Staff Report #2
May 26, 2021
To All Commissioners
Re: 2021 Conventional Service Plan Update
The report be NOTED and FILED.
At the January 27, 2021 meeting, the Commission approved the 2021 Conventional Transit Service Plan which called for the addition of approximately 18,000 annual service hours. The approval was subject to the pending approval of the Assessment Growth Business Case by Municipal Council, which was confirmed on March 23, 2021.
As set out in Staff Report #1 dated January 27, 2021, the 2021 Conventional Transit Service Plan was amended from its draft version and attention was turned to focus on what improvements could be made in 2021 that will improve the overall attractiveness of the service, supporting the rebuilding of ridership post-pandemic. An important aspect of regaining transit customers who were lost during the pandemic is to ensure the service is attractive and considered a viable option for travel. One of the strategic directions for the Five Year Conventional Transit Service Plan is the elimination of 60-minute headways. Improving frequencies on routes throughout the system will enhance the viability of transit for many Londoners and will provide a solid base for rebuilding ridership. Additionally, frequency improvements across the system will ensure that the local transit system is well positioned when the rapid transit corridors begin to operate. In addition to the focus in eliminating 60-minute headways, routes that serve Western University and Fanshawe College that had been experiencing issues prior to the pandemic were included for service level improvements and/or route modifications.
The January timing for Commission approval of the annual service plan is required in order to provide administration with the appropriate time to complete all of the work involved with implementing the service changes, including but not limited to:
- the preparation of schedules and related operator work assignments;
- designation of any new bus stops that may be required and installation of same;
- preparation of data required for real-time information, Google maps and the interactive voice recognition system (IVR);
- recording and uploading new stop announcements for the on-board announcements as may be required; and
- recruitment and onboarding of new operators as required to meet the new service levels (approximately 11 additional operators added to complement)
Consistent with all areas of the organization, the ongoing operating conditions resulting from the pandemic have impacted the annual service planning process. While administration has been able to continue the work related to the actual Service Plan pieces, the recruitment and onboarding of new Operators has been significantly impacted.
Over the period of the pandemic, conventional transit service levels have been adjusted to match the availability of employee resources, fluctuating from 70% of normal service hours in the early days of the pandemic back to 90% of normal service hours since September of 2020. The ongoing restrictions in place have resulted in employees requiring leaves of absence in addition to the lost time associated with employees testing positive for COVID, or being required to quarantine as the result of a possible exposure or related medical symptoms. In addition, a number of employees who had been off work for reasons unrelated to the pandemic and awaiting treatment/surgery etc. have experienced extended leaves as the health care sector has responded to increased pandemic-related hospitalizations with delayed and/or deferred treatments. The combination of all of these factors has resulted in the need to leave service levels at the 90% of normal level.
As set out in Staff Report #3 – COVID-19 Ridership Impacts, dated May 26, 2021, current employee resource availability is adequate to maintain the current service level in place; however, is not adequate to provide for the additional Operators required to allocate tripper buses to routes experiencing crowding conditions. It is anticipated this issue will be addressed through the spring as the new Operators that have been hired finish their training and become available for service.
Recruitment and onboarding of new Operators began in April; however, due to pandemic-related restrictions and protocols, class sizes are limited to four (traditionally classes of six-eight have been held during onboarding). The limitation of class size, coupled with the approximate five weeks of training for each class will result in the total operator complement falling below requirements for implementation of the planned and approved service improvements, which had been scheduled to be implemented in early September. Based on the recruitment plan that is currently in place, and assuming no further negative pandemic-related impacts, the operator complement level in early September will be adequate to return to 100% service levels, but not adequate to implement the service improvements set out in the 2021 Conventional Service Plan. As such, the service improvements set out in the 2021 Service Plan will be implemented in phases, as set out in the table below.
|Phase||Effective Date||Service Level|
|Phase 1||September 5, 2021||Full 2019 fall service levels with the addition of Route 31 improvements as per the 2021 Service Plan|
|Phase 2||November 28, 2021||Implement the Route 34 service improvements as per the 2021 Service Plan|
|Phase 3||February 6, 2022||Implement the remaining service improvements as per the 2021 Service Plan|
The specific details of the 2021 Conventional Service Plan improvements are set out in Enclosure I. The implementation plan allows for service improvements to be added as Operator complement increases and prioritizes service changes that were deferred from the 2020 Service Plan (Routes 31 and 34) to be implemented as early as operationally feasible. Administration will continue to closely monitor Operator complement levels and adjust the 2021 service plan implementation as needed over the coming months. In addition to providing for the time required to onboard the required Operators, the deferral of new Route 95 will address the anticipated delay in delivery of the 2021 expansion bus order given the factory shut downs that have occurred as the result of the third wave of the pandemic.
Given the approach of a phased implementation of service improvements is a significant departure from what has traditionally occurred, a communications strategy is being developed to ensure that riders are aware of the timing and details of each of the phases. The annual Ride Guide will be distributed in late August, and will include all of the 2021 changes, with notations referring the effective dates (e.g. the new Route 95 will be included on the map, but will be denoted to indicate it will not take effect until February 6, 2022).
Katie Burns, Director of Planning
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager