Staff Report #3
June 28, 2023
To All Commissioners
Re: Mobility Master Plan Input
That the Commission FORWARD the following recommendations to civic administration for consideration during the update of the Mobility Master Plan:
- that at the time of planning for and approving seasonal construction projects, civic administration consider feedback from LTC administration with respect to available detour options for public transit services in order to ensure that communities are not left without access to public transit for extended periods of time;
- that the City of London coordinate major construction projects in a manner that does not result in an entire neighbourhood being inaccessible to transit service;
- that the City of London consider the adoption of a standard parade route(s) that event co-ordinators will utilize for their event. This approach will allow for consistent detour routing to be established that transit riders can be aware of well in advance of the event;
- that the City of London give consideration to options that will allow public transit services to get as close as possible to event venues, which may include maintaining access for public transit vehicles on roads that are required to be closed to traffic during special events. In the case of events like the Forest City Road Race, consideration could be given to keeping the curbside lane open for public transit only, and allowing runners to occupy the adjacent lane; and
- when considering the cycling network as part of the Mobility Master Plan, consideration be given to the potential impacts on transit routing and the elimination of corridors for potential transit detours and expansion going forward.
The City of London is currently undertaking a review and update of the Mobility Master Plan, the purpose of which is to identify the policy framework, infrastructure projects and supportive programs with a 25 year horizon. The Mobility Master Plan (MMP) is being created through a consultation process and in consideration of the following City of London Plans and Strategies:
- Council’s Strategic Plan
- London’s Official Plan
- Climate Emergency Action Plan
- Safe Cities London Action Plan
- Conceptual Framework for Regional Transportation in London
The Vision Statement for the Mobility Master Plan as approved by Municipal Council is: In 2050, Londoners of all identities, abilities and means will have viable mobility options to allow them to move throughout the city safely and efficiently. The movement of people and goods will be environmentally sustainable, affordable, and supportive of economic growth and development.
Supporting this vision statement are a number of guiding principles including:
- Environmentally Sustainable
- Financially Sustainable
- Healthy and Safe
- Integrated, Connected and Efficient.
During Phase I of the update process, feedback was gathered from stakeholders through various engagement means, and subsequently compiled into key themes. Transit was one of the most frequent topics of discussion throughout the Phase 1 engagement with Londoners, indicating challenges meeting daily travel needs using the current transit system. Specifically, many concerns were raised about service frequency, wait times, and the lack of transit service to certain parts of the city. Participants also expressed support for more express service and concerns with the length of time it takes to use transit as opposed to walking, cycling or driving/using taxi service.
While this engagement occurred during a period when transit services were still operating at reduced levels as the result of resource issues stemming from the pandemic, the concerns raised are consistent with previous engagements undertaken as part of London Transit’s Five Year Service Planning Process. The priority areas for improvement set out in the current Five Year Service Plan include:
- improved frequencies system wide (elimination of 60 minute frequencies with a target maximum frequency of 30 minutes);
- increased express routes where warranted;
- increased service to industrial areas; and
- increased use of community bus and/or alternative service delivery models to provide access to public transit services in all areas of the City
The service improvements implemented as well as those scheduled to be implemented over the coming months are targeted to address these concerns, noting annual improvements are limited by the allocation of growth funding in each budget year.
The Commission’s 5 Year Service Plan for the specialized service as well as the Commission’s Accessibility Plan set the framework for improved accessibility for all London Transit services, with a greater focus on the specialized service. While service availability continues to be the number one concern of the customers of the specialized service, access to the community is also a high priority. Given many of the customers of the specialized service require a door-to-door service, it is imperative that access for this service remain open whenever possible in order to ensure that customers can reach their desired destinations and participate in local events.
In the case of both the conventional and specialized services, while ongoing service improvements can help to address the concerns identified by stakeholders, the success of these improvements can be limited by other mitigating factors. In order for public transit services to be considered a viable option for Londoners transportation needs, they need to be available consistently, reliably and regularly. The transit system loses its viability as an option when services are significantly interrupted due to construction, road closures, parades, special events, etc. Londoners who rely on public transit as their only means of transportation cannot be left with the inability to get to work, medical appointments, or any other required daily activity. Consideration of the impacts these events can have on the public transit service at the planning and approval stage can mitigate the negative impacts on transit customers. The remainder of this report provides greater detail with respect to each of these factors, including recent examples and impacts on the Londoners who rely on public transit.
Construction projects are a necessary sign of both a growing city and one that maintains its critical infrastructure and while these projects result in improved infrastructure for all, the disruptions from the required lane/road closures result in frustration for Londoners trying to navigate the community. The nature and extent of the construction projects undertaken over the past few construction seasons has compounded this issue significantly.
When the City of London confirms a construction project and the related impacts including lane/road closures or limited access to/from specified locations, the London Transit Planning and Operations departments assess the closures and work to develop detour routing for all of the conventional transit routes that will be impacted. When determining detour routing the following guidelines are considered:
- detour routing should be as close to regular routing as possible in order to mitigate, to the extent possible, the negative impacts on transit riders;
- detour routing will not require any left turns at un-signalized intersections;
- right turns must be achievable while remaining within designated lanes at all times and not result in curbs being mounted;
- adequate, safe and accessible stop locations must be available along the detour route;
- roadways are wide enough to allow buses to pass safely when travelling in the opposite direction, or have another close-by parallel road to allow for the detour to be split with one direction operating on each street; and
- roadways must be free of impediments that preclude the safe operation of a transit bus (e.g. rail crossings, low hanging trees, wires, low bridges, etc.)
When construction projects are ongoing in close proximity to one another, selecting a detour route that meets the aforementioned guidelines becomes more challenging. Given other construction in the area along King, Ontario and Dundas (East London Link Phase 2), road renewal work on English, Elizabeth and Lyle and the grade separation project on Adelaide, many traditional detour routes are not available during this construction. In addition, new protected Bike lanes along Queens Ave prevent the ability to provide safe accessible stops as the bus is not able to access the curb. This, coupled with operational concerns for turning movements off Dundas onto some of the more narrow side streets in the area, resulted in very limited detour options to be able to provide transit as close to the regular routing along Dundas as possible.
The map below sets out the detours required for the construction project on Quebec Street. The map below sets out the detours required in the Quebec Street area as the result of the aforementioned considerations.
Route 20 Detour and Construction Connector Routing
Given the limited options for detour routing associated with this road closure, a special “construction connector” route was created which provides transit access to residents in the Mornington area. Unfortunately, the road closures along Dundas and Quebec resulted in the service being diverted several blocks away from the regular route. While there is still transit service in the area, for many customers, walking in excess of 1km to the closest bus stop is not a viable option.
Recommendation – that at the time of planning for and approving seasonal construction projects, civic administration consider feedback from LTC administration with respect to available detour options for public transit services in order to ensure that communities are not left without access to public transit for extended periods of time. Also that the City of London coordinate major construction projects in a manner that does not result in an entire neighbourhood being inaccessible to transit service.
When an organization wishes to hold a parade, the proposed route is provided to London Police Services for initial approval. Once approved by LPS it is sent to the City of London for signoff. As part of the application process various stakeholders are asked for their feedback. In all cases when asked, LTC administration provide commentary with respect to the impact the proposed route will have on transit operations. When a parade route is approved, the London Police Service will advise what road closures will be in effect leading up to and during the parade. Subsequent to this notification, LTC administration works to develop detour routing for the conventional transit routes that will be affected. With respect to the specialized service, vehicles attempt to navigate road closures with all other traffic, often resulting in delayed arrival times and missed appointments. Not unlike construction closures, while parades tend to be for a short time period, road closures resulting in route detours and stop closures negatively affect transit riders dependant on the service to get to their desired destination
Using the most recent Khalsa Parade as an example, the approved parade route staged on Central and travelled, north on Richmond to Oxford, Colborne, Dufferin to Wellington. Due to this approved routing and other ongoing construction in the core, 16 conventional transit routes (routes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 15, 17, 19, 20, 90 & 91) had to operate on detour routing for the period of 9am to 2pm on May 14, resulting in the closure of 72 regular transit stops. This situation occurs to varying degrees with every parade route that is approved in the city.
While interruptions/detours as the result of a parade are only for a specific period of time, they still have the potential to negatively impact the transit trip for many Londoners. As with construction closures, some transit riders have the ability to navigate to the closest transit stop along the detour route to complete their trip, but for many this is not possible. While information with respect to detours of this nature is communicated to transit customers through various methods including social media, website, real time information and stop level notices with as much advance notice as possible, many riders find out about the detour when they arrive at their bus stop only to find that their stop is temporarily not in use. This results in delays for the customer as they attempt to find the nearest stop and then get there, which ultimately results in the customer arriving at their destination later than planned. This can result in significant implications if the trip purpose is for work or a scheduled appointment. The requirement to travel for an extended distance to the nearest bus stop also impacts the ability of customers to utilize the accessible conventional service, placing increased pressure on the specialized service.
The ability to rely on public transit to operate on the published schedule or at a minimum have enough advanced notice to plan an alternative route as the result of a detour is essential in order for public transit to be a viable transportation option. Given the nature of the parade route approval process, each parade is likely to result in different transit route detours and different stop closures.
Recommendation – that the City of London consider the adoption of a standard parade route(s) that event co-ordinators can utilize for their event. This approach will allow for consistent detour routing to be established that transit riders can be familiar with well in advance of the event.
Special events, depending on location, often result in associated road closures and required detours for conventional transit as well as difficulty for specialized transit vehicles to get customers close enough to the event venue to allow them to participate. Events in Victoria Park often result in the roads around the park being closed to traffic making access by public transit more difficult.
Other special events can require road closures along their routing which negatively impact public transit riders. The recent Forest City Road Race resulted in 17 routes to be on detour and 66 stops being closed during the duration of the event.
While these types of events are generally limited to weekends, they still negatively impact or in worse cases, eliminate the option of public transit for Londoners to get to their required destinations during the duration of the closures.
Recommendations – That the City of London give consideration to options that will allow public transit services to get as close as possible to event venues, which may include maintaining access for public transit vehicles on roads that are required to be closed to traffic during special events. In the case of events like the Forest City Road Race, consideration could be given to keeping the curbside lane open for public transit only, and allowing runners to occupy the adjacent lane.
Over the past number of years, the City of London has made significant improvements to the cycling infrastructure across the city, which in turn has resulted in increased mobility options for all Londoners. Given every conventional transit trip starts and ends with the need to navigate to/from the stop, increased cycling and walking infrastructure in turn increases public transit’s viability as an option for longer trips. LTC’s fleet of conventional buses has been equipped with bike racks since 2012, allowing riders to take their bikes on transit trips as required.
The introduction of protected cycle lanes on some city streets has resulted in traffic lanes being narrowed, with the curbside of the roadway no longer being accessible for transit stops, which has resulted in eliminating these corridors as an option for a detour in the event of a major construction project. On corridors where transit operates, protected cycle lanes have incorporated integrated transit stops which allow transit riders to board and alight the bus in the cycle lane. The construction on Quebec Street discussed earlier in this report provides an example of this situation, where the cycling infrastructure on Queen’s Avenue precludes transit from accessing the curb, which eliminates the possibility for transit stops along the corridor. Transit did utilize this corridor as a detour option subsequent to the installation of the cycling infrastructure, and subsequently changed the detour as the result of rider frustration with being unable to get on/off the bus along the corridor.
The infrastructure utilized to protect the cycle lanes at intersections has resulted in turning radius at some intersections that can no longer be navigated by a conventional transit bus. This has also resulted in the elimination of potential detour routes when conventional transit service must be diverted for any reason.
Recommendation – When considering the cycling network as part of the Mobility Master Plan, consideration be given to the potential impacts on transit routing and the elimination of corridors for potential transit detours and expansion going forward.
Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations
Katie Burns, Director of Planning
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager