Staff Report #3 – COVID-19 Service and Ridership Impacts

Staff Report #3

September 30, 2020

To All Commissioners

Re: COVID-19 Service and Ridership Impacts


The report be NOTED and FILED.


The pandemic declaration in March of 2020 and associated lockdown measures that followed resulted in a significant decline in transit ridership across the country. In response to the decline in demand and decreased availability of employee resources relating to COVID-19, transit systems reduced service levels to better match ridership being experienced.

Specifically to London Transit, over the period a number of service level changes and reductions have taken place on both the conventional and specialized services. On September 6, the conventional service increased service levels on the majority of routes, resulting in the overall service operating at approximately 10% less service than what would normally be in place at this time of year. Further details with respect to specific routes follows:

  • Regular fall weekday level of service on Routes 2, 4, 6, 9, 10, 13, 17, 20, 25, 27, 28, 31, 33, 34, 37, 90, 91, 93, 94, 102, 104, and 106
  • Regular fall weekday level of service on Routes 30 and 36 with the exception that late evening trips will not operate
  • Modified Saturday level of service on Routes 1, 3, 5, 7, 12, 15, 16, 19, 24, and 35
  • Route 92 is not currently operating
  • Community Bus Routes 51, 52, 53, 54, 55 and 56 not currently operating, however looking to restart in the coming weeks

The chart below provides an overview of the ridership levels on the conventional service since mid-March as a percentage of what would normally be expected at this time noting the numbers are based on actual boardings as counted by the automatic passenger counters on buses.

Conventional Transit Ridership as a Percent of Normal

Ridership March April May June July August Sept to date
Weekday 25% 22% 35% 45% 53% 52% 40%
Saturday 36% 33% 46% 62% 68% 66% 55%
Sunday 35% 30% 54% 70% 76% 71% 58%

As indicated in the table above, ridership levelled off and remained somewhat consistent in July and August, notwithstanding the return to front door boarding and fare collection effective August 19, 2020. While the ridership numbers to date for September appear to drop off, it is important to note they are being compared to average ridership during a normal September when students return. Given the staggered start dates for schools, coupled with the mixed approach to online and in-class courses, it was expected that ridership will be lower this September as compared to the past. Service to date has not been overwhelmed with crowding conditions; however, given the many variables with this school year, it is anticipated that it will take longer for travel patterns to emerge.

On the specialized service, ridership has also begun to rise with the opening of the economy; however, not to the same extent that has occurred on the conventional service. The table below provides the ridership on the specialized service since mid-March shown as a percentage of what would normally be expected during this time period.

Specialized Transit Ridership as a Percent of Normal

Ridership March April May June July August Sept to date
Weekday 17% 11% 16% 23% 30% 34% 36%
Saturday 20% 20% 24% 33% 45% 47% 50%
Sunday 7% 3% 8% 16% 24% 29% 33%

Fall Service Changes

As indicated earlier in the report, the increase in service levels on the conventional service took effect on September 6, 2020. Traditionally the first few weeks of September are considered an adjustment period on the conventional service, with issues of overcrowding, schedule adherence and passengers being left at stops being experienced across the system. Given the staggered start dates for both secondary and post-secondary schools, coupled with the move to fully online or partially online learning, these issues have not been experienced to the same extent at time of report writing. It is important to note that classes only began on September 21, 2020 for Fanshawe College students who are attending campus for some courses. It is anticipated that the true travel patterns will take several more weeks to emerge. Further adding to the lower than anticipated ridership levels to date for September is the increased cases of COVID in the community and the strong encouragement for students to stay home.

When the three different service levels for September were developed in June, it was unclear how many students were expected to attend campus at post-secondary institutions. It was also unclear what the plans were with respect to secondary schools across the city, both with respect to whether there would be any in-class activity and what if any impacts there would be on yellow busing. As such, assumptions had to be made with respect to where and when ridership demand would be beginning in September.

Plans for secondary schools became more clear in very late August, which resulted in impacts on yellow busing and in turn, customer requests for service levels on routes serving these schools to be increased to a weekday level of service. Given the schedules and work assignments had already been completed and signed, adjustments to the sign-up that was set to take effect September 6, 2020 were not able to be made. However, given current and projected resource availability and in response to customer requests, the start times for Routes 19, 24, and 35 will be adjusted to begin service based on the weekday service levels as set out below effective September 28, 2020. The frequency adjustments that will bring these routes back to operating on a weekday service level have also been included in the next sign-up, which will take effect November 29, 2020.

Route Current Start Time Start Time Effective Sept 28
19 8:25 am 5:56 am
24 8:00 am 5:58 am
35 8:00 am 6:58 am

In an effort to ensure that resources are being placed appropriately throughout the system, the service is being monitored on a daily basis to identify problem areas which will be addressed through the use of Tripper buses. The Planning department is also monitoring for areas that may be overserved based on ridership, and looking at the possibility of increasing service levels on the routes that have remained on a Saturday level of service. As demonstrated above, in cases where adjustments can be undertaken within available employee resource levels, they will be made as soon as possible, and communicated accordingly. It is anticipated this monitoring and adjusting will continue for the foreseeable future as the operating environment continues to change.

The Community Bus routes have not been operating since April as a result of reduced levels of service. This service is relied upon by many seniors as a way to access essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, etc. With the move to Stage 3 of re-opening it was determined that a re-introduction of the Community Bus service was appropriate; however, the manner in which the service will be provided required review. Historically, drivers operating this service provided assistance to passengers with boarding/alighting the bus, safely stowing mobility aids, assisting passengers with bags/parcels, etc. The review, in cooperation with the Joint Health and Safety Committee, was completed, with a number of safety-related changes to be implemented prior to the restart of the service.

Given COVID-19 restrictions and protocols in place in an effort to protect employees and passengers, the following safety related changes to the Community Bus Service will be in effect when it resumes:

  • Riders are now required to:
  • be at the designated pick up point five minutes before departure time to guarantee service. Operators will not wait past departure times and will no longer enter buildings or stores to notify riders that they are departing.
  • be able to safely board the bus themselves or with the help of their a support person (at both pick up and drop off locations).
  • manage their own parcels
  • Operators will continue to secure mobility devices once the rider is on-board and seated

Administration has confirmed the availability of the required number of Operators in order to restart the Community Bus service, noting these Operators require special training prior to operating on these routes. As such, the Community Bus routes are scheduled to begin operating on October 5, 2020. Communication to the public, including posters at primary customer locations, has been rolled out, with messaging focused on the changes that will be effective with the resumption.

With respect to the specialized service, service levels will be increased to coincide with increased demand for service. Given the pre-booked nature of this service, demand by day of week and time of day is easily assessed, and as such, service can be added to the days/times most in demand.

Recommended by:

Katie Burns, Director of Planning

Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations

Concurred in by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager