Staff Report #10 – Specialized Transit Service Update

Staff Report #10

April 13, 2023

To All Commissioners

Re: Specialized Transit Service Update


That the report be RECEIVED for information.


At the March 6, 2023 meeting, the Commission heard a delegation relating to the Specialized Transit Service and directed staff to report back on the delegation’s proposed recommendations, as set out in their submission, noting what is already included in the approved 2023 work plan, and identifying any associated incremental cost(s), risked timeframes for completion, and/or sequencing risks to the remainder of the approved work plan to meet the delegation’s proposed recommendations and timing. In addition, the Commission directed that in support of this ask, [frequency to be determined] performance KPIs for specialized service be compiled and circulated, that show historical performance for specialized service, benchmarked at least annually against relevant comparator transit services. The remainder of this report will address each of the aforementioned directions.

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s)

Specialized service performance is measured by a number of key performance indicators (KPI’s) some of which are compared to other specialized service operations in the Province of Ontario, and others which are compared year over year and against internal targets.

With respect to Provincial comparison of KPI’s, this is traditionally included in the Commission’s Annual Report in order to demonstrate how the service is performing as compared to the other specialized services in Ontario. The measures typically utilized for comparison are set out in the table below and have been provided for the years 2017, 2019 and 2021. Data from other transit systems is collected and reported on annually by the Canadian Urban Transit Association and is traditionally made available in September for the previous year. As such, the most recent data available for all Ontario systems is from 2021.

Specialized Transit Service Key Performance Indicators

Ontario System Average London
2017 2019 2021 2017 2019 2021
Total Ridership 8,934,817  9,386,045  3,595,839 306,092 333,409 168,648
% Change over previous 5.1% -61.7% 8.9% -49.4%
Total Service Hours 2,727,128  3,536,548  1,841,046 122,720 147,100 122,200
% Change over previous 29.7% -47.9% 19.9% -16.9%
Operating Cost per Capita  $ 23.34 $ 26.48  $ 15.66  $ 16.68  $ 22.84  $ 21.47
% Change over previous 13.5% -40.9% 36.9% -6.0%
Registrants per Capita 0.0177 0.0144 0.0233  0.0224  0.0283  0.0260
% Change over previous -18.6% 61.8% 26.3% -8.2%
Rides per Capita 0.7902  0.8165 0.2790  0.8108  0.8832 0.4027
% Change over previous 3.3% -65.8% 8.9% -54.4%
Rides per Hour 2.85  2.48  1.86  2.34  2.27  1.38
% Change over previous -13.0% -25.0% -3.0% -39.2%

As indicated in the table, ridership growth in London from 2017-2019 exceeded the average growth rate of Ontario specialized systems, and the decline in ridership in 2021 (related to the pandemic) was lower in London as compared to Ontario systems.

In terms of service hours, Ontario systems saw a decline in service of almost 48% in 2021, where London’s service hours were only reduced by 17%. This is indicative of London’s decision to maintain service levels such that all trips could be accommodated with a maximum of two people on the vehicle at any time. This is further demonstrated in the measures of operating cost per capita and rides per hour, both which have London varying significantly from the provincial average.

In addition to the KPI’s that are compared to other specialized services in the Province, targets are also established internally, which compare year over year performance. These targets are determined based on input and recommendations from the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee and reported on monthly subsequent to Commission approval. Measures in this category include aspects of the service that are either not gathered by the Canadian Urban Transit Association, or are measured in a manner that is specific to London’s service model, making it difficult to benchmark with other service providers. The table below sets out a summary of these measures from 2019, noting this data was not collected and reported on during the pandemic.

London Transit Specialized Service – Performance Indicators 2017-2019

Performance Indicator 2017 2018 2019
Pick Ups over 30 Minutes 1.1% 1.6% 1.3%
Rides Over 60 Minutes 2.0% 1.9% 1.8%
Trip Cancellations 10.9% 10.0% 10.6%
Late Cancellations 2.8% 4.0% 5.0%
No Shows 1.9% 2.1% 1.9%
Non Accommodated 2.9% 3.6% 4.3%
Completed Trips 87.2% 88.0% 87.5%
Same Day Bookings 9,954 18,372 23,956
Total Registrants 8,450 9,300 10,700

2023 will see the return of tracking and reporting on performance against key indicators, noting these indicators will be finalized as part of the Business Planning Process. In addition to KPI’s, administration also participates on provincial and national committees made up of specialized transit providers who share lessons learned and best practices with respect to service delivery. London’s Non-Peak Pass program is an example of a service model that has been shared and implemented with other specialized transit providers across the country. The service integration initiative included on the Commission’s 2023 Work Program will utilize the model that York Region Transit has successfully established as a starting point.

It is administration’s view that the KPI’s currently tracked and reported on are consistent with the Commission’s direction. Should the Commission have additional information and/or KPI’s included in reporting, they can be included going forward.

Delegate Recommendations

As previously indicated, the delegation received by the Commission proposed a number of recommendations relating to the manner in which the specialized service in London is provided, each of which will be discussed further in the following report section.

Recommendation I – Strike a Working Group no later than May 2023 – The proposed working group would be composed of LTC staff, a Commission member who is a city councilor, and people with disabilities from the community. The mandate of the committee would be to review the 2023 work program and set completion dates and monitor progress, review 2023 accomplishments and have direct input into the 2024 work program, and would report to the Commission.

As required under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA), the Commission has established the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee (APTSAC) which meets on a regular basis and provides input and recommendations to the Commission on issues of accessibility. The mandate for APTSAC is set out below.

The Accessible Public Transit Services Advisory Committee shall advise and assist the London Transit Commission in promoting and supporting the development and delivery of accessible public transit services in London for individuals of all disabilities. This objective shall be discharged through the review of policies, programs and plans related to the development and delivery of accessible public transit services. Accessible public transit services include accessible conventional and specialized transit services.

The APTSAC is made up of nine voting members representing the different types of disabilities as referenced in the Ontarians with Disability Act 2001. In addition, the committee can have up to four non-voting members who represent agencies supporting the disabled community and service providers. The Committee meets regularly and the Committee Chair attends Commission meetings to speak to any recommendations coming forward from the Committee. The initiatives set out in the Commission’s 2020-2025 Accessibility Plan were recommended by the APTSAC and subsequently adopted by the Commission.

Given the existence of the APTSAC with a mandate that covers what is being recommended by the delegation, it is administration’s recommendation that no further action be taken with respect to the establishment of an additional Committee/Working Group. Should the Commission wish to amend the Terms of Reference for the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee to include a member of the Commission, direction should be provided to administration to present an updated Terms of Reference for Commission approval at a future meeting.

Recommendation II – Same-day booking and up to three hours before end of the day before the day of travel by September 2023. This recommendation is consistent with a requirement in the Integrated Accessible Service Regulation as set out below.

  1. (1) Every specialized transportation service provider shall, where the specialized transportation services require reservations,

(a) provide same day service to the extent that it is available; and

(b) where same day service is not available, accept booking requests up to

three hours before the published end of the service period on the day

before the intended day of travel. O. Reg. 191/11, s. 71 (1).

Consistent with this requirement, London’s specialized service currently utilizes a three day booking which allows customers to call three, two or one day in advance of the trip, as well as same day. The booking line hours are consistent with the requirement in section (b), which ensures lines remain open until three hours prior to the end of the service period on the day before intended travel. As set out in the table earlier in this report, there were 23,956 same day bookings provided in 2019.

Given the requirements as set out in the AODA and included as a recommendation are already in place, no further action with respect to this recommendation is required.

Recommendation III – Smart Card Access in Every Bus by September 2023

Since the introduction of smart card technology on the conventional service, smart cards have been accepted on the specialized service, albeit in a manual fashion. The devices for a customer to tap their cards on the specialized differ from those implemented on conventional buses as they need to be portable as not all customers board the specialized vehicle through the front door, where the on-board validator is typically mounted. These portable devices will allow the driver to take the device to the customer once they have boarded the vehicle so they can tap their card to pay their fare. Technical issues with the devices that were originally planned to be utilized for this project resulted in the need to identify a different solution, and as such the project was delayed.

The initiative to implement portable smart card readers on the specialized service is included on the Commission’s work program (item 4.5), noting it has been carried forward from 2022 as the result of supply chain issues relating to the hardware required for implementation. As set out in Staff Report #6 dated April 13, 2023, this initiative is included in the 2023 capital budget at a budgeted cost of $325,000. The $60,000 annual support agreement for this software/hardware will be incorporated into the multi-year budget for specialized services.

A purchase order has been issued to the vendor and work is currently underway on this project. The timeframe for this initiative in the approved 2023 Work Program spans the entire year given this project includes the introduction of a new technology resulting in the need for software development which must be undertaken by the vendor (Sheidt & Bachmann). The vendor is aware this is a priority item and has indicated Q1 2024 as the timeframe for project completion.

Given the inclusion of this item on the Commission’s 2023 Work Program, and the status of the project as set out above, no further action with respect to this recommendation is required. Administration will provide updates on project status as part of the quarterly work program update reporting.

Recommendation IV – Sensitivity training for drivers with reporting mechanisms to manage those who run afoul by September 2023

All operators working on the specialized service are provided comprehensive training by the contractor which includes a customer service module as well as content required by the AODA requirements relating to customer service training.

As set out in Staff Report #6 dated March 6, 2023, all customer contacts relating to the specialized transit service are tracked and reported on, both to provide insight into potential problem areas as well as to identify any trends that may need to be addressed. As a recap, the following table sets out the customer complaints relating to Operator performance for the years 2019 through 2022.

Total Operator Complaints by Category 2019-2022

Complaints Category 2019 2020 2021 2022 % Change
Driving Unsafe 21 12 22 10 (52)%
Attitude/Treatment 89 90 89 74 (17)%
Total 110 102 111 84  (24)%
Per 1,000 riders 0.3 0.6 0.7 0.4 33 %

All contacts received relating to the specialized service are followed up on by administration. In the case of complaints alleging significant driver performance issues, all information is forwarded to the contractor for investigation and follow-up and action as appropriate.

Administration is confident that performance issues with drivers are adequately dealt with by the contractor, and can confirm that no trends have been identified over the last several years that would indicate a need for additional training for the group as a whole. As such, it is administration’s view that no further action with respect to this recommendation is required.

Recommendations V and VI – Online App/Booking Option and Live Vehicle Tracking by January 2024

The delegation’s recommendations V and VI are grouped together as they both relate to the software that is utilized for booking/scheduling trips on the specialized service.

The approved 2023 Work Program includes the Specialized Service Booking System Review (item 4.6) with three sub-items. The first item a) calls for the determination of the viability of the current booking/scheduling system which is scheduled to take place between March and August. As background, a contract for the current software system utilized for booking and scheduling specialized transit trips (Routematch) was awarded in 2016 at an implementation cost of $850,000. The implementation was completed in phases, with the base system implementation being completed in September 2017, followed by the implementation of the web portal allowing customers to verify and cancel trips as well as the trip reminder which allowed customers to sign up for a reminder call 45 minutes prior to their booked trip time all of which was launched in May 2018. When the contract was awarded for the system, the vendor indicated future plans for a live vehicle tracking module which would be an optional add-on for system users subsequent to completion.

In July 2020 the Routematch software was purchased by Uber and while the software was maintained, there was no development being undertaken with respect to new features. In July 2022, the software was purchased by TripSpark. The software continues to be maintained; however, the turnaround time on service calls is unacceptable, resulting in administration having to implement workarounds to problems identified with the software. Subsequent to this second purchase, administration has remained in contact with other specialized transit service providers who utilize the software and all have indicated similar negative experience. Several of the systems have made the decision to go out to RFP for a new software system, while others are still undergoing their assessment. While Administration has only just started the assessment of options going forward, given the decisions of other transit providers, coupled with the continued frustration with system support, it is anticipated that a replacement system will be required for the specialized service. Given the likely need to replace the booking/scheduling software in the short term, enhancements such as online booking and live vehicle tracking will not be achievable until such time as a new software system has been implemented.

Administration is continuing the work on the review of trip demand and booking window options in order to ensure that future requirements will be included in system specifications going forward. It is anticipated that a more detailed report with respect to this project will be tabled with the Commission at the May meeting.

