Staff Report #1
April 2, 2020
To All Commissioners
Re: Service Update – Conventional Transit
That the report be NOTED and FILED.
At the March 19, 2020 meeting, the Commission approved a change in service delivery on conventional transit service to require all passengers board at the back doors of the bus with the exception of those passengers who require the accessibility features (kneeling, ramp) who would continue to board at the front doors. Given the fare collection equipment is located at the front of the bus, this change precluded the ability to collect fares. These changes were approved by the Commission for the period of March 20 through April 5, 2020.
On March 20, 2020 service reductions, which would take place effective March 22, 2020 were announced, which included the elimination of Routes 90, 91, 92, 94, 102, 104 and 106 as well as frequency reductions on Routes 6, 9, 19, 25, 27, 31 and 33. The service reductions were determined based on the following considerations:
- Routes should not be eliminated/reduced if the expectation is that such removal will result in crush/standing loads on another route noting recommendations from public health relating to physical distancing
- Many routes serve employers who continue to operate during this period, and as such, employees rely on transit to get to/from work
- Every attempt is being made to ensure that no area of the city is left without access to public transit within 400 meters
- Service levels determined must be deliverable given known/anticipated resource availability
The reductions set out above represent an approximate 20% reduction to service levels that would normally be in place at this time.
The graph below illustrates the daily boardings as a percentage of normal daily boardings for the period March 16 through March 31, 2020.
Daily Boardings as a Percent of Normal Daily Boardings – Conventional Transit
As indicated earlier, the graph provides data based on daily boardings, which are measured by the automatic passenger counters on the buses. Given that fare collection is currently on hold, this is the only method available to track ridership. As the graph illustrates, daily boardings have continued to decline over the period, with spikes on the weekends, but averaging currently at approximately 20% of normal (23,000 daily weekday boardings as compared to 102,000 normally). All routes continue to be utilized to some extent, noting some continue to experience crowding at certain times of the day.
Service continues to be monitored on a daily basis and in the cases of crowding, articulated buses are being assigned to these routes, and tripper buses continue to be added as resources permit.
At time of report writing employee resources in all areas are at a level that continues to be sufficient to provide the service levels that are in place. Given the potential for this situation to change rapidly, administration has identified a number of potential service reductions that can be undertaken in the event that resources become an issue. In the event that service needs to be modified significantly from what is currently in place, a media release will be issued as well as messaging on the corporate website and social media accounts.
In an effort to ensure physical distancing for LTC Operators, the front of the bus has been separated from the back with a cord and signage indicating the need for physical distancing. Passengers who board at the back doors remain behind the barrier and passengers with mobility needs that board at the front doors remain in front of the barrier.
As indicated earlier in the report, ridership has been higher on weekends as compared to what would normally be expected, and anecdotal feedback from Operators indicates that in some cases, people are not riding the bus with a destination in mind, rather just to get out. In response to this, social media messaging has focussed on encouraging Londoners to utilize transit for essential trips only. While this approach has had some impact, instances of crowding and ride-around passengers are still being experienced.
Administration is working with other transit systems to assess best practice options that may be implemented locally should the issue continue. Some transit systems have taken the step of taping off seats and placing a limit on the number of passengers on board, however they are struggling with the ability to enforce it, in most cases directing Operators to pass stops with riders waiting if the available seats on board are taken. Coupled with the ride-around issue discussed earlier, this approach could result in Londoners that rely on the bus to get to work being left at a stop. Options with respect to ensuring physical distancing on board continue to be assessed.
Restroom Facilities for Operators
London Transit has relied on access to public restrooms for Operators for many years, with typical locations being utilized including fast food restaurants, gas stations, malls, grocery stores, etc. As businesses have reacted to the COVID-19 pandemic locally over the past few weeks, a number have closed as the result of Provincial orders, and many have limited access to drive through only. These actions resulted in a severe limitation of restroom options for Operators. Over the period, a number of solutions to this problem have been identified and implemented including the following:
- blocked off parking on both sides of Carling Ave in the core to provide spots for buses to park temporarily to utilize restroom facilities at the LTC Ticket Office;
- a number of new restroom locations have been identified and confirmed for use by LTC Operators; and
- in cases where an operator needs access to a restroom when none is nearby, they can contact Dispatch and be approved to go off route to the nearest facility.
Additionally, a story in the London Free Press regarding this issue garnered a number of calls from local businesses willing to provide access to LTC Operators. At time of report writing, all routes currently operating have confirmed washroom locations available during all operating hours.
Lost and Found
Given concerns raised with respect to the collection and storage of lost and found items, effective March 24, 2020 and until further notice, lesser value items that are left on the bus are no longer being stored or available for pickup. All items of value i.e. wallets, cameras, electronic equipment (such as cell phones, laptops, etc.) will continue to be stored as per usual procedures (for 14 days) and consistent with current practice, customers are being asked to contact us at 519-451-1347 to ensure we have their item. Pick up of items can be arranged at the 450 Highbury office between 8:30am and 4:30pm Monday to Friday.
Communications with respect to service continue to be handled primarily through the corporate website and social media accounts; however, a media release was issued in relation to both the rear door boarding initiative as well as the service reductions. Onboard communication is being considered and implemented where it is determined to be beneficial.
Communication with employees has been enhanced through the installation of COVID-19 specific message boards as well as enhanced messaging on the internal communication screens.
Katie Burns, Director of Planning
Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager