Carleton District School Board and Ottawa Catholic School Board students. Although COVID-19 and the driver shortage have impacted some students’ service, more than 98.2% of students will be able to access transportation on the first day of school.  We are focused on finding temporary and long-term solutions for families facing delays.

Route Planning and Driver Shortage

OSTA is working on finding creative solutions to ensure the greatest number of students continue to receive transportation during these unprecedented circumstances. 

Some of these strategies include:

  • On-going driver recruitment
  • Transferring students to different routes
  • Combining multiple routes
  • Building in delayed arrivals and/or departures to covered routes to add service
  • Creating longer routes
  • Moving high school students to OC Transpo
  • Transferring students to van service
  • Offering shuttle service at congregated stops
  • Hiring new bus companies
  • Finding alternate drivers through coach services
  • Encouraging parents/guardians to opt-out if service is not needed
  • Student volunteers calling parents/guardians to confirm ridership or opting-out

This year, Parents and Guardians may notice changes to their child(ren) ‘s usual mode of transportation. We understand service disruptions cause tremendous difficulties for families throughout the city, and we thank you for your patience as we work to stabilize the system.

Once start-up has begun, we anticipate changes to balance loads based on actual ridership and re-introducing yellow bus service where possible.

Delays and Cancellations

Please check OSTA’s website daily for the most up-to-date information. You can find information regarding short-term delays and cancellations on the delays and cancellation page. To receive automatic notifications to your phone or computer, please sign up for our mailing list through the Parent Portal. Long-term cancellations will be posted to OCDSB and OCSB long-term cancellations lists.

Remember to assess your child’s health before sending them on the bus/van or dropping them off at school. Please see Ottawa Public Health resources on COVID safety and a self-assessment tool.

Modal Shift from Yellow Bus to OC Transpo for Students for the 2021/2022 School Year 

This September, many grade 7-12 students usually assigned to a yellow bus will take OC Transpo.  This move will provide stability to the system while OSTA and its Operators work on longer-term solutions for cancelled yellow bus routes. OC Transpo is working with OSTA to prepare routes to accommodate the number of students expected to transition. 

Why have we shifted to public transit?

  • Driver shortage means fewer yellow buses available and this change will help more than 2000+ students facing transportation uncertainty
  • Moving as many 7-12 students to OC Transpo as possible will free up yellows for elementary students
  • OC Transpo’s service is established and has available driver resources

How were students selected to shift to public transit?

  • Geographical areas that OC Transpo services well
  • OC Transpo services the school within a reasonable distance 
  • Students living within 1km walking distance of an OC Transpo bus stop
  • Routes that lacked available yellow bus drivers

Free Presto School Board Pass

A free Presto School Board Pass valid from September to June 30th will be issued to eligible students. Students will be notified by their school at the beginning of September when their Presto cards are available for pick up.

OC Transpo is a convenient option for students, allowing them the freedom to use their free Presto School Board Card for extra-curricular activities, commitments or attending part-time jobs. For information on taking public transit for first-time riders, please visit www.ottawaschoolbus.ca. We recommend families visit plan.octranspo.com/plan before the upcoming school year for exact bus stop locations and times nearest to their home. Students are also encouraged to practice taking OC Transpo before the beginning of the school year to help guarantee a smooth transition. 

To help new riders transition to OC Transpo, OSTA and OC Transpo have developed additional resources on our website including a helpful video that will be launched by September 2nd and an FAQ to help guide those new to public transit.

Grace Period

OC Transpo has also advised its bus drivers to allow students to embark buses without paying fares or showing Presto cards during the first few days of school start-up.  Students are not required to show identification but may be asked to confirm they are students verbally.  

This will give students the opportunity to attend school while school staff organize Presto card distribution to students.

Enhanced Service

OSTA and OC Transpo are working together to accommodate new students to public transit. OC Transpo staff review where they can add additional trips. Those new routes will then be posted on octranspo.com and available within the Travel Planner once service plans are finalized and confirmed.

OC Transpo will continue to monitor the system and may adjust service as the customer demand evolves for travel:

  • Careful monitoring – All bus routes that serve schools will be monitored so OC Transpo can make adjustments based on early trends and observations.
  • Deployment of resources – Buses will be on standby to address possible gaps or overloads as required.

Safety on OC Transpo

OC Transpo implemented health and safety measures in close consultation with Ottawa Public Health and aligned with provincial and federal guidelines. For more information on how OC Transpo is keeping its riders safe, visit OC Transpo’s website.

OSTA’s aim is to deliver safe, efficient and effective multi-modal transportation solutions for students, especially during these unprecedented times.


We thank you for your continued patience during these challenging times.