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London Transit doubles down on claim paratransit service 'satisfactory' in 2022

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Months after city council rejected the London Transit Commission’s (LTC) Annual Report, the controversial self-evaluation of its service performance returns to city hall— unchanged.

“It’s very difficult to plot a good pathway forward if you don’t fundamentally understand the errors of the past,” accessibility advocate Dr. Jeff Preston told CTV News.

Preston has been calling for significant improvements to paratransit service after Londoners with disabilities spent hours on the phone trying to book rides that often weren’t available— missing doctors appointments and feeling isolated.

So in July, city council took the unusual step of rejecting the London Transit 2022 Annual Report because the LTC self-evaluated its performance as an “integrated, affordable, and valued mobility choice” to be satisfactory.

At the time, Coun. Haleigh McAlister told colleagues on the Civic Works Committee, “To see this and not have it identified as a major failing? I would have it [evaluated] as ‘needs improvement.’”

Councillor Sam Trosow told the meeting in July, “The report is substantially deficient, and I want to send it back and have it fixed.”

Service evaluations in the London Transit 2022 Annual Report. (Source: City of London)

The referral back to London Transit included direction to “submit a revised report” to city hall.

But in a written response going to the Civic Works Committee next week, the LTC stands behind its original evaluation.

Chair Cheryl Rooth wrote, “While the Commission recognizes that service levels needed to be increased during this period, the fact that they were not was not the result of a lack of attention to the objective, rather it was the result of numerous factors out of the organization’s control.”

Dr. Preston said the letter reveals a lot about the transit commission.

“To double down and to say we want to argue with you about whether or not it was satisfactory, to me, reveals an organization that is more concerned with their image than what they are actually doing or [the service they’re] delivering,” he said.

During much of 2022, London Transit operated under pandemic restrictions that impacted ridership, staffing, and its supply chains.

Dr. Preston said paratransit riders continue to experience problems in 2023, “I am getting messages every week or so from people who have had some sort of service failure with the LTC, whether it be on conventional or specialized [paratransit] service.”

He’s been assured that London Transit will present a plan to address the challenges experienced with paratransit service at the LTC meeting on October 25.

“We have been told before that changes are coming, and then nothing has happened. So we will wait and see,” he said.

The Civic Works Committee will consider the letter from LTC Chair Sheryl Rooth on Oct. 24.

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