Higher parking rates, bus routes to secondary schools, free public transit: it’s all on the table as London’s transit agency looks at plans to ramp up ridership.
It’s the early stages of a broader effort to improve public transit and boost the number of people taking the bus, but staff and politicians at the London Transit Commission (LTC) say there are promising ideas.
“Some of the stuff is really, really interesting to me,” Coun. Phil Squire, also a transit commissioner, said of the list of more than 50 ridership-growing proposals headed to the commission for its meeting Wednesday night.
But he’s keeping his expectations in check until more practical details – including financial impact – become more clear.
“I would call it a wishlist of changes to transit, because . . . a lot of this may not be doable,” Squire said.
The top 20 efforts – ranked for their ability to answer key priorities in the transit network, such as quality, effectiveness and marketing – are highlighted in a consultant report.
Squire said he sees big potential in partnering with school boards to transport students, pointing to the popularity of the discounted youth bus pass pilot program.
Adding routes for secondary school students – for example, a bus that runs from particular neighbourhoods to the school in the morning and back after class is over – was scored as a proposal with the second-highest potential.
The deciding factor for most of the changes – everything from dedicated transit lanes on key London roads to reinstituting the subsidized seniors bus pass – is likely to be cost.
The draft headed to transit commissioners Wednesday is just the broad strokes, said LTC general manager Kelly Paleczny, noting a more detailed plan – including financial estimates – will be incorporated into the next five-year service plan guiding the city’s transit.
For example, offering free public transit, regardless of age or income bracket, has high potential to woo new riders, but also the highest cost of any growth strategy.
Paleczny said the tools will have to be analyzed for their return on investment.
“To me, the reason why we, the LTC, and then the city as a whole should want to grow ridership is to take the pressure off the transportation network. Continuing to widen roads is not sustainable,” she said.
“We want to increase ridership, but that’s going to come at a cost.”
The potential savings for city hall also are important, Paleczny said, such as fewer road widenings and all the costs that come with those projects.
London’s contentious bus rapid transit project is projected to boost ridership by more than 7 million a year by 2035, but with a new council taking over Dec. 3, there’s some doubt about whether the $500 million rapid transit system will go forward.
The outgoing transit commissioners will discuss the ridership growth report Wednesday, their final meeting before a new council is sworn in and appointments are made to the city’s various boards and commissions.