OSTA is responsible for delivering safe, efficient and effective transportation services for the students of the Ottawa Catholic School Board (OCSB) and the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board (OCDSB). OSTA’s decision on whether to cancel services or not weighs the degree of risk based on each weather event and its effect on our environment and potential for accidents. Student safety is always our priority.
The Ottawa Region is nestled in a valley, creating unique weather patterns. For example, one region could be in the midst of a winter storm, and Ottawa could be in the sunshine. We base our decisions on the most up-to-date information we have for the area OSTA serves.
OSTA’s transportation system serves urban, suburban and rural communities. We also recognize weather conditions can vary from community to community.
OSTA’s decision to cancel services must take into account the forecasted weather for the entire school day. Whether the risk is too high during morning service or anticipated to be too high during the afternoon service, a decision is made by 5:30 a.m.
OC Transpo, however, continues to operate, and students may use public transit to get to their school. Schools remain open, and students will be welcomed, as usual. Ottawa Safety Council determines service cancellations for OSTA’s Walking School Bus routes.
Parents and guardians have the choice of whether to access OSTA’s transportation services during a weather event, or whether to keep their children at home. Conversely, parents and guardians may also choose to take their children to school when transportation services are cancelled. If they do so, they must also make arrangements to pick their children up at the end of the school day.
OSTA’s system is vast and comprises different communities. Drivers and students often travel across the City from rural to urban areas, and vice versa. To further complicate matters, sometimes the poor weather marginally affects one area, and is dangerous in another.
Cancelling zones of the system is not an option. Some students travel through different zones to get to school. Cancelling designated zones would be confusing and dangerous. Consequently, OSTA’s service cancellation is for our entire geographic service area.
For the most part, OSTA tries to align its service cancellations with its neighbouring consortia. Our rural areas are connected and potentially experience similar weather effects. There are occasions, however, when OSTA may opt for a different decision than its neighbours. If OSTA continues to provide service, while others cancel, OSTA will confirm that services for OCDSB and OCSB are still running through its communication protocols.
There are many ways parents/guardians and students may get information regarding OSTA’s service cancellations:
Daily – OSTA reviews forecast reports from various accredited sources. If a weather event is expected, which may significantly impact safety, OSTA proceeds to further steps.
4:00 a.m. – 5:30 a.m. – OSTA reviews forecast and examines current weather patterns from various sources, including weather radars. OSTA communicates with neighbouring consortia and other transportation partners to get their input on conditions in their area. OSTA may also conduct a road test.
5:30 a.m. – OSTA decides whether or not to cancel transportation. If the decision is made to cancel services, OSTA begins its communication protocol:
6:15 a.m. – OSTA communication protocol is complete.
There are many conditions, in combination, that increase risk. There is no absolute determinant for service cancellations. Conditions are evaluated as a whole to determine risk:
Throughout the winter, temperatures may dip as low as -25C to -35C plus wind chill. Ottawa Public Health provides a “frostbite warning” or a “frostbite advisory”. Parents must always take the appropriate precautions to dress their children warmly, preferably in layered clothing, coat and snow pants with hat and mittens or gloves and a face cover where necessary. They must also stay with their children at the bus stop.
OSTA does not have a temperature threshold at which it will cancel services, except if the equipment is adversely affected and buses cannot start in the extreme cold. That would generally require an ambient temperature (no wind chill) of -40C or lower, which is highly unusual in the Ottawa Region.
OSTA did review the possibility of adding a temperature threshold to its evaluation in February 2019. It was determined this would result in frequent service cancellations due to the high number of days with these low temperatures.
|Year||Weather Assessment||Cancellations||Frostbite Warning|
|2021-22 (as of April 20)||13||6||–||1|
The final decision to cancel buses or not is complicated. It depends on a myriad of factors, and those factors can change within minutes. Below are some examples.