Cars spinning out on snowy roads isn’t an unfamiliar sight in Rochester. A transit bus losing control and nearly colliding into a home is far less common.
But that’s what occurred on Jan. 14 when a Rochester Public Transit bus lost control while trying to turn around on a steep street. The bus crashed into a home’s front lawn on 11th Avenue Northeast, ripping out a tree and other landscaping. There were no injuries and there was no structural damage to the house.
In winter conditions, such as the 6 inches of snow Rochester saw that day, bus routes that include steep streets will temporarily close, allowing snowplows to do their work before reopening.
RPT Communications Coordinator Nick Lemmer said it’s rare for the 20,000-pound buses to lose control during winter conditions. He said RPT communicates frequently with Rochester Public Works when there's heavy snow to make sure their routes are plowed and salted before buses take to them. It's something that broke down on 11th Avenue Northeast last week.
“I think it was just a matter of the driver just not being sure if a plow had made it through and I think by the time he (the bus driver) had got along the route, he realized it hadn’t been plowed,” Lemmer said. “He probably should’ve waited. It was just one of those situations where we probably should’ve waited to attempt that hill until another level of salting could have happened.”
Lemmer said it's not often bus routes get shut down due to heavy snow, usually 10 inches or more of snow. The 11th Avenue Northeast route and Route 1 along Northern Hills will sometimes require bus pick-ups be done at the bottom of the hill. It's infrequent that routes are temporarily stopped for the snowplows to get there first.
He added that a snowfall of that size only occurs “once every three or four years.”
“It’s very rare. The weather forecasts have gotten so good where we can predict when it’s going to hit,” Lemmer said. “It really becomes a matter of making a plan with the plow crews to get the roads cleared off. But yes, if the timing is just perfect, (the snowfall) can make a lot of havoc in our systems.
But in large, the plows do a great job and we don’t have to worry about that. It’s pretty rare we’ve had to delay, or end early or even cancel service altogether.”