Staff Report #4
August 29, 2018
To All Commissioners
Re: September Service Update
That the report be NOTED and FILED.
The first week of September is challenging from a conventional transit perspective given annual service changes take effect the first Sunday in September and Western and Fanshawe students have returned relying on transit to get them to/from school. This combination results in increased call volumes to both the customer service line and the Interactive Voice system as students that are new to London reach out to determine their transit options to get them to school, and as other riders reach out to better understand the service changes taking effect, and how their trip may be impacted. The influx of students onto the system coupled with other riders navigating the service changes, results in overcrowding and schedule adherence issues on some routes, which leads to overall frustration for riders and bus Operators. In recent years, communication efforts have been enhanced in an effort to ensure that service changes are communicated in advance so riders can be prepared; however, notwithstanding the increased efforts, issues still occur during this period.
This year, a number of additional factors, the majority of which are very recent in the making, have surfaced that will result in significantly more confusion and frustration during the first week of September, each of which is discussed in greater detail below. Based on what is known at the time of report writing, 11 bus routes will be on detour (Routes 5, 6, 9, 11, 13, 16, 24, 33, 35, 92, and 106) and an additional 3 routes will be operating in construction zones with stop closures but not on detour (Routes 2, 3, and 102) when the September service changes take effect (September 2, 2018) for varying lengths of time.
Wharncliffe and Western Construction
Throughout the summer, London Transit administration has been in ongoing discussions with civic administration, representatives from the University of Western Ontario and the construction contractor with respect to how to best mitigate the impacts of the Western/Wharncliffe Road construction, especially in the fall with the return of students.
Administration conducts weekly site visits to review the status of the project in an effort to determine whether there are any safe locations for the provision of a bus stop. The construction on this corridor is being done in two phases, with one lane in each direction remaining open throughout construction. When assessing locations for possible stops, consideration needs to be given to accessibility, noting a cement or asphalt pad, six inches high is required for the ramp to be deployed. In addition, a safe and accessible pedestrian access needs to be provided for riders to get to the stop location, which, in many cases, requires access through a live construction zone.
Based on site visits and internal discussions to-date, it has been determined that the best manner in which to service customers along this corridor while construction is ongoing is to provide safe boarding and alighting locations as near to the construction area as possible but not in the immediate construction zone without detouring the routes traversing this corridor.
Administration continues to visit the site weekly to assess whether a stop can be added, noting this will only occur in the event that all safety concerns from LTC’s perspective can be addressed. At time of report writing, the stops serving this corridor are located as set out in the map below.
Traditionally, the northbound stop at Wharncliffe and Oxford is very busy throughout the school year and it is anticipated that increased overcrowding will occur at this location due to other stops along the corridor being closed. London Transit administration has been in ongoing communication with the University Student Union to encourage students to leave extra time to get to classes due to increased numbers of passengers at single stops and the impacts of the construction. The Student Union to also encourage students to follow LTC’s Twitter account for up-to-the-minute service updates.
Platt’s Lane and Western Road Intersection Closure
In addition to the ongoing work on Western/Wharncliffe, London Transit was advised on Thursday August 23, 2018 that as of September 4, 2018 the intersection of Platt’s Lane and Western Road will be closed for approximately one week. This closure will not impact the north/south routes on Western/Wharncliffe, but will require Routes 9 and 33 to be detoured.
Planning staff have reviewed a number of alternative routing options including Oxford to Wharncliffe, Trott to Coombs and Wonderland to Sarnia. The only viable detour option is to utilize Wonderland to Sarnia due to unsafe turning movements from Coombs to Sarnia and operational constraints due to the construction at Oxford and Wharncliffe. The detour routing will take service further away from a highly populated student area and will see significant schedule adherence concerns due to the additional distance required.
London Transit will maintain communication with the construction crews to ensure regular routing can resume as soon as possible. As with all detours, advance notice will be posted on the London Transit website, on our corporate social media sites and on each impacted stop.
University Campus Road Closure
Campus police advised on Wednesday August 22, 2018 of their plan to close University Drive starting at 6 p.m. through to the end of service each day from September 3, 2018 through September 8, 2018 in an effort to improve safety in the area during orientation events. As a result of this decision, Routes 6, 13 and 106 will be required to detour utilizing Perth drive, Windermere and Richmond for the time period of the closures.
The detour will add significant running time to the affected routes, especially Route 13, which is anticipated to negatively impact schedule adherence.
Every effort will be made through the London Transit website, London Transit’s social media outlets, stop level notifications and communication with the Student Union to ensure that appropriate advance notice for the service interruption reaches the customer base.
Victoria Hospital Road Closure
Facilities Management at LHSC Victoria Campus advised on Thursday August 23, 2018 that they will be starting construction the first week of September (potentially September 8) which will result in road closures on the Victoria campus. The road closures will impact Routes 6, 16, 24 and 92 with potential impacts to schedule adherence. At the time of writing the extent of the closure was not known, but London Transit administration will continue discussions with LHSC to ensure as much advance notice to passengers and bus Operators as possible.
School bus work stoppage
At the time of writing, the Thames Valley School Board, the London District Catholic School Board and the Southwest Ontario School bus Operators have yet to reach an agreement for the upcoming school year. Although negotiations continue, the school boards have informed the community that they should start to consider alternative methods of transportation should an agreement not be reached in time for services to be in place at the beginning of the school year.
Annually, the start of the Elementary and Secondary school year coincides with the September service improvements and the return of the post-secondary students to regular usage of the service. Given this presents overcrowding challenges on its own, it is reasonable to expect that London Transit will see a significant increase in ridership if a deal isn’t reached and that the system will have further capacity issues specifically during the peak periods.
Additional resources allocated to the service to deal with the potential increase in demand are limited by manpower and bus availability; however, every effort will be made to monitor and adjust service according to conditions within available resources.
Given the potential for significant schedule adherence and overcrowding issues during the first few weeks of September, the use of Twitter to provide service updates will be enhanced. The system will be closely monitored during this time period and updates will be provided via Twitter on routes experiencing delays and/or overcrowding. Twitter will also be utilized to encourage riders to make use of the real-time information to get up-to-date arrival time for their specific bus.
Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager