The OSTA Transformation Project

Bar Graph to show different levels of effectiveness The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority is getting ready for a transformation. The Ministry of Education has established the Effectiveness & Efficiency Leading Practices Guide which outlines all the goals and strategies each transportation consortium is expected to undertake. OSTA has made many improvements over the past few years and has moved from an initial “moderate-low” rating to a “moderate” rating.

The ultimate goal is for OSTA to achieve a “high” rating, which would demonstrate appropriate use of public funds, while offering substantially better service to as many students as possible. To achieve this, we are examining several key elements which will lead to routing efficiencies as part of OSTA’s transformation project, which will begin in the 2014-2015 school year.

Bell Times for September 2015

After more than two years of policy harmonization, preparation, consultation and approvals, the Ottawa Student Transportation Authority is presenting the final outcomes for the Bell Time and Walk Zone Map reviews.

All FINAL walk zone maps have been posted. Summaries describing the safety concerns expressed during the consultation and how OSTA has addressed the concerns are also included.

FINAL Approved Bell Times Starting in September 2015 +


Bell Time Review Process

After reviewing the feedback from the Public Consultation this past Spring, OSTA has revised and updated its proposed changes to school hours for several schools of the OCSB and OCDSB.

View Bell Time Report – Revision for OCSB
View Bell Time Report – Revision for OCDSB

The document below shows the most recent proposed bell time changes for each school, but also helps explain why the changes are required. You will notice that each “run” (or school bus, for example) can service up to 3 schools each morning and afternoon, and it is therefore vital to coordinate school hours so that all students can arrive safely and on time.

All proposed bell time changes of 10 minutes or less were presented at the OSTA Board of Directors’ meeting on November 10, 2014 and approved for the time change. Once approved, these changes would begin in September 2015. View Memo to Board of Directors’ to Approve Bell Times (November 10, 2014) +

Proposed bell time changes of 10 minutes or more will be presented to each member Board for approval in January 2015. View Consultation Results and Bell Time Changes Recommendations +

Additional Reference Material:

Complete Report of Bell Time Review
Proposed Changes to Bell Times Report (Updated Nov 10, 2014) +
Proposed Changes to Bell Times Report (Updated Feb 11, 2014) +
Proposed Changes to Bell Times Report (Updated Jan 19, 2014) +

Walk Zone Maps by School

OSTA has been working to identify potential temporary and/or permanent hazards which may be encountered
by students walking to school within policy defined eligibility distances. That is, OSTA has identified areas where there are legitimate traffic safety hazards that present a barrier to children walking to school.

Take some time to view the new walk zone maps for every school, which use the same distance measurement for both school boards, and which include a standardized set of walking hazards. We will also make available useful maps which will outline the “preferred route to school” for walkers.

OSTA will continue to make changes to these maps throughout the year, however these maps will not be updated on the website. For information on your child’s eligiblity, please contact OSTA directly.

View the new Walk Zone Maps by School +


Useful Resources

Transformation Presentation (PowerPoint)

Transformation Presentation (PowerPoint)

OSTA has created a helpful PowerPoint presentation which will be shared at all public consultation sessions. It is being shared here on our website to help inform our community. Stay tuned to our website for a revised version of this presentation, which will be accompanied by an audio commentary for each slide.

View the presentation

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Understanding Walk Zone Maps

Understanding Walk Zone Map

The Ottawa Student Transportation Authority’s Walk Zone Maps provide information to the community by using symbols. Symbols can be figures, shapes, lines, and colors that show where places and things are on a map. We have provided an example to help users better understand our Walk Zone Maps.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q. Which policies were harmonized?

  1. Eligibility Distances: Eligibility distance is the minimum distance at which a student may become eligible for transportation, also referred to as walking distance. The OCDSB changed its eligibility distance for grades 7 and 8 to 1.6 km and its eligibility distance for grades 9 to 12 to 3.2 km in 2013. Please note that service levels (ie no transportation within UTA) continued “as is” in 2013, but eligibility criteria will change in 2014. As of September 2014, any OCDSB or OCSB student who meets the eligibility distance of 3.2km within their home school boundary or special program will receive transportation services.
  2. Childcare addresses as alternate address for eligibility distance: The OCDSB now allows childcare addresses within a school’s transportation boundary to be used as an alternate address to the student’s home address in order to determine eligibility for transportation. This was the current the practice at OCSB. School transfers will continue to be governed according to each school board’s transfer policies and approval of transfers is at the Principal’s discretion. Childcare address does not automatically guarantee a school transfer. The OCDSB may re-visit this policy at a later date, should school planning be negatively impacted by an extraordinary number of transfer requests.
  3. Distance Measurement Methodology: The OCSB will allow city-maintained walk-paths (with snow clearance) to be used as part of the mapping infrastructure when calculating eligibility distances. There is no change for OCDSB as they have been using walk-paths for several years.
  4. Hazard Zones Reviews – Criteria and Assessment Methodology: In order to ensure safe and equitable transportation services, OSTA has undertaken to establish a standard set of hazard criteria and an assessment methodology that can be applied to all walk zone areas. Hazard criteria and specific areas may be reviewed and/or re-assessed depending on circumstances and at the discretion of OSTA’s General Manager.

