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London Transit funds to cover millions in COVID-19 losses runs out in June
LONDON, ONT. -- A day of reckoning for London Transit is just three weeks away, as its ability to offset millions of dollars in lost bus fare revenue will end in mid-June.
Commission chair Phil Squire says time is running out for either city hall, the province, or federal government to provide a bailout.
“Those are the challenges we face right now, and I don’t think we can wait much longer.” explains Squire. “We can stay open probably until June 30th but then after that it’s certainly going to become difficult.”
LTC has been operating at about 70 per cent of its usual service level to assist essential workers. Passengers are required to board through the rear door and do not pay a fare.
Since the pandemic began, the financial impact is estimated at $3.16 million.
A new report to the transit commission warns that money from tax assessment growth and reserve funds used to cover the monthly shortfalls will run out next month.
It states: ‘There is no option to address the projected funding shortfall going forward should the current operating scenario remain in effect.’
Adding to the fiscal challenge, the province’s decision to reopen stores with street access increased LTC ridership by about ten percent.
So to prevent overcrowding, more buses are operating on the busiest routes.
LTC administration estimates a $703,000 deficit by the end of June.
“We are going to need help with that number,” explains Squire. “Where is the help going to come from? It’s either going to come from the city of London, the province, or the federal government.
LTC general manager Kelly Paleczny will speak to the federal finance committee on behalf of transit system in mid-sized cities on Tuesday.
London North Centre MP Peter Fragiskatos invited Paleczny.
“I am very sympathetic to the idea that the federal government ought to get behind transit, ought to get behind communities challenged by this,” says MP Fragiskatos. “But we have to see the provincial government be there as well,” he says.
The London Transit Commission will discuss the financial pressures caused by COVID-19 during its meeting on Wednesday.