Staff Report #6 – 2023 Specialized Transit Service Performance Report

Staff Report #6

February 28, 2024

To All Commissioners

Re: 2023 Specialized Transit Service Performance Report


That the report be NOTED and FILED.


The 2019-2022 Business Plan, London Transit’s vision is: “The valued and trusted mobility choice for Londoners”. The vision is supported by the mission statement, “Moving Londoners – progressively, reliably and affordably”. The vision and mission statements give direction to five congruent and competing strategic outcomes, namely:

  • An integrated, affordable and valued mobility choice
  • An engaged, diverse and respectful workplace
  • Demonstrated fiscal accountability
  • Being open, transparent and understood
  • Effective utilization of infrastructure

Service performance is measured in terms of fiscal accountability (efficiency), service (effectiveness and quality), and communication (accuracy and quality of information provided).

The ability to ramp up service levels to meet the increasing demand in 2023 was hampered by ongoing supply chain and labour market issues. This imbalance resulted in negative experiences for customers of the specialized service when attempting to book the trips they required.

The specialized service is operated under a contract which covers the provision of vehicles and drivers; trip booking, scheduling, and customer service is handled by London Transit employees. Similar to the issues faced on the conventional service, the service contractor experienced both supply chain and labour market impacts. In August of 2023, the Commission approved an alternative vehicle for use under the current contract in an effort to get more vehicles in service. Ten new vehicles were ordered in August and all were placed in service by the end of December 2023, bringing service levels in line with the annual hours approved in the budget. While these new vehicles have provided the ability to increase service levels, there have been a number of customer complaints with respect to the manner in which boarding and alighting occurs, primarily with respect to the perceived incline of the ramp. Administration is working to undertake a more comprehensive assessment of the issues that have been raised; however in the interim, customers utilizing mobility devices are not being provided trips on these vehicles. This approach has somewhat limited the effectiveness of these vehicles in addressing trip demand.

The following chart provides an overview of the ridership levels experienced throughout the pandemic period. As depicted in the chart, subsequent to the pandemic wave in early 2022, ridership levels have continued to rise as service levels have increased.

Specialized Transit Ridership as a Percentage of Pre-Pandemic (2019) Levels

Specialized Transit - January 2020 - 96%, February 2020 - 99%, March 2020 - 17%, April 2020 - 11%, May 2020 - 16%, June 2020 - 23%, July 2020 - 30%, August 2020 - 34%, September 2020 - 37%, October 2020 - 37%, November 2020 - 41%, December 2020 - 35%. January 2021 - 29%, February 2021 - 35%, March 2021 - 43%, April 2021 - 37%, May 2021 - 35%, June 2021 - 38%, July 2021 - 37%, August 2021 - 45%, September 2021 - 52%, October 2021 - 50%, November 2021 - 56%, December 2021 - 48%. January 2022 - 41%, February 2022 - 53%, March 2022 - 58%, April 2022 - 58%, May 2022 - 61%, June 2022 - 62%, July 2022 - 63%, August 2022 - 63%, September 2022 - 59%, October 2022 - 60%, November 2022 - 60%, December 2022 - 60%. January 2023 - 63%, February 2023 - 64%, March 2023 - 66%, April 2023 - 64%, May 2023 - 75%, June 2023 - 83%, July 2023 - 73%, August 2023 - 72%, September 2023 - 73%, October 2023 - 74%, November 2023 - 80%, December 2023 - 82%.

Specialized Transit Service – Efficiency

The following table provides a summary of ridership and revenue service hours actual to budget performance for 2023 (unaudited). Actual ridership and service provided, as well as the related measures varied significantly from budget.

2023 Ridership and Service Hours – Actual versus Budget (unaudited)

Description Actual Budget Amount Better (Worse) Percent Better (Worse)
Revenue service hours (000’s) 131.7 163.3 (31.6) (19.4)%
Ridership ( 000’s) 249.8 299.2 (49.4) (16.5)%
Rides per revenue service hour 1.9 1.8 0.1 3.5 %

As indicated in the table, the service level adjustments that were included in the 2023 budget were not able to be implemented as planned, and as such, service hours and related ridership levels were lower than anticipated.

The following table provides comparisons in the various ridership and service hour measures over the past four years.

Ridership and Service Hour Comparisons – 2019 through 2023

Description 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 % Change Over Period
Revenue service hours (000’s) 147.1 129.9 122.2 119.1 131.7 (10.5)%
Ridership (000’s) 333.4 157.1 168.6 222.9 249.8 (25.1)%
Rides per revenue service hour 2.3 1.2 1.4 1.9 1.9 (17.5)%
Registrants 10,691 11,026 10,859 11,996 13,029 21.9 %

The table above indicates significant progress in increasing service hours over those provided through the pandemic period, albeit budgeted levels were not attained due to resource issues. With the full complement of vehicles for 2023 approved service levels on the road, 2024 results will show significant increases in service hours and ridership.

Customer Satisfaction

In an effort to gather first-hand feedback from specialized transit riders, the Voice of the Customer survey process was introduced on the specialized service in 2018. This process involves contacting specialized service riders directly for a telephone interview, providing the opportunity to reach customers who may not be inclined to contact customer service with a complaint or compliment. It is a known fact that a customer is more likely to contact an organization when they have had a poor experience versus a good one, and the traditional reliance on customer contacts only to assess overall customer satisfaction was deemed to be unreliable. The Voice of the Customer allows customers to rate each area of service on their perception of how it meets their needs. While the Voice of the Customer survey process was placed on hold during the pandemic period, it resumed in 2023. Through the remainder of this report, comparisons and contrasts will be drawn between the Voice of the Customer results from 2023 and the previous survey (2018) results where applicable. In addition, areas of focus going forward have been denoted in the tables, with the red indicating high priority, orange indicating medium priority, and green indicating no attention required.

The top service characteristics listed in order of importance to the customer from the 2023 survey are set out below with accompanying levels of customer satisfaction with each.

2023 Voice of the Customer Service Priorities

Service Characteristic Importance Ranking Satisfaction Level Areas of Focus
Trip Availability 19% 64% Red
Promptly Answered Booking Lines 16% 71% Orange
Service Coverage 13% 97% Green
On-time Performance 12% 91% Green
Fare Price 11% 95% Green
Booking Ease 8% 57% Red
Helpful Drivers 6% 94% Green

The areas of focus highlighted in the table include trip availability, ease of booking and promptly answered booking lines. These have been selected given the low levels of satisfaction with each.

In addition to the Voice of the Customer surveys, customer satisfaction levels with service performance are measured through tracking both the number and nature of customer contacts received via email, social media and phone. When considering these numbers, it is important to recognize that not all contacts are investigated and as such, cannot all be confirmed as accurate. Contacts that are serious in nature or those in which the customer requests a response are all investigated.

The table below sets out a breakdown of the number of service complaints over the four year period by category, as well as a percentage change in each category over the period.

Total Service Performance Complaints by Category 2019-2023

Complaints – Service 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 % Change Areas of Focus
Accessibility 6 5 10 19 14 133 % Orange
Early Schedule 6 5 0 6 3 (50)% Green
Late Schedule 10 3 6 29 24 140 % Orange
Missed Passenger 12 7 0 4 2 (83)% Green
No Show 57 18 13 16 32 (44)% Green
Routing 3 1 1 5 6 100 % Green
Service received 98 54 51 101 91 (7)% Red
Trip Availability 22 5 3 61 36 64 % Red
Warning Letter Response 1 2 0 1 1 –% Green
Total 215 100 84 242 209 (3)%
 Per 1,000 riders 0.65 0.64 0.49 1.04 0.85 31 %

Consistent with the reporting above, the total number of service performance complaints by category are set out in the table above for transparency purposes. While direct number comparisons to previous years is problematic given the significant fluctuations in service levels through the pandemic period, the total complaints per 1,000 riders provides a better comparison. As the table indicates, the total complaints per 1,000 riders declined slightly in 2020 and 2021, but rose above pre-pandemic levels in 2022 and then dropped slightly in 2023. During 2020 and 2021, an organizational decision was made to carry a maximum of two customers per vehicle given the ongoing pandemic, which resulted in a direct trip for most customers, eliminating or greatly reducing the chances of a poor rider experience. 2022 and 2023 saw the return of riders to the service at a rate higher than what was able to be accommodated given the inability of the contractor to increase service levels as quickly as required to respond to demand. This is supported by the more recent increase in complaints regarding trip availability.

The top category of complaints over the period has remained “service received”, which includes issues such as length of trip, drop off locations, pick-up locations, as well as other complaints that may encompass more than one of the categories listed in the table above. A significant number of the complaints in this category in 2023 were directly tied to the nature and extent of construction projects and related road closures and detours in place throughout the city. Preferred pick-up and drop off locations in many cases needed to be altered, and the length of trips was extended noting traffic in general was slower throughout the city.

The increase in late schedule complaints over previous years is directly tied to the availability of drivers through much of 2023. When a driver calls in sick on the day of work and no substitute is available, trip assigners make every effort to adjust the manifests of the remaining drivers to accommodate every trip that had been booked for the day. Depending on the number of trips required to be moved, this will have a negative impact on the on-time reliability of the service as accommodating the trip takes priority over ensuring the most efficient schedule. Unfortunately, driver shortages of this nature occurred regularly throughout 2023, and while administration did everything possible to accommodate all of the trips booked with fewer vehicles, it did result negatively on on-time performance and length of time on the vehicle.

The category of accessibility, although not a high number of complaints has been flagged as an area of focus as the complaints in 2023 were specifically related to the new vehicles placed into service in 2023. As has been discussed in previous report, further assessment is being undertaken with respect to complaints that have been received, and going forward, any new vehicles added to the fleet to accommodate growth will revert to the original vehicle specifications in the contract.

As the table below illustrates, the Voice of the Customer survey results are consistent with the categories of complaints in the table above, and support the identified areas of focus.

2018 & 2023 Voice of the Customer Results

  % Agree Area of Focus
Voice of the Customer Statement 2018 2023
· Service is on-time 84% 91% Orange
· Trips are available when I need them 72% 64% Red
· The bus takes me where I need to go 94% 97% Green
· It is easy to book a trip 51% 54% Red
· Bus fares are reasonable 86% 95% Green

Impressions of Driver Performance

Consistent with service related contacts, customer contacts (complaints and compliments) regarding Driver performance are also tracked and trended. Performance results for 2019 through 2023 with respect to Driver complaints are set out in the following table.

Total Operator Complaints by Category 2019-2023

Complaints – Operator Performance 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 % Change Areas of Focus
Driving Unsafe 21 12 22 10 19 (10)% Orange
Attitude/Treatment 89 90 89 74 87 (2)% Red
Total 110 102 111 84 106  (4)%
Per 1,000 riders 0.3 0.6 0.7 0.4 0.4 33 %

Further analysis of the 2023 complaints revealed that the reduction occurred in complaints that were considered pandemic-related (e.g. pandemic related restrictions, policies, etc.) which were the predominant theme in 2020 and 2021 noting the frequent changes in procedures and protocols during that period resulted in a heightened level of anxiety for both Operators and customers, which in numerous cases, led to verbal exchanges that were reported to customer service and classified in the attitude/treatment category. In the case of complaints alleging a significant Driver performance issue, all information is forwarded to the contractor for investigation and follow-up. All contacts received relating to the specialized service are followed up on by administration.

The Voice of the Customer survey results relating to Driver performance are set out in the table below.

2018 & 2023 Voice of the Customer Results

  % Agree Area of Focus
Voice of the Customer Statement 2018 2023
· Drivers are helpful 93% 94% Green
· Drivers operate the vehicle safely 94% 92% Green

As the table indicates, while there were complaints with respect to Driver performance in 2023, there is an overall very high level of satisfaction with Driver performance on the specialized service. Consistent with earlier commentary in this report, the high levels of satisfaction with Driver performance are not reflected in the limited number of compliments received and set out in the table below.

Total Operator Compliments by Category 2019-2023

Compliments – Operator Performance 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 % Change
Driving 0 0 0 1 2 200%
Attitude/Treatment 29 7 20 28 39 35%
Total 29 7 20 29 41 79%
Per 1,000 riders 0.08 0.04 0.11 0.12 0.17 125%

As the chart above indicates, Operator compliments received for the specialized service are limited, which underscores the value of the Voice of the Customer surveys as an alternative way to gather customer perspectives with respect to the service being provided. The total compliments in 2023 rebounded to typical levels.

Going Forward

This report will be shared with the Accessible Public Transit Service Advisory Committee as input into discussions relating to identifying areas of focus for 2023, it being noted that the highest priority areas of focus identified through customer contacts and the Voice of the Customer survey will be addressed through the planned service level increases and replacement of the specialized service scheduling system. The details of this report will also be utilized in the preparation of the 2024-2027 Business Plan.

Recommended by:

Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations

Concurred in by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager