Although it’s quite common to hear Western students and London residents complaining about the city’s current transit system, London Transit Commission officials recently confirmed these complaints have increased by 70 per cent in the past three years.
According to Larry Ducharme, general manager of the LTC, the most significant service complaints are overcrowded buses, schedule adherence, missed passengers and missed transfers.
“The growth in ridership, particularly over the past three years, has been more significant, outstripping the current capacity and available resources to add capacity,” Ducharme explained.
Harold Usher, ward 12 councillor and chair of the LTC, believes this growth can be directly related to environmental awareness within their riders.
“There are a lot of people becoming conscientious about the environment and they are looking for a reliable alternative to driving their car every day,” Usher said.
“Some people also find they can sit and relax or talk on their phone while they travel, which is something they cannot do while driving their car.”
But for some riders, like fourth-year media, information and technoculture student Taylor Garbett, the LTC is her only option.
“I rely on the LTC every day during the school year to get to all my classes,” she said. “I live along the 2 Dundas route and [last year] I was [late for class] almost every time. I would wait for 30 or 40 minutes, sometimes only for buses to drive right by.”
Usher confirmed that complaints like Garbett’s have been prioritized, but without an increase in funding, there isn’t much they can do to advance the current system.
“Right now, the city subsidizes the LTC by approximately 38 per cent in total, whereas other Ontario municipalities subsidize their transit from anywhere between 44 and 55 per cent,” he explained. “There will hopefully be a gradual increase, but by the time we begin to implement the bus rapid transit system, we are going to need more funding from the municipal, provincial and federal government to accommodate the changes.”
According to Ducharme, the LTC’s biggest focus right now is working towards implementing their Long Term Transit Growth Strategy, while patching their system and addressing the most critical issues in the short term.
Garbett is glad there will be some changes made in the near future, but hopes the LTC will take the students’ needs into consideration as well.
“I understand the LTC is for all of London, but there are thousands of students using the bus system to get to Western,” Garbett said. “They should really be focusing on improving their current system for us by putting more buses on the routes that lead to campus.”