London’s transit agency is preparing for a summer of construction that’ll push buses off routes, and tackling potential threats to its future service. Here’s what you need to know ahead of the London Transit Commission’s monthly meeting on Wednesday:
Delay possible in new bus order
The company providing London’s new buses is warning of a potential wait given a global computer chip shortage. Transit staff say they’re in “regular contact” with New Flyer that was expected to deliver five buses to expand London’s fleet, plus others needed to replace aging vehicles on the way out. It’s not clear how long the delivery may be postponed, but it will threaten plans to roll out more frequent bus service in September if none of the buses arrive on time. Typically the London Transit Commission (LTC) would keep buses ready for retirement in regular rotation while waiting for the new arrivals, but the costs of that approach – given already backed-up supply chains – may not be possible, staff warn.
Transit passes for university and college students in London, which are included in their school fees, are set to rise two per cent next school year, to $266, after a one-year extension. But the negotiation process leaves clues about what may be a rocky future for the transit commission that depends on those student riders to pay a huge chunk of fares each year. There is no option for post-secondary students to “opt out” of the transit pass, but with so many Fanshawe College and Western University courses happening totally online, last year’s contract extension included exemptions for students who weren’t in the city at all. The student pass contract was set to be renegotiated in August 2021, before a one-year extension in light of the pandemic. Student councils, however, pushed for a freeze this year, despite a five per cent increase dictated by the inflationary terms in the contract. “Students feel they are not receiving value for their investment in the annual pass,” transit staff said in their report to the commission. A compromise was worked out for the next year, including a two per cent hike.
Weekend ridership spike
Though transit ridership continues to hover around 60 per cent of what’s normal – the highest level since the COVID-19 pandemic hit – more passengers seem to be hopping on the bus during the weekends. Ridership was between 70 and 80 per cent of typical levels on weekends in March and April, a bump LTC staff attributed to the removal of provincial pandemic restrictions on March 1 and the return of more pre-COVID events and activities.
New shelters coming
Thirty new bus shelters will be installed across the city this year, the second-half of a program funded by senior governments and delayed by the pandemic. The total price tag, including material and installation, is $218,000.
Building new rapid transit routes in London will kick some buses off course this spring and summer, especially in the downtown where construction has begun on portions of Ridout and King streets. Others projects beginning this year, such as the overhaul and replacement of Victoria Bridge, will lead to long detours. Routes 4, 15 and 104 will take Richmond Street, Carfrae Crescent and Grand Avenue while the Ridout Street bridge is under construction. It’s expected to be finished in May 2023.