Q. Are walk paths safe, particularly in the winter?

The OCDSB has been using city-maintained walk-paths as part of its infrastructure for calculating distances for several years. To date, there have not been any significant complaints or reports regarding safety concerns on any paths currently being used in OSTA’s mapping software. Snow clearance of walk paths forms part of the City of Ottawa’s sidewalk clearing network. Walk-paths and sidewalks within school walking zones have been prioritized for snow clearance as the City of Ottawa recognizes there is the need for safe and clear paths for students to get to school. The City of Ottawa strives to clear priority areas as quickly as possible.

Q. What are hazard criteria?

Hazard criteria are elements that may contribute to the increased risk of danger given the more limited awareness of child pedestrians in traffic situations. Hazard criteria assessed include, but are not limited to, the following:

a. Corridors ie collector roads, major collectors and arterial roads
b. Crossings ie unprotected, two-way and multi-stop, round-about
c. Separation from traffic ie sidewalks, shoulders
d. Traffic speed and volume of vehicles
e. Sight distances and obstacles
f. Mitigation ie adult crossing guards, signalized intersections

Q. What is the assessment methodology and point threshold?

A set of data collection forms has been produced to assist review teams in assessing various elements and evaluating hazards during site visits. Review teams then assign points to individual criteria, the total of which becomes the determining factor on whether the certain areas need to be deemed hazardous or not. Some hazard criteria may immediately warrant busing, regardless of total points, while other assessments may require combination warrants to a point threshold. The point thresholds for specific grades are established by the OSTA Board of Directors and its Member Boards. The proposed point thresholds are:

  • Grades JK to 3 – 60 points warrants bus transportation
  • Grades 4 to 6 – 100 points warrants bus transportation

Q. Who established the hazard criteria and assessment methodology?

Morrison Hershfield, a consulting engineering firm with offices across Canada, was contracted by OSTA to create a set of hazard criteria and assessment methodology in 2011.

Q. Who conducted the hazard zone assessment?

OSTA contracted McCormick Rankin through competitive procurement to conduct a system-wide hazard zone review using the criteria and assessment methodology established by Morrison Hershfield. The review occurred at 180 school sites and produced extremely detailed data and evaluation for hundreds of routes to OCDSB and OCSB schools. OSTA staff then collated the results to ensure consistency within geographical areas and between schools. The next step was to review pathways where a change may have take place and look at individual issues affecting school communities that may not have been considered in the hazard assessment. OSTA staff will conduct all future assessment using the same procedure in the future.

Q. Will there be a bell time review?

As part of OSTA’s route optimization, a review of bell times, in conjunction with new mapping infrastructure to calculate eligibility distances, would result in maximizing the use of public funds through effective and efficient transportation of the OCSB’s and the OCDSB’s students.

Q. When will these proposed harmonized policies come into effect?


  • childcare addresses as alternate addresses for eligibility (OCDSB)
  • new eligibility distances for grades 7 and 8 at 1.6 km (OCDSB)
  • new eligibility distances for grades 9-12 at 3.2 km (but transportation services remain “as is” until further notice ie no transportation for OCDSB within UTA)


  • New eligibility for OCDSB students grades 9-12 that meet the 3.2km distance


  • hazard zones and walk-paths used to calculate eligibility distances for all students
  • bell time re-alignment

Q. How and when will I know if these proposed changes affect my child’s transportation?

All reports and communication about OSTA’s “transformation” will be posted on the OSTA website and your school board’s website. Consultation regarding proposed bell times and new walk zone maps (including hazards) will occur in April, May and June of 2014, with school boards making decisions on bell times in December 2014. Communication of the final outcomes for bell times and maps will occur in January 2015.

Q. What is a Walking School Bus?

Walking School Bus involves a paid, qualified Leader who guides a group of children to school using a pre-determined route every day. OSTA is partnering with Ottawa Public Health, Green Communities Canada, Ottawa Safety Council and City of Ottawa Transportation Planning to conduct a walking school bus pilot at area schools in the Fall 2014.