Staff Report #3
October 27, 2022
To All Commissioners
Re: COVID-19 Ridership and Service Impacts
The report be NOTED and FILED.
The pandemic declaration in March of 2020 and associated lockdown measures that have followed have resulted in declines in transit ridership on both the conventional and specialized services. Each new wave of the pandemic has resulted in varying levels of public health measures, including lockdowns in some cases. In addition to the impacts on ridership, London Transit has experienced numerous other issues that have impacted the ability to deliver service and work program initiatives as planned.
As the remainder of this report will illustrate, London Transit, consistent with transit systems across the country, finds itself if the eye of a perfect storm. While ridership levels are returning with many buses carrying standing loads, employee resource and supply chain issues are limiting the ability to increase service levels in response. The remainder of the report will discuss each of these elements in greater detail.
The organizational philosophy adopted at the onset of the pandemic with respect to service levels was to ensure that all areas of the city that were served by transit would continue to be served, albeit at lesser frequencies based on employee resource availability.
The graph below provides an overview of the ridership levels on the conventional service for 2021 and 2022 to date with comparative data for 2020, both as a percentage of what would normally be expected in each month noting the numbers are based on actual boardings as counted by the automatic passenger counters on buses. The bars are coloured to match the various stages of lockdown as noted below:
Green Prevent – no, very limited restrictions in place
Yellow Protect & Stage 3 under the current re-opening plan – very limited restrictions in place
Orange Restrict & Stage 2 under the current re-opening plan – limited restrictions in place
Red Control & Stage 1 under the current re-opening plan – numerous restrictions in place
Grey Lockdown – full lockdown restrictions in place
The colour blue in the graphic is used for January and February 2020 given the pandemic declaration had not occurred at that point in time. Bars that are striped indicate a change during the month from the base colour to the striped colour.
2020, 2021 and 2022 Conventional Transit Weekday Ridership as a Percentage of Normal
The above graph clearly depicts the impacts that the various stages of lockdown have on conventional transit service ridership. As indicated in the graph, weekday ridership in September reached 88% of pre-pandemic levels, with a slight dip to 87% for the first few weeks of October. Weekend ridership continues to outpace pre pandemic levels.
The ongoing construction related detours coupled with the highest ridership levels since the onset of the pandemic is resulting in schedule adherence and crowding conditions system wide. While the Operator complement has not yet reached the level required to begin implementation of the approved 2021 and 2022 service improvements, there are some additional resources available to implement some interim solutions including the following, all of which will take effect on November 27, 2022:
- an additional bus will be added to Route 9 between 6am and 8am to add increased frequency and additional capacity during this high demand travel time
- the round trip time on Route 19 will be increased during the AM Peak and Base periods to provide additional running time on the route.
- the schedule in the South Wenige loop will be adjusted to allow more operating time in an effort to start to address the ongoing schedule adherence issues on Route 19.
As Operator and vehicle availability improves, trippers will be re-instated to help address the schedule adherence and crowding conditions that are currently being experienced throughout the system.
Employee Resource Requirements – Operations
Work continues with respect to the onboarding of Operators with a class of six completing training on November 2, 2022 and a new class of six beginning training on October 31, 2022. It is anticipated that classes of six will continue to run throughout the remainder of the year and into 2023. In addition to the need to hire Operators to increase complement, replacements are also required for those that will retire through the remainder of 2022 and in 2023.
Employee Resource Requirements – Fleet and Facilities
There are currently five skilled labour positions open and posted, noting in the past few weeks, some applications have been received and are currently being reviewed. The three vacant General Service positions have been filled. The skilled labour position vacancies coupled with other absences in the department have resulted in a significant reduction in available manpower. As such, work is being prioritized in a manner that attempts to ensure that the required number of buses are available for service each day. The recruitment for two new apprentice positions continues with postings up for both an internal and external position.
Administration is working with a third party contractor to perform MTO inspections and related repair work each month that current LTC manpower levels are unable to complete in order to ensure all buses remain current with required inspections. Effective October 17, 2022 the afternoon shift at the Wonderland facility is no longer operating due to resource limitations. Employees from that shift have been transferred to other shifts at either the Wonderland or Highbury facility providing for more efficient workflow with the employees that are available.
Employee Resource Requirements – Administration
Resources in the administration area have been impacted throughout the pandemic, and were, for the most part managed through re-assignment of duties between roles. While this approach allowed operations to continue without major disruptions, work program initiatives were impacted, in some cases being deferred or delayed indefinitely. Given the small size of many departments, one absence can result in significant disruption, not only within that department, but other departments that may be relied upon to help fill the gap. The current labour market is also placing additional pressure on the administrative area as transit systems and consulting firms are desperately searching for employees at all levels with transit experience.
Supply Chain Issues
Over the past number of months, supply chain issues have, to varying extents, impacted the ability to service and maintain the conventional fleet. At time of report writing, there are no significant supply chain issues impacting workflow.
The graph below provides an overview of the ridership levels on the specialized service for 2021 and 2022 to date, with comparative data for 2020 as a percentage of what would normally be expected in each month.
2020, 2021 and 2022 Specialized Transit Ridership as a Percent of Normal
As the graph indicates, ridership levels to date for March through October 2022 surpassed the previous pandemic-period high from November 2021. Administration will continue to monitor trip demand by time of day and day of week, and gradually increase service hours to meet demand.
As indicated above, administration is continuing to monitor service demand and will continue to work with the contracted service provider who has struggled with manpower issues, which resulted in the need to cancel daily runs on several occasions in the past few months. Unfortunately cancellations of this nature led to customer trips having to be rescheduled or cancelled, leading to missed medical appointments in some cases. Administration is continuing to work with the service provider to slowly increase service levels as their complement reaches levels they are confident they can maintain.
The corporate website, socials and stop-level notices will continue to be utilized, as appropriate, to provide up to date service information including service interruptions, detours, etc. to keep customers informed with respect to current issues and plans going forward.
Internally, information screens will continue to be utilized to ensure that employees are informed of the issues being faced and the plans to address them.
Over the past several weeks, the incidents of disrespectful interactions between London Transit employees and customers/general public has increased significantly. While it is understandable that riders are frustrated with full buses passing their stop, or buses experiencing schedule adherence issues due to construction-related detours, directing disrespectful behavior toward LTC employees is unacceptable. A social media campaign is underway reminding riders that all employees are doing their best and encouraging kindness.
Katie Burns, Director of Planning
Mike Gregor, Director of Finance
Craig Morneau, Director of Fleet & Facilities
Joanne Galloway, Director of Human Resources
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager