'I got my credit card ready': Councillor offers to buy used buses for OC Transpo

An Ottawa councillor is offering to personally purchase used buses from the United States to help boost R1 replacement bus service during light rail transit shutdowns.

Commuters have complained about packed buses on the R1 replacement bus service during the four-week LRT shutdown, while dozens of trips on OC Transpo routes have been cancelled to divert buses to the replacement service.

During Wednesday's transit commission meeting, Coun. Catherine McKenney noted Metro St. Louis in St. Louis, Mo. is selling used articulated buses through the Public Surplus website.

"I have an offer to make, and it's a big offer and I'm serious about it," said McKenney. "I will personally purchase extra buses for this failing transit system."

According to the listing on Public Surplus, the 13 scrap buses are being sold as one lot, with eight New Flyer buses still in working order. One of the buses is missing a transmission.

"They're on sale for $100. The sale won't last long, I think it's up by Oct. 25. I am dead serious, I will pay the $100," said McKenney.

"Given the situation that we're in, we need to improve our service immediately and we need these buses for the next time the LRT is down. I got my credit card ready to go."

McKenney notes the New Flyer articulated buses are former OC Transpo buses. According to the listing, the buyer must pickup the items.

"We can get those here, and we can have them. We can have eight buses that can go through Coun. (Mathieu) Fleury's ward, as you heard those are low-income residents who are being left out, and they can go through our communities to ensure the people who are clerks in grocery stores, frontline workers, people going to work in hospitals, people who have no other way to get around this city at least will have eight articulated buses," said McKenney. "That's my offer."

As of 3 p.m. Friday, the current bid price was $1,525 US.

Director of Transit Operations Troy Charter told the transit commission that OC Transpo staff would look into buying the buses.

"That is something our staff can investigate and look at and consider what the timeline would be and what would be required to put them back into service," said Charter.

After the meeting's conclusion, a note was sent to the commission saying there were too many variables for this to be a reasonable option.

Transit Commission chair Allan Hubley thanked McKenney for the offer to purchase the buses to boost service.

"I think we’re all in agreement that we need more buses in the system," Hubley said.

When Hubley noted the asking price for the buses was $1,525, Coun. Jeff Leiper offered to pitch in to buy the buses.

The transit commission was told that R1 replacement bus service has the capacity to transport 2,100 passengers an hour in each direction.

Staff also said that 138 trips a day are being cancelled on OC Transpo routes to boost service on the replacement bus service along the Confederation Line.