Staff Report #4 – London Community Recovery Network Recommendation – Free Public Transit to the Downtown

Staff Report #4

January 27, 2021

To All Commissioners

Re: London Community Recovery Network Recommendation – Free Public Transit to the Downtown


That the Commission DIRECT administration to forward the financial implications of free public transit to the downtown as well as other options that may be considered to civic administration.


On December 16, 2020, the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee received the London Community Recovery Network – Immediate Ideas for Action to Support London’s COVID-19 Community Recovery report.

On September 9, 2020, the first meeting of the London Community Recovery Network (the Network) was held. Led by Mayor Holder, the inaugural meeting focused on identifying community priorities to guide London’s whole-of community recovery efforts. The Network is comprised of leaders from over 30 organizations and associations representing business, industry, non-profits, academia, and communities that have experienced disproportionate impacts from COVID-19. Network members have joined together to identify, assess and advance specific ideas for action that can power a quick, strong, deep and inclusive recovery for the community.

In the first phase of work (September 2020 – December 2020), the Network has developed a list of specific short term ideas for action that can be implemented quickly to lay the foundations of community recovery in London. These ideas for action call on implementation by the City of London, other orders of government, and the community at-large. To identify specific ideas, the Network established six (6) Priority Action Tables to bring focus to the priorities highlighted during the inaugural meeting.

A Destination Community – Focus: Initiatives to support arts, culture, hospitability, tourism sectors

Employment and Talent – Focus: Initiatives to bolster recruitment, training, employer/employee supports

Supporting London’s Most Vulnerable Communities – Focus: Initiatives to address homelessness, addiction services, health care services and other needs of London’s most vulnerable populations

Community Readiness and Resilience – Focus: Initiatives to develop greater community resiliency, including considerations of the environment, education and childcare

Strengthening London’s Downtown and Core Areas – Focus: Ideas to act in support of a strong, vibrant and inclusive downtown and core area

Streamlining Collaborative Efforts among Businesses, Organizations and Governments – Focus: Ideas to simplify, standardize, or revise public and private sector regulations and services and identify shared community advocacy needs

The Priority Action Tables drew on the expertise of over 150 community members from diverse organizations and backgrounds. These tables convened throughout October and November 2020. Table participants undertook substantial extended outreach efforts across their organizations and communities to identify recovery ideas that could be implemented swiftly. In total, over 200 ideas were submitted pertaining to initiatives that could be undertaken by the City of London, other orders of government, and the broader community.

Priority Action Tables convened to review the recovery ideas identified through the extended outreach efforts. Idea lists were forwarded to the London Community Recovery Network where additional analysis was conducted to focus in on short term ideas for action that could be implemented swiftly. In all, ideas were evaluated on:

  • Immediacy – How quickly could the ideas be turned into action?
  • Feasibility – How simple is the idea to implement and do resources exist to implement it?
  • Impact – What is the level of impact of the idea on the community and to whom?

Municipal Council directed civic administration to determine implementation plans for the ideas included in the final summary and return to the appropriate standing committee for approval in early 2021. The final summary of ideas endorsed by the Network included one specific to transit, as set out below.

Downtown Recovery – free Transit access to the downtown – London Transit provide free access to the downtown. Anyone heading into the downtown would not pay for their public transit – making the area more accessible for those who will not pay for parking.

Administration has reviewed the recommendation, and has determined that, given the manner in which the conventional transit system operates, and the inability for bus operators to verify where every customer is going, limiting free transit service to only those customers travelling to the downtown would not be possible.

Making transit free for all would require the transportation revenue portion of the public transit service budget ($29.9 million for 2021) be made up from an alternate source. While the Provincial and Federal governments have provided COVID-related funding to offset the impacts of the pandemic, the Safe Restart Program guidelines would not cover an initiative like this.

Given the spirit of the recommendation, which appears to be getting more Londoners to the downtown via public transit, there may be other options that could be considered, including, but not limited to the following:

  • Purchases made in the downtown could provide a free ride home on transit (the current 90 minute transfer already provides this for those that can complete their shopping within a 90 minute window);
  • Businesses could offer a discount to customers showing a transit pass or transfer;
  • Special event tickets could be utilized for free transit. In the past programs of this nature have been undertaken in cooperation with Budweiser Gardens (e.g. A London Knights game ticket provided free transit to and from the game); and
  • Advertising on buses could be utilized to draw Londoners to the downtown

Should the Commission concur with the options and implications set out above, a communication will be forwarded to civic administration regarding this initiative, noting any items that require any contribution from the London Transit Operating Budget would require Commission approval prior to implementation.

Recommended by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager