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'Options are running out': LTC deficit balloons as pandemic continues
LONDON, ONT -- The London Transit Commission (LTC) is poised to extend free bus service until the end of July, but that will result in adding millions more to its deficit.
Boarding through the rear door and not paying a bus fare was set to end next week but a new report to the London Transit Commission recommends extending the pandemic related policy until the end of July.
But with no fare revenue coming in the LTC has scaled back service.
Tammy Congdon had to adjust her shift as a hospital worker so she can catch a bus home at night.
“I wouldn't mind free fares being extended, but I'd rather go back to regular routes if that means paying for it.”
A new report to the London Transit Commission predicts a bumpy financial road ahead.
With three reserve accounts drained each hour operating digs the financial hole deeper.
The report warns, "Options are running out and the situation is becoming critical."
“At the end of June we were at a deficit of $700,000, but now you'll see at the end of July we are at a deficit of more than $2-million. That's because of the lack of paid ridership is starting to hit us,” said Phil Squire chair of LTC.
As the economy reopens, ridership is rebounding, but that requires running more buses on the busiest routes to provide space for physical distancing.
A partial solution for the LTC is to resume collecting fares as soon as possible but that requires making it safe for passengers to board through the front door and walk past the driver.
In April the Transit Commission purchased 170 plastic shields for driver compartments and they arrive July 13th for installation.
The remaining buses will require designing and testing prototypereports states that means, "... it is not anticipated the total fleet will be equipped with the approved barriers until October."
Squire warns a long-term financial problem looms on the horizon uncertainty about Western and Fanshawe bus passes.
“Students make up 50 per cent of our ridership. If they don't come back in large numbers in the fall, this is going to be a continuing challenge for transit moving forward,” said Squire.
The Transit Commission will discuss extending rear door boarding and the pandemic's financial impacts at its meeting on Wednesday.