Staff Report #4
September 27, 2023
To All Commissioners
Re: Municipal Council Update
That the Commission DIRECT administration to prepare an Update to Municipal Council for presentation at the October 31, 2023 Strategic Policy and Priorities Committee based on the information set out in this report.
At the August 30, 2023 meeting, the Commission received a communication from Municipal Council which included a request for the London Transit Commission to:
- develop a detailed 2023 to 2027 work plan providing clear information on how LTC will implement Council’s 2023 to 2027 Strategic Plan, with particular focus on the Mobility and Transportation Strategic Area of Focus and its Outcomes, Expected Results and Strategies, but also on other Strategic Areas of Focus that are associated with LTC and its operations; and
- report back to the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee with the results of i) at its meeting on October 31, 2023
The Commission’s Business Plan (Plan) and related planning processes, developed in the mid-1990 have provided the crucial direction for London Transit as an organization and a transportation service. The Plan, which is updated every four years, serves:
- as a reflection of today, and as a starting point for the future;
- to focus resources on prioritized challenges and expectations;
- as a communication tool, supporting the development of informed relationships; and
- to promote accountability, transparency and continuous improvement
The Plan and related planning process are directional in nature, focusing resources on a shared vision and outcomes. The Plan serves as a critical communication tool supporting informed relationships, accountability and transparency. An integral part of the process includes the preparation and presentation of the Annual Report, which provides an assessment of performance against the key objectives of the Business Plan.
The Plan has traditionally been reviewed and updated every four years, reflecting the term of the Commission. While this approach has worked well, the transition to multi-year budgeting, with the four year budget period being offset by one year from the term of the Commission, has resulted in the need for adjustments to programs and metrics in the final year of the Plan given budget realities. Further, unknowns with respect to future Council priorities and budget realities resulted in many uncertainties at the time of Plan approval.
In an effort to mitigate these concerns, and to ensure alignment of the Commission’s Business Plan with that of the Council’s Strategic Plan, the Commission approved the extension of the 2019-2022 Business Plan to cover 2023, resulting in the next Business Plan covering the period of 2024 through 2027 which aligns with the multi-year budget and Council’s Strategic Plan. Development of the 2024-2027 Business Plan is underway, with the expectation that it will be finalized subsequent to Municipal Council’s approval of the 2024-2027 Operating and Capital budget programs. The 2024-2027 Business Plan will include strategies to address the areas of Council’s 2023 to 2027 Strategic Plan which relate to public transit services as set out below:
- Wellbeing and Safety – item 1.7b – Assess opportunities to enhance garbage collection in bus shelters
- Wellbeing and Safety – item 2.3b – Provide, enhance, and promote access to municipal subsidy programs, including public transit
- Safe London for Women, Girls, and Gender-Diverse and Trans People – item 1.3b – Increase the capacity of the City of London, agencies, boards, and commissions to recognize, address, and prevent sexual violence
- Mobility and Transportation – item 1.2c – Continue to support the London Transit Commission’s Zero Emission Bus Fleet Implementation Framework
- Mobility and Transportation – item 1.3a, 1.4a and 1.6a – Support greater access to affordable, reliable public transit and paratransit through the implementation of the London Transit Commission’s 5 Year Service Plans, including growth hours
- Mobility and Transportation – item 1.4b – Support implementation of the London Transit Commission Ridership Growth Strategy initiatives
- Mobility and Transportation – item 1.4c – Support transit rider survey initiatives to improve rider satisfaction
- Mobility and Transportation – item 1.4d – Implement London’s Rapid Transit Corridors to improve reliability for current and future transit.
- Mobility and Transportation – item 1.6b – Support the implementation of Alternative Service Delivery options to areas of the city not currently served by transit
While the 2024-2027 Business Plan has not been finalized, the remainder of this report provides discussion with respect to the Commission’s plans/strategies to address each of the above items in Council’s Strategic Plan.
