LTC scraps plans for 2020 improvements to keep service running, for now
LONDON, ONT. -- The head of London transit says the number of people on city buses has rebounded - slightly - as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.
At a Wednesday evening commission meeting, Kelly Paleczny, confirmed ridership has increased to 33 per cent of normal volumes, an uptick from lows of 20 per cent in the immediate weeks following the pandemic.
"Transitional riders are using [the service] at a reasonable level."
However, there is a caveat, the volume comparison is now based on spring ridership as opposed to winter, when student ridership is at its peak.
Either way, a boost in ridership does not help London Transit Commission (LTC) coffers.
To protect drivers and riders from COVID-19, all passengers are entering from the rear door, with no fares collected.
And that is quickly hurting the bottom line, to the tune of tens-of-thousands of dollars a day.
A report presented to commissioners shows, by the end of May, confirmed and estimated projections - combined - predict a shortfall of between $4 and $6 million.
That’s a huge figure to manage a while trying to operate the service, especially with no idea when the pandemic will end, or a clear idea of budget shortfalls.
It's “extraordinary times we are in,” stated Deputy Mayor Jesse Helmer, who sits on the commission.
Several 2020 plans were deferred Wednesday until at least 2021.
Among them conventional and specialized transit roadmaps, which were to include several service enhancements. Planned new bus purchases are also being looked at.
There was no public talk of significant service reductions, although alterations to more routes were noted, including a change to allow front-line workers to catch the last bus at a city hospital.
In moving the planned changes, several commissioners stated the LTC will soon need government help as it attempts to keep operating.
Paleczny says if no help comes by mid-June, tough decisions will have to be looked at.
“It’s been very, very difficult”, transit chair Phil Squire concluded.