The London Transit Commission (LTC) expects it to take as long as October before driver barriers are completely installed in its fleet and a rear door boarding policy has been extended until at least the end of July.
A decision to order barriers was approved by the LTC back in late April, but at a meeting Wednesday night, general manager Kelly Paleczny outlined that barriers are expected to begin arriving in batches of 35 starting the week of July 10.
At that rate, it’s anticipated that the entire order of 170 would be delivered by the week of August 15.
Speaking on The Morning Show on Global News Radio 980 CFPL Thursday morning, Paleczny clarified that these barriers are meant to be a permanent fixture. While the novel coronavirus pandemic has brought an added urgency to the need for barriers, the decision has been years in the making.
“The barriers that we’re putting in place are not the plastic barriers that some systems have gone to, which is a temporary solution.”
Paleczny continued, “we’re actually installing a full metal and glass barrier that’s very similar to what it would be like if you put a car door around the operator’s seat.”
According to Paleczny, the “best-case scenario” is to have 154 buses retrofitted by the end of August and then to have the barriers installed on 16 replacement buses as they arrive in October or November for a total of 170 buses. While the entire fleet of LTC buses numbers 220, 50 buses are from a different series and measurements still need to be taken for barriers on those buses.
“That measurement hasn’t been able to take place due to COVID and travel restrictions,” she said at Wednesday’s meeting.
“Again, we’re working with the vendor. We’re on the top of the list for that measurement to happen as soon as travel restrictions are lifted and that’s able to happen.”
With the implementation of barriers still a long way off, a rear-door boarding policy — which has resulted in the LTC no longer taking fares — has been extended until July 31.
“Administration is continuing to look for other options, whether it be additional PPE (personal protective equipment) for operators or other things we can do in the interim to get back to front door boarding while we’re still retrofitting the buses with those barriers,” Paleczny told Global News.
“Unfortunately, right now we don’t have that other solution but we’re continuing to work with the province, public health, and other transit systems in an effort to identify some steps that we could take that would get us back to front door boarding prior to the fleet being retrofitted.”
The rear-door policy is resulting in millions in lost fares for the LTC, but Paleczny stresses that “it’s not so much a question of ‘how long can we go?’” but “how long do you want transit to run?”
“Stopping transit at this time when we’re trying to reopen the economy and get things going again makes little sense, but [it’s] recognizing that there will be a cost to continue to move forward.”
The LTC estimates the “accumulated net budget shortfall through to the end of July at $8.8-million,” however Paleczny says about $6.5-million of that hole can be filled through reserve funding and the redirection of assessment growth funding.
The LTC has also announced that starting June 29, Routes 90 and 91 will return to service Mondays through Saturdays. Route 90 will operate on a Saturday schedule on weekdays and on a Sunday schedule on Saturday while Route 91 will operate on a regular weekday and regular Saturday schedule.
As well, the commissions says additional buses are being deployed “where resources are available” to “assist with routes that are seeing higher ridership numbers as London continues to reopen.”
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