Recommendation VII – Increased Efficiency so customers spend less time on the vehicle by January 2024

The specialized service operates on a shared ride basis, meaning that trips are scheduled in a manner that results in several customers being on the vehicle at the same time, with pick-ups and drop-offs occurring throughout the day. One of the system parameters set for the scheduling software is to create schedules that don’t have any customer on the vehicle for longer than sixty minutes. While the system will not schedule trips to be on the vehicle for longer than sixty minutes, any delays that occur throughout the service day can impact a trip (e.g. construction, other customer no-show, re-scheduling during the service day). The length of the trip can also impact this statistic, noting a direct trip across the city could take up to 45 minutes on its own not including the need to stop to pick-up or drop-off other customers. As indicated in the table earlier in this report, in 2019, the rides over one-hour were 1.8% of all trips provided.

While these detailed statistics were not maintained during the pandemic due to resource issues, ongoing driver availability issues coupled with same day sick calls resulted in the same day cancellation of shifts throughout 2022. When shift cancellations occur on the day of service, administration makes every effort to accommodate every trip that has been booked as close to the time it was booked as possible. Given this process requires additional trips to be added to the vehicles that are in service, the schedules for all riders are negatively impacted, in many cases resulting in longer trip times.

Administration continues to work with the contractor to ensure that adequate number of drivers are available for the daily scheduled service levels, noting this has improved significantly over the past few months. As indicated in previous reports, it is anticipated that service level improvements will continue to be made throughout 2023 as drivers are added and the use of a driver pool to cover same day sick calls has significantly reduced the need to cancel shifts and reschedule trips in real time.

As part of the Business Planning process, KPI’s for the specialized service will be established including the length of time on vehicle. Once the KPI’s are approved they will be tracked and reported on regularly throughout the year.

Recommendation VIII – Implementing a customer feedback mechanism to ensure surveys are completed by an arms-length 3rd party – this recommendation goes on to further require that customer surveys are compliant with peer-reviewed research methodology and that feedback can be provided anonymously and in multiple formats. Final reports and raw data should be provided to LTC and City Hall.

Included on the approved 2023 Work Program is the return of the Voice of the Customer survey process which was suspended during the pandemic period. The Voice of the Customer survey process is undertaken by TransPro Consulting, a North-American firm who specializes in public sector excellence, with the transportation sector being one of the key areas of focus. In addition to the experience this firm brings to the table with respect to the customer survey process, they are also able to provide comparisons to other North-American transit agency survey results, and offer suggestions to improve overall customer satisfaction based on best practices in other systems. The surveys are anonymous, and surveyors work with respondents to undertake the survey in a manner that is both accessible and best meets the needs of the respondent. The final reports are presented to the Commission (see Staff Report #10 dated March 27, 2019 for the most recent reports) and the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee for review and consideration and results are utilized as input into Work Program and Accessibility Plan development. Results of the annual Voice of the Customer survey are also included in the Commission’s Annual Report, which is presented to the Civic Works Committee each year subsequent to receipt and approval by the Commission.

Administration is confident that the Voice of the Customer process that is included in the 2023 Work Program meets the objectives of the above recommendation, and as such no further action on this recommendation is required.

Delegation Recommendation IX – Improving capacity by increasing service hours by 10% year over year beginning in 2024.

The previous multi-year budget, covering the years 2020 through 2023, included growth of 6,000 service hours per year for the specialized service which represented an approximate 4% increase in service year over year.

The next multi-year budget, which cover the years 2024 through 2027 will be tabled with the Commission for approval at the August 2023 meeting. As input into the multi-year budget, administration will be tabling a report at the Commission’s May meeting which will set out a number of considerations for which administration will require direction prior to preparing the budget including the service growth that should be included for both the conventional and specialized services over the four year period.

Delegation Questions

During the delegation heard at the March 6, 2023 meeting, a number of questions were also raised, the responses to which are set out in the response attached as Enclosure I.


I – Letter to the March 6, 2023 Delegates

Recommended by:

Brandon Goldstone, Manager of Service Integration

Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations

Concurred in by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager