Harassment and ridership struggles as pandemic plagues London Transit
LONDON, ONT. -- Reduced ridership and several mask-related disputes between passengers punctuate troubling times for London Transit.
Two new reports going to the London Transit Commission (LTC) describe ongoing challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic— including confrontations between passengers.
“A lot of people don’t wear masks, and personally I don’t really like it. I usually sit away from them,” explains daily LTC rider Marguerite Giguere.
But other passengers are confronting riders not wearing masks, even though they may have a medical exemption.
“There have been a number of occurrences of passengers getting into arguments on board, in some cases including the use of profanity and verbal harassment,” writes LTC Administration in the report. “In one case police were called when an altercation between passengers turned physical.”
In response, London Transit is installing new posters on buses and ramping up social media messaging about mask requirements. They also remind riders not to admonish others.
“It just doesn’t serve a useful purpose for them to get in an altercation,” says Councillor Phil Squire, Chair of the London Transit Commission.
Meanwhile, ridership continues to lag.
In July and August passenger counts stalled at 50 to 60 per cent of previous years.
To date in September, ridership has slipped to just 40 per cent.
In part, LTC Administration blames the drop on the staggered start dates for Western University and Fanshawe College students.
Squire says it will take a couple more months of data to accurately assess the impact COVID-19 is having on ridership.
“We’re in a really challenging situation, I can’t stress that enough,” he adds. “We suffered a loss this year, we’ll suffer a loss next year, but we don’t know what the future holds for transit ridership.”
The rising numbers of COVID-19 cases may exacerbate the LTC’s ridership problem.
Passenger Rhonda Wallis tells CTV News she’s cutting back on the number of trips she takes each week.
“I just go out for essentials, like grabbing food. I’m not joyriding,” says Wallis.
And Marguerite Giguere says her trips will be limited to commuting to school.
“On my days off I won’t take the bus.”
Two reports about the pandemic’s impacts on local bus service will be discussed by the London Transit Commission on Wednesday.