Report to/Rapport au :


Transit Committee

Comité du transport en commun

10 November 2009 / le 10 novembre 2009


Submitted by/Soumis par : Nancy Schepers, Deputy City Manager/Directrice municipale adjointe, Infrastructure Services and Community Sustainability/Services d 'infrastructure et Viabilité des collectivités


Contact Person/Personne ressource : Vicky Kyriaco-Wilson, Manager, Marketing and Customer Service

Planning and Growth Management/Urbanisme et Gestion de la croissance

(613) 842-3636 ext. 2435,


City Wide/à l'échelle de la Ville

Ref N°: ACS2009-ICS-TRA-0019








Sièges prioritaires – Gestion de l’avant de l’autobus





That the Transit Committee receive this report for information.




Que le Comité du transport en commun prennent connaissance du présent rapport.





The front seating area of the bus has a number of features designed to accommodate the needs of a variety of customers who have special accessibility requirements.  With wider aisles, convertible seats and specially positioned stanchions, this area is designed to assist those members of the community who need to sit and maintain control over their devices, as well as providing a larger area for standing passengers.


Priority Seating is a designated seating area where people who cannot stand on a moving bus are entitled to sit.  People with such needs include: persons using wheelchairs and other mobility devices; people with children that may or may not be in strollers; pregnant women; seniors; people with injuries; and, people with invisible disabilities.  People sitting in the Priority Seating area are expected to vacate the seats when a customer who fits the description of one who would need Priority Seating embarks, or if a Priority Seating Card is presented. 

By-law 2007-268 governs Priority Seating and is a vehicle for issuance of fines should people fail to comply with the rules of Priority Seating.  Operators will often announce that Priority Seating space is required.


OC Transpo has received numerous complaints from customers and operators about the challenges customers face in the front of the bus.  There is a safety concern for all passengers, including:  manoeuvring around a variety of devices (particularly strollers); difficulty for persons with disabilities to easily gain access to special seating; people being unable to proceed to the back of the bus due to bottlenecks in the Priority Seating area; and, loss of space for standing passengers.  There is also the issue of customers not vacating the Priority Seating area, with operators being required to intervene more often than before.


With Council’s commitment to providing accessible transit to people in Ottawa, and the increasing number of people requiring special seating, combined with larger strollers, Priority Seating and the stroller policy were identified as being key components in ensuring that operators and customers have clear rules to follow while using the front seating space of the bus. 





Staff created an internal committee to review how other transit agencies were handling similar issues from Priority Seating to stroller policies.  Communication components such as bus decals and other marketing material were reviewed.  Stroller policies varied but could be generally grouped into three areas:


1)   Special stroller spaces were made in the bus and/or open strollers could occupy a wheelchair space on a “first come, first serve” basis;

2)   Open strollers were allowed on board but operators could ask people to fold and stow if required; and,

3)   All strollers were expected to fold and stow immediately upon boarding.


The challenge of encouraging people to give up their seats is one that is prevalent in most properties.  At one time, Priority Seating was referred to as Courtesy Seating, and the expectation was that people would take it upon themselves to “do the right thing” and give up their seat for those who needed them most.  Over time, however, it appeared that fewer individuals were prepared to give up their seats without additional prompting. They simply did not notice others on the bus or refused to do so out of sheer disregard for other bus riders.


Courtesy Seating progressed to Priority Seating and by-laws were instituted as a hard-line approach to prompting riders to give up their seats.  At OC Transpo, this by-law is seldom enforced except in particularly difficult cases where a number of other regulations have already been broken by the individual.  While the by-law is one vehicle that could be further exploited to prompt attention to the issue, it is seldom wise to pit one group of customers against another.  Enforcing the by-law as a means of influencing people’s behaviour (in this case) would have the undesirable effect of creating discomfort and further alienation between people with disabilities and those without disabilities.


OC Transpo’s strategy for encouraging people to give up their seats will be geared to creating a sense of community and co-operation among riders and to give operators more clearly defined tools to manage the front of their bus. 


Co-operative Seating


The seating area at the front of the bus will be named Co-operative Seating, and will be visually identifiable by customers.  By creating the “theatre effect”, clearly defining the area using decals and seat identification, customers who do not need special seating will be prompted to move to the back of the bus, while those customers choosing to sit in the defined Co-operative Seating area would be shown the behaviour expected of them.


Priority Seating then becomes a special priority group of customers within Co-operative Seating. We will maintain the Priority Seating By-law and Priority Seating Card, with the possibility of increasing enforcement of the by-law as needed.


Reinforcing the concept that co-operation among riders leads to a better transit experience will not only positively impact how people feel about giving up their seats, but will also lead to a safer space for riders within the bus.


Configuration and Signage of Co-operative Seating


OC Transpo will be adding two additional rows of forward-facing seats to the current configuration.  Low-floor buses will continue to have two priority wheelchair positions.


Older, red decals will be replaced by royal blue decals displaying new, modern graphics, depicting people eligible to use Co-operative Seating. This sign will also display the Priority Seating Card and the Priority Seating By-law 2007-268.  The sign will extend strips outward for the length of the Co-operative Seating area depicting other types of people requiring special seating. 


The new blue signs will be placed on the main windows, rather then the narrow, upper airflow windows and will be in people’s field of sight whether they are standing or sitting.


On the actual seats themselves, a graphic depiction of a person standing next to a seat will be woven in the material to indicate the action that is expected from anyone sitting in those seats.  As with “handicap parking” wheelchair symbols, these graphics are likely to encourage people to keep moving back so as to avoid sitting in what would be perceived as a “reserved” seat. 


Wheelchair positions on the bus will continue to be marked with wheelchair symbols.


New Stroller Policy


The intent of the new stroller policy is to provide a method for operators and riders to better manage the front area of the bus in a safe and consistent method.  The new stroller policy takes into account a number of parameters investigated at other transit agencies and gives customers the opportunity to demonstrate that by co-operating with each other, customers with children in strollers can participate equally in the communal experience that is taking transit. 


The new stroller policy is geared to limiting the size and number of open strollers on board at any one time, while encouraging customers to fold and stow upon boarding the bus.  Customers are expected to be able to manage the stroller, the child and any other items they have with them. 


The effects and results of this policy will be evaluated in one year to determine what, if any, improvements there have been.  If the new, more stringent policy is proven to have been ineffective, a full “fold and stow” policy will be implemented and no open strollers will be allowed on the bus.


Stroller Eligibility:


An open stroller occupied by a child will be allowed on the bus if:


a)         It is capable of being folded

b)         It is capable of being safely stowed

c)         It will not interfere with other passengers or with the safe movement of passengers within the transit vehicle:and

d)         It can be wheeled, or (when folded) carried, through the aisle without contacting the seats.


Strollers that are not occupied by a child must be folded and stowed upon boarding.


Stroller Locations/Wheelchair Priority


An open stroller carrying a child must be placed in a wheelchair position.  We recommend the stroller be facing to the rear with wheels locked. 


Open strollers will no longer be allowed in the aisle.


A folded stroller must be safely stowed and must not interfere with other passengers.  The child must remain seated on the customer’s lap or in a seat.


Only one wheelchair position may be used for open strollers at any one time.  Smaller strollers may be double-parked in a wheelchair position.


Should an open stroller be in a wheelchair position and a person using a wheelchair boards and needs that position, the customer with the stroller will be expected to fold and stow the stroller and hold the child. 


A stroller carrying a child with a disability qualifies as a “transportable mobility device” and can remain in the wheelchair position, providing the customer presents a Priority Seating Card to demonstrate the child’s eligibility.


Customers who fold and stow their stroller and hold the child on their lap are eligible for Co‑operative Seating.




Double-strollers must fit all the required parameters for single strollers, other than being able to be folded.  Customers must be able to manoeuvre the double-strollers upon loading and within the bus without assistance.


Double-strollers must be placed in a wheelchair position and will not be required to fold and stow at any time.  Conversely, a double-stroller will only be allowed on board if a wheelchair position is available.


Triple-strollers and other multiples or configurations will not be allowed on the bus due to safety issues, particularly in the case of emergency situations.


Priority Seating Card


Operators will continue to accept Priority Seating Cards that demonstrate the customer’s eligibility to sit in the Co-operative Seating area.




A new logo has been developed in conjunction with the new bus signage decals that will not only represent Co-operative Seating, but that will demonstrate the integration of people with different special needs into the bus-riding community.  The overarching message is one of inclusiveness, co-operation and respect and that each and every customer has a role to play in creating a safe and peaceful environment within the bus.


Print communication of the new Co-operative Seating concept and Stroller Policy will occur using current methods including, but not restricted to:  Public service announcements, inside bus advertisements, take ones, posters, etc.


Planned Public Relations initiatives include:


1)         Co-operative Seating Launch – using artwork by students at Longfields High School to propagate the key messaging of Co-operative Seating.


2)         Notice Me Campaign – ambassadors travelling throughout transit system bringing message of Co-operative Seating using interactive game with riders.


3)         Spot the Bus Campaign – interactive game with public response for rewards.


4)         Community Outreach – Stroller information distribution and presentation by OC Transpo representatives to facilities and institutions along core routes known to service customers with strollers.










Consultation on the proposed Co-operative Seating and Stroller Policy has been sought in a variety of forums.  Internally, this concept has been vetted by the marketing, operations and maintenance departments, as well as the Department Management Team.  The Bus Technical Advisory Committee (including bus operators and mechanics) has reviewed the signage and made recommendations.  The concept was also presented to ATU 279 executive for their feedback. 


Externally, this concept has been presented to the Senior Advisory Committee, the Accessibility Advisory Committee and the Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee and changes have been made based on the feedback.  The concept was also presented to two focus groups made up of frequent transit riders, some of whom had been taking their strollers on board the bus.


The response, in general, was quite positive.  Some of the participants thought the softer approach might result in more people thinking that giving up their seats would be optional, rather than a requirement, while others expressed that they would be more likely to comply if they felt good about the decision they had made, rather than being forced to do it by some law. OC Transpo will be maintaining the by-law that currently exists. 


In one year, the effectiveness of this initiative will be evaluated.  If this initiative does not lead to more people vacating their Co-operative Seating seats for priority customers, then a stronger approach using negative reinforcement such as deterrents, enforcement and fines can be implemented.  We believe, however, that with the additional communication and emphasis on public relations, this initiative will lead to a more positive customer experience for all transit users.










There are no legal/risk management impediments to OC Transpo implementing the policies described in this report.





H3 - Establish an agreed-upon set of flexible and appropriate service standards (one-size does not fit all) across the corporation.










The cost to acquire and install new decals and seat covers for the current bus fleet, during a two‑year deployment, is approximately $154,000.  Funds for this are available within the 2009 Bus Refurbishing Program and no additional funding is required.  The cost of seat covers and decals on new buses will be accommodated within their contracted unit price.  Other communication, marketing and training costs associated with this initiative will be absorbed within existing operating budgets.










Installation of decals, operator training and communication production will occur this winter with the full public relations and communication launch end of January of 2010.  New decals will appear in January.  New seat logos will begin appearing as new buses are integrated into the fleet and existing seat covers are replaced, over a period of two years.


Communication and community outreach regarding the stroller policy will begin in January and continue throughout the winter.  The stroller policy will be in force as of April 15, 2010.