Staff Report #6 – COVID-19 Service and Ridership Impacts

Staff Report #6

August 26, 2020

To All Commissioners

Re: COVID-19 Service and Ridership Impacts


The report be NOTED and FILED.


The pandemic declaration in March of 2020 and associated lockdown measures that followed resulted in a significant decline in transit ridership across the country. In response to the decline in demand and decreased availability of employee resources relating to COVID-19, transit systems reduced service levels to better match ridership being experienced.

Specifically to London Transit, over the period a number of service level changes and reductions have taken place on both the conventional and specialized services. Currently the conventional service is operating on a modified Saturday level which is approximately 30% less service than what would normally be in place at this time of year, operating as follows:

  • Saturday level of service on weekdays with the exception of Routes 28, 30, 36 and 37 which continue to operate at weekday level service in order to serve the industrial areas of the city
  • Sunday level of service on Saturdays
  • Christmas Day level of service on Sundays and statutory holidays
  • Noting that Express Routes 92 and 94, short-turn supplementary Routes (102, 104 and 106) and community bus routes are not currently operating

The chart below provides an overview of the ridership levels on the conventional service since mid-March as a percentage of what would normally be expected at this time noting the numbers are based on actual boardings as counted by the automatic passenger counters on buses.

Conventional Transit Ridership as a Percent of Normal

Ridership March April May June July August
to date
Weekday 25% 22% 35% 45% 53% 54%
Saturday 36% 33% 46% 62% 68% 69%
Sunday 35% 30% 54% 70% 76% 71%

As indicated in the table above, the rate of growth in ridership experienced to date in August has slowed as compared to the previous months. The move to fare collection is also expected to result in a decline in ridership, the extent of which is not known at time of report writing, however other transit systems in Ontario that have resumed fare collection have noted approximate 10% declines in riders upon return to fare collection.

On the specialized service, ridership has also begun to rise with the opening of the economy; however, not to the same extent that has occurred on the conventional service. The table below provides the ridership on the specialized service since mid-March shown as a percentage of what would normally be expected during this time period.

Specialized Transit Ridership as a Percent of Normal

Ridership March April May June July August
to date
Weekday 17% 11% 16% 23% 30% 34%
Saturday 20% 20% 24% 33% 45% 48%
Sunday 7% 3% 8% 16% 24% 31%

Fall Service Changes

At the July 29, 2020 meeting, the Commission approved service level increases on both the conventional and specialized services.

With respect to the conventional transit service, the changes to an approximate 90% of service levels that were in place in September 2019 will take effect on September 6, 2020. An overview of the changes and rationale for same is set out below.

A full assessment of all routes was completed to determine which routes should return to regular weekday levels of service. Factors such as current ridership, anticipated ridership increase in September and resource availability were all assessed as part of the review process.

Based on the above criteria it was determined that all routes serving Western University and Fanshawe College would resume regular weekday service. In addition to providing additional service that is anticipated to be required for the post-secondary institutions, the majority of these routes are mainline routes that have been experiencing crowding conditions over the past several months which have been addressed by tripper buses as best as possible. It is anticipated that ridership on these routes will continue to grow and the additional capacity provided with returning to regular weekday levels of service will be required. The following table sets out the level of service that will be implemented effective September 6, 2020 on each route.

Route Service Level Effective Sept 6/20
1 Modified Saturday service
2 Regular Fall Service
3 Modified Saturday service
4 Regular Fall Service
5 Modified Saturday service
6 Regular Fall Service
7 Modified Saturday service
9 Regular Fall Service
10 Regular Fall Service
12 Modified Saturday service
13 Regular Fall Service
15 Modified Saturday service
16 Modified Saturday service
17 Regular Fall Service
19 Modified Saturday service
20 Regular Fall Service
24 Modified Saturday service
25 Regular Fall Service
27 Regular Fall Service
28 Regular Fall Service
30 Regular Fall Service- noting late evening trips will not operate
31 Regular Fall Service
33 Regular Fall Service
34 Regular Fall Service
35 Modified Saturday service
36 Regular Fall Service- noting late evening trips will not operate
37 Regular Fall Service
90 Regular Fall Service
91 Regular Fall Service
92 Will not Operate
93 Regular Fall Service
94 Regular Fall Service
102 Regular Fall Service
104 Regular Fall Service
106 Regular Fall Service

Routes that will be maintaining the modified Saturday level of service (similar to what is currently operating) have had lower ridership throughout the pandemic period and are not anticipated to see a significant increase in ridership in the fall.

The Community Bus routes have not been operating since April as a result of reduced levels of service. This service is relied upon by many seniors as a way to access essential services such as grocery stores, pharmacies, banks, etc. With the move to Stage 3 of re-opening it was determined that a re-introduction of the Community Bus service was appropriate; however, the manner in which the service will be provided is under review. Historically, drivers operating this service provided assistance to passengers with boarding/alighting the bus, safely stowing mobility aids, assisting passengers with bags/parcels, etc. Given COVID-19 restrictions and protocols in place in an effort to protect employees and passengers, the level of assistance that will be provided to customers when this service resumes is under review. The actual start date of the Community Bus service will be contingent on the outcome of this review and the ability to provide customers with advance notice of the changes to the services provided.

Industrial routes have been operating on regular weekday service levels throughout the pandemic period in an effort to continue to provide service to the Industrial areas. This level of service will continue in the fall.

All routes will continue to be monitored on a regular basis with regard to ridership demand, adjustments to schedules will be made as required and as resource availability allows.

With respect to the specialized service, service levels will be increased to coincide with increased demand for service. Given the pre-booked nature of this service, demand by day of week and time of day is easily assessed, and as such, service can be added to the days/times most in demand.

Recommended by:

Katie Burns, Director of Planning

Shawn Wilson, Director of Operations

Concurred in by:

Kelly S. Paleczny, General Manager