Wellbeing and Safety – item 1.7b – Assess opportunities to enhance garbage collection in bus shelters
London Transit’s shelter cleaning and maintenance is undertaken by a contractor as part of the shelter advertising contract. The costs associated with the cleaning and maintenance are deducted from the annual revenue share London Transit receives in return for the exclusive rights to advertising in LTC’s shelters. The current contract requires that all shelters be cleaned once every two weeks. In addition, administration can contact the contractor directly in the event of excessive garbage or glass breakage, which is required to be addressed within 48 hours of notification. London Transit shelters do not currently include garbage receptacles, noting in some cases, the City of London has placed garbage receptacles near to or adjacent to high-use stop locations.
As set out in the Commission’s Staff Report #5 dated August 30, 2023, through the contract renewal process for shelter advertising, administration requested the costs associated with enhancing the cleaning cycles for shelters from the current bi-weekly schedule to a weekly schedule as well as the option to include garbage bins and pick up in shelters. The shelter contractor does not provide garbage disposal nor pickup as part of their business model; however, they did provide a cost to increase the frequency of shelter cleaning from bi-weekly to weekly. The cost associated with this service enhancement is $107,900 per year, expressed as a decrease in the annual revenue guarantee provided under the contract.
This item has been included in the Commission’s growth budget request for 2024, noting the change can be implemented immediately upon approval of the budget request.
Wellbeing and Safety – item 2.3b – Provide, enhance, and promote access to municipal subsidy programs, including public transit
Growth in the use of public transit fare subsidy programs will occur as growth in services is implemented resulting in overall growth of ridership. While none of the specific groups represented in the various transit fare subsidy programs are prioritized when considering service growth, London Transit administration is in discussion with area school board administration with regard to the level of conventional service provided to each of the area schools in an effort to identify areas of demand and associated responses to same as part of the next Five Year Service Plan. Growth in each of the subsidized fare categories will be measured and reported on annually.
Safe London for Women, Girls, and Gender-Diverse and Trans People – item 1.3b – Increase the capacity of the City of London, agencies, boards, and commissions to recognize, address, and prevent sexual violence
London Transit administration is represented on the Safe Cities Working Group, and participates in planning sessions and regular meetings. Participation in this initiative and any elements in future work plans is included on the Commission’s annual work program as a priority. London Transit administration will provide updates to the Commission with respect to any new initiatives stemming from this group including the recommended approach to addressing same.
Mobility and Transportation – item 1.2c – Continue to support the London Transit Commission’s Zero Emission Bus Fleet Implementation Framework
Transit sector experience with Zero Emission Bus Implementation indicates that a dedicated team is required to lead this transition in order to ensure a smooth transition to new bus technology with limited impacts to service performance. The initial approach that London Transit has undertaken with respect to participating in the joint procurement for a turn-key solution has somewhat mitigated the need for additional dedicated staff resources during the procurement phase; however, as work begins to get underway, additional resources will be required.
The Commission-approved status quo operating budget includes provision for two full-time equivalent positions in 2024 which will be shared between the Zero-Emission Bus project and the Highbury Facility Rebuild Project. This shared approach will suffice in 2024 given the significant work associated with both of these projects will not occur until later years. Moving existing staff to cover these requirements is not an option given resource capacity and the need to continue to maintain and support the current fleet of diesel buses.
The Commission’s Growth Business Case includes the addition of three full-time equivalent positions in 2025 that will provide the appropriate resources to both the Zero-Emission Bus Implementation and the Highbury Facility rebuild. In addition, the Growth Business Case also includes the capital costs associated with the fleet transition, including the incremental costs of zero-emission buses versus diesel buses as well as the related charging infrastructure required for battery electric buses. Of note, given the initial battery-electric buses are not anticipated to be in service until 2025, the Growth Business Case includes the option for the purchase of Hybrid Diesel/Electric buses in both 2024 and 2025. While this is not part of the Commission’s Zero-Emission Bus Fleet Implementation Framework, the option is being provided for Council consideration as it relates to the Climate Emergency Action Plan efforts in the near term to reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions from municipal fleets.
Mobility and Transportation – item 1.3a, 1.4a, 1.4b, 1.4d, 1.6a and 1.6b – Support greater access to affordable, reliable public transit and paratransit through the implementation of the London Transit Commission’s 5 Year Service Plans, including growth hours, London Transit Ridership Growth Strategy and Alternative Delivery Implementation Strategy, and implementation of London’s Rapid Transit Corridors
Addressing these items individually or collectively will require a growth in service hours on the respective Conventional and Specialized Transit Services, the manner in which the service improvements are directed will determine which specific element above is addressed.
With respect to the Conventional Transit Service, the Commission gave consideration to the known outstanding service requests when determining the appropriate level of growth to request for the next multi-year budget period. The table below provides a high-level summary of the known service demands/requests from various stakeholder groups.
Conventional Transit Service Outstanding Service Improvements
|Service Improvement||Issues Addressed||Estimated Annual Service Hour Requirement|
|Earlier service for all routes (starting at 5am)||· Improved access to employment with early start times||24, 000|
|Extend remaining routes to 1am Mon-Sat||
|Extend Sunday Service to midnight on all routes||
|Start remaining routes at 7am on Sundays||
|Extend service into new growth areas including:
|Improve frequencies on existing routes to be no more than two times the frequency on connecting Rapid Transit routes||
|Improve operating times/frequencies of routes currently serving industrial areas||
|Total Estimated Outstanding Service Hour Requirements||323,800|
Note that the table above does not include all outstanding requests for new/improved service, nor the implementation of additional Alternative Service Delivery (ASD) options as identified in the Alternative Service Delivery Framework.
The Commission’s Growth Business Case includes the request for an additional 25,000 annual service hours for the Conventional Transit Service in each of the four years 2024 through 2027. This request provides for an increase of approximately 7,000 annual hours above which was included in the previous multi-year budget for growth in Conventional Transit Services. It should be noted that should these incremental hours be approved by Municipal Council, they will only address approximately 1/3 of the outstanding service requirements. As discussed earlier in this report, the Commission’s 2024-2027 Business Plan and related Service Plans will provide further details with respect to priority areas the approved growth hours will be directed toward, including those areas that will be addressed through Alternative Service Delivery models.
Specific to the implementation of London’s Rapid Transit Corridors, a separate business case with respect to the capital requirements and updated operational costs for the corridors will be provided for Municipal Council deliberation as part of the multi-year budget process. The estimated 184,000 hours of service set out in the table above represent the incremental hours required to increase frequencies on the existing transit routes that will feed the rapid transit corridors.
With respect to Specialized Transit Services, in response to stakeholder requests for increased service levels, the Commission’s Growth Business Case includes the request for a total of 58,000 service hours to be added incrementally with 20,000 hours added in each of 2024 and 2025, followed by 10,000 hours in 2026 and 8,000 hours in 2027.
Service improvements for both Conventional and Specialized Services will be confirmed subsequent to the budget approval process, and will be incorporated into the Commission’s 2024-2027 Business Plan and related Service Plans.
Mobility and Transportation – item 1.4c – Support transit rider survey initiatives to improve rider satisfaction
The annual Voice of the Customer survey, while put on hold during the pandemic, is scheduled to resume in 2023 and has been included in the status quo budget for future years. As set out in the Commission’s Staff Report #3, dated September 27, 2023, the 2023 surveys are scheduled to take place in late October/early November, with results available in early 2024. Results of the surveys will be included as input in the Commission’s 2024-2027 Business Plan, Service Plans, and Accessibility Plan Updates, all of which will be finalized in early 2024 subsequent to finalization of the Commission’s 2024-2027 Operating and Capital budget programs.
In addition to the items specifically referenced in Council’s Strategic Plan, the following provides an update on a number of other strategic areas of focus included on the Commission’s work program.
Implementation of Outstanding Service Improvements
No service growth budget was allocated to 2023 given the deferral in implementing the 2021 and 2022 service plans as the result of the pandemic and related resource shortages. The plan for 2023 was to implement the deferred service improvements as resources became available throughout the year, versus waiting until September to implement all changes at once. The following provides an overview of the service improvements implemented to date in 2023 on the conventional transit service:
- In April 2023, approximately 12,000 of the 36,000 hours of outstanding service were implemented. These changes focused on improving frequency during periods where routes were operating at 60-minute headways and reducing this to 30-minutes. These changes were well received by both passengers and Operators.
- Additional service changes were implemented in June 2023 which focused on adding additional round trip time on Route 2 in order to improve schedule adherence and reliability of the route and frequency improvements on Route 20. In addition, Route 38 was introduced in June to provide service to the Innovation Park Industrial area.
- In September, changes were implemented to increase running time on Route 16, and increase frequencies on Routes 25, 102 and 106. Saturday service was introduced on Route 24, and a new branch to Route 36 was introduced providing service operating north of Oxford along Clarke Road, Huron and Robin’s Hill Road.
- The remainder of the service improvements will be implemented in early 2024 as resources are available.
With respect to the Specialized Service, administration has worked with the contractor throughout 2023 to identify solutions to their resource and supply chain issues impacting their ability to increase service levels. Approval of an alternative vehicle for use in the delivery of the specialized service will see 10 additional vehicles added to service by November 2023. The table below sets out a high level overview of the progression to date as well as the planned full service levels by the fall of 2023.
|Average Weekday Service Hours||395||450||570|
|Average Weekday Rides||830||945||1,200|
2024 Service Plans
The draft 2024 Service Plan will be tabled at the Commission’s October 25, 2023 meeting, noting the plan cannot be finalized until such time as the growth budget allocation has been confirmed. The Draft Plan is tabled to allow for appropriate stakeholder consultation through the fall in advance of finalizing the planned improvements.
Responding to Construction-Related Service Impacts
Through the majority of 2023, 19 Conventional Service routes have been impacted by ongoing construction projects resulting in extended and often inconvenient detours for transit riders. A number of the detours during the 2023 construction season have been significant with routes detoured further away from the regular routing than would traditionally be expected due to multiple construction projects occurring in the same area at the same time. A special construction connector for Route 20 was implemented to allow service to be provided to the Mornington area during the Quebec and East London Link Phase II projects were underway.
While many of the detours have been long term in nature, there have also been a significant number of road closures (for construction, parades, utility work, etc.) that London Transit has not been made aware of with sufficient advance notice. This has resulted in creating last minute detours with little to no advance notice for customers. Responding to detours (both planned and last minute) has required approximately 75% of the planning department’s resources, which in turn has placed pressure on the 2024 service planning process.
Given ongoing resource challenges, the ability to add additional buses or additional time to affected routes to mitigate schedule adherence issues has not been possible. This has resulted in significant reliability issues system wide, throughout the majority of 2023.
Upgrade of Scheduling, Automatic Vehicle Location and Interactive Voice Response Software – Conventional Transit Services
The software utilized for scheduling, automatic vehicle location and interactive voice response for the Conventional Transit Service will be updated in 2024. In addition to increased system stability, this upgrade will provide enhanced features allowing for better communication of detours as well as more accurate vehicle location positioning and more precise real time bus arrival information. This project will require significant staff resources in order to ensure a smooth transition that does not negatively impact service delivery.
Implementation of Smart Card Infrastructure on Specialized Service
The initiative to implement portable smart card readers on the Specialized Service was carried forward from 2022 as the result of supply chain issues relating to the hardware required for implementation. A purchase order has been issued to the vendor and work is currently underway on this project. The vendor is aware this is a priority item and has indicated Q1 2024 as the timeframe for project completion.
Assessment of Specialized Service Booking System and Booking Window
The software currently utilized for the Specialized Service booking/scheduling was installed in 2016. During the pandemic, ownership changed twice, with the end result being a product that continues to be maintained; however, the turnaround time on service calls is unacceptable, resulting in administration having to implement workarounds to problems identified with the software. Additionally, a number of outstanding enhancements expected to be implemented (including live vehicle tracking) are no longer moving forward.
Given the status of the current system, administration has determined that a replacement system is necessary and is assessing various options moving forward. The specifications for any new system will include on-line booking/cancellation, live vehicle tracking, upcoming trip notifications, as well as the standard features included in software of this nature. Administration is currently undertaking a review of the software in use at other transit systems in an effort to identify options that may be suitable going forward. Administration is targeting to have a replacement software in place in 2024. Until such time as the booking/scheduling system is replaced, the current three day booking window will remain in place.
Highbury Facility Rebuild
London Transit administration has continued to work closely with civic administration on the funding request for the Highbury Facility Rebuild Project. The project has been submitted to the Federal Government by the Province of Ontario; however, no confirmation of funding has been received.
Subsequent to funding approval, the next steps in the process will be to undertake the detailed design of the replacement facility followed by a request for proposal and contract award for the work.
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager