Staff Report #5
August 26, 2020
To All Commissioners
Re: COVID-19 Pandemic Response Update
That the report be NOTED and FILED.
As set out in Staff Report #1 – Pandemic Response Plan, dated May 27, 2020, in light of the pandemic declaration in March of 2020, followed by an extended period of responding to issues as they arose, a Pandemic Response Plan was developed in an effort to navigate the organization through not only the pandemic period, but also the period following. The Plan will be an iterative document, intended to guide the organization through the crisis and back to the place it was prior to the pandemic. The Plan breaks down the path to recovery into three primary phases:
- Resolve – assess issues as they arise in an effort to maintain services;
- Resiliency – reassess decisions made in the Resolve phase and implement practices and policies that will ensure resiliency going forward as the pandemic situation continues to evolve; and
- Rebuild – establish a transit system that has responded to the challenges created by the pandemic and its lasting effects including shifts in ridership patterns, levels and expectations; public health expectations relating to the safety of employees and riders; availability of funding from all levels of government; and community priorities
Currently, the organization is considered to be in the Resiliency phase of the Plan, reviewing past decisions and practices for effectiveness and applicability for implementation should there be a second wave. The remainder of this report provides details with respect to the COVID-19 related actions taken since the last update report provided in July (see Staff Report #1, dated July 29, 2020).
Return to Front-Door Boarding and Fare Collection
On August 19, 2020, conventional transit services saw a return to front door boarding, and both the conventional and specialized services saw a return to fare collection.
As was set out in the July Staff Report, the implementation date was contingent upon equipping the required number of buses with operator barriers prior to the resumption of front-door boarding and fare collection. Based on the service level in place through the remainder of August up to and including September 5, 151 buses were needed to be equipped with barriers in order to ensure delivery of the current level of service. Fleet and Facilities employees worked to ensure that barriers were being installed upon arrival, and made every effort to get buses equipped as quickly as possible.
The planned service level increases, scheduled for September 6, 2020, will require 193 buses to be equipped with barriers in order for the service levels to be met. This number includes buses for scheduled services, trippers as required, and spare buses in order to ensure regular maintenance and MTO inspections can be completed while still operating. The required buses are scheduled to be available for the September 6, 2020 service level increases.
The move to fare collection beginning mid-month resulted in the unavailability of monthly passes for the month of August noting sales of monthly passes ends on the 10th of each month. Given that monthly passes were not available for August, customers were left with the choice of cash, ticket or stored value as methods of payment. In an effort to mitigate the anticipated lineups and crowds at LTC locations, customers have been encouraged to purchase their fare media, including their September passes in advance of their usual purchasing windows.
Communications with respect to the resumption of front-door boarding and fare collection have been ongoing since August 11, 2020 through a press release, website, stop level notices at major bus stops as well as through social media, with emphasis on the following:
- encouraging the use of the Smart Card stored value as a safer, contactless option versus paper tickets for riders requiring a transfer given that the transfer is automatically loaded on the smart card and no passing of a paper transfer will be required;
- encouraging smart card users to revalue online in order to avoid long lineups and crowding at revaluing locations at month end;
- encouraging smart card users that wish to revalue their cards in person not to wait until the last days of the month to purchase their monthly pass in order to avoid long lineups and crowding and provide a list of locations where revaluing is currently being offered; and
- reminders, including on-board signage for riders that passenger flow expectations are to board through the front-door and exit through the rear-door with the exception of those requiring the accessibility features of the bus.
Reminders of the return of fare collection were also included on the IVR phone lines for both general customer service and the specialized service booking line as well as at all high-ridership stop locations
In addition, the publicly accessible areas of the LTC facilities utilized for selling fares and revaluing Smart Cards have been equipped with all necessary signage, hand sanitizer and queuing for physical distancing in preparation for the return of customers. In light of physical distancing requirements, only two windows will be open at the downtown ticket office, which may result in longer wait times. Additionally, limitations on the number of people in the facility at a time will be limited to a maximum of four people, with all others being required to wait in line outside. Similar limitations are in place at the Highbury facility.
Section 22 Class Order – Mandatory Masks on Public Transit and Vehicles for Hire
Per the Section 22 Class Order issued by the Middlesex-London Health Unit (MLHU), masks/face coverings became mandatory on Monday July 20, 2020. In preparation for this requirement, the following initiatives were undertaken prior to the effective date, and remain in place:
- on-board signage indicating that masks are mandatory when riding transit;
- external announcements playing a recorded message reminding people that masks are mandatory on transit;
- signage with respect to requirements of Operators to wear masks while operating transit vehicles;
- LTC social media has been utilized to remind riders of this requirement, this will continue going forward;
- the LTC website has been updated with this information, noting a direct link to the MLHU website is provided for specific details regarding the order and related exemptions; and
- it was confirmed with the MLHU that enforcement of this order rests with the Health Unit, and as such, LTC Operators would notbe refusing riders without a mask, nor would they be asking riders why they are not wearing a mask.
Customer contacts via social media, email and telephone have been received over the past month with respect to the mandatory mask requirement and questions regarding how LTC is enforcing same. In an effort to further clarify, a separate news story specific to this requirement has been created on the corporate website, with social media being utilized to direct people there.
In addition to the questions received regarding the enforcement of the Order, questions arose with respect to the need for LTC Operators to wear a mask/face covering if they were operating a bus that is equipped with a barrier. It has been confirmed with the MLHU that there is no expectation for LTC Operators to wear a mask if they are operating a bus with a barrier in the closed position. This has been communicated to all LTC employees, and has also been incorporated into the news story on the corporate website.
Mike Gregor, Director of Finance
Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations
Joanne Galloway, Director of Human Resources
Craig Morneau, Director of Fleet & Facilities
Katie Burns, Director of Planning
Concurred in by:
Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager