Staff Report #4
October 30, 2019
To All Commissioners
Re: 2019 Service Plan Update
That the Report be NOTED and FILED
The 2019 service plan saw routing and/or scheduling changes to all but one route across the system, potentially impacting travel patterns for many passengers. In addition to the service changes, there were many major construction projects that started or were continuing through the month of September, including work in the downtown core. These projects have had a significant impact on schedule adherence and added to the heightened level of activity traditionally seen in the first three to four weeks of September.
Consistent with every service plan implementation, feedback from customers and Operators is received and assessed in an effort to ensure the changes are operationally feasible (schedules are appropriate) and meeting the needs and expectations of customers. At the September 25, 2019 meeting, an initial assessment of the service change impacts was presented to the Commission (see Staff Report #3 dated September 25, 2019).
Over the past month, administration has continued to monitor the service changes and associated customer and Operator contacts. Information received through these contacts is assessed to determine whether changes are required, and if so, the earliest timeframe in which the changes can be implemented.
Schedule Changes Required
Contacts received regarding schedule adherence issues are assessed to determine whether scheduling changes are required to improve the route performance. Conducting these assessments this fall was problematic given that major core construction projects which negatively impacted service over the summer were still in place September 1, when the changes were implemented, and as such it can be difficult to ascertain whether the schedule adherence issues are construction related, or the result of problematic schedules.
Responses to schedule adherence issues associated with service changes are two-part. In the short term, extra (tripper) buses can be inserted into the route rotation to assist with keeping buses on schedule. While in many cases, this approach can alleviate the issue, in the case of traffic congestion/delays associated with construction, adding extra buses only adds to the congestion, it doesn’t help the other buses navigate the route any faster. In these cases, Operators are asked to do their best to keep to the printed schedule, and the service is monitored accordingly and customers are asked to rely on the available real-time information versus the schedule information in an effort to mitigate long waits at stops.
In the longer term, problematic schedules can be adjusted, however, given a number of items including ties to other schedules, this can only be undertaken in conjunction with Operator sign-up periods (the time periods for which Operators sign for work). Operator sign-ups take effect in November, February, April, June and September. As Operators generally sign work approximately four weeks before the sign-up period changes (i.e. Operators sign for work that changes on November 24 the week of October 21), schedules have to be prepared approximately eight to ten weeks prior to the sign-up taking effect. It should be noted that the February sign-up changes are an exception to this as work for February is signed at the beginning of December and as a result any schedule updates that are to be included in the February changes have to be completed by the end of October to allow adequate time to prepare the work to be signed.
The majority of contacts received to date from both customers and Operators relate to schedule adherence concerns, primarily on Routes 10, 36 and 93, and more recently, Routes 19 and 24 have also been identified as having issues. The specific actions with regard to each of these routes is set out below.
Route 10 – Tripper buses are currently being utilized to assist with schedule adherence. Planning staff have determined that additional running time is required on this route during peak operating periods. The schedules have been amended and will take effect November 24, 2019.
Route 19 – Tripper buses are currently being utilized to assist with schedule adherence. Planning staff have determined that additional round trip time is required, especially during the weekday PM Peak period to improve the reliability of the service. Schedule updates to improve adherence will be implemented for February 2, 2020, given the timing of contacts received did not provide the opportunity to address the schedule for the November sign-up period.
Route 24 – Tripper buses are currently being utilized to assist with schedule adherence. Planning staff have determined that additional round trip time is required, especially during the weekday PM Peak period to improve the reliability of the service. Schedule updates to improve adherence will be implemented for February 2, 2020, given the timing of contacts received did not provide the opportunity to address the schedule for the November sign-up period.
Route 36 – Tripper buses are currently being utilized to assist with schedule adherence. Planning staff have determined that additional running time is required on this route during the PM peak operating periods. The schedules have been amended and will take effect November 24, 2019.
Route 93 – Tripper buses are currently being utilized to assist with schedule adherence. Planning staff have determined that additional running time is required on this route during peak operating periods. The schedules have been amended and will take effect November 24, 2019.
In addition to the changes above, Routes 17, 27, 31 and 34 will see minor adjustments to the morning start times to address concerns from Operators and passengers with regard to connections for shift start times.
New Stop Location Issues
In addition to scheduling related issues, concerns have also been raised from customers and Operators with regard to the placement of some new stops, most specifically along Wharncliffe Road for Route 93 and Wellington Road for Route 10.
Concerns with respect to the new Route 93 stops on Wharncliffe Road are specifically related to the stops at Tecumseh (northbound and southbound) that are not located at a signalized intersection, resulting in an unsafe crossing for pedestrians. This location was originally selected as it had the highest ridership of the stops in the area and also resulted in stop spacing within the guidelines for Express Routes. Upon further review of the stop it was determined that more appropriate stop locations would be at Emery and Elmwood as both locations have signalized intersections. Two stops will be installed to replace the stop at Tecumseh in order to avoid excessive stop spacing. The new stops are anticipated to be in place by the end of October.
A new stop for Route 10 was installed on Wellington Road south of Southdale as part of the September service changes. Concerns have been raised by Operators with regard to the stop being too close to the intersection to be able to service the stop and then cross over multiple lanes of traffic to make the left-hand turn onto Southdale. The stop location was assessed and it was determined that the best solution would be to remove the northbound stop on Wellington at Southdale, noting there is a stop on Southdale west of Wellington to continue to be able to provide access to transfers for Routes 13 and 90. This stop location has been removed.
Administration will continue to monitor the impacts of the 2019 service plan changes over the next 11 months, making minor adjustments to improve scheduling, as required, and adding tripper buses as necessary and as resources permit. A detailed assessment of the 2019 service plan changes will be presented to the Commission in the fall of 2020. In addition, should any significant issues come to light with respect to the 2019 changes before the end of December, consideration will be given to including recommendations to address same as part of the 2020 service plan changes.
Many of the contacts with respect to issues related to the service changes are received via formal contacts, which are responded to individually. Additionally, commentary included on social media is monitored and forwarded to the appropriate department for follow-up; however, responding via social media is problematic given the timing between the message being posted and the completion of the assessment. The changes set out in this report are examples of the manner in which customer concerns are responded to, but not necessarily well communicated to the broader public. Better methods of communicating this type of information will be included going forward, as part of the corporate communications improvements program included in the 2019-2022 Business Plan and related annual work programs.
Katie Burns, Director of Planning
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager