TRANSIT SERVICES COMMITTEE
OTTAWA-CARLETON REGIONAL TRANSIT COMMISSION
WEDNESDAY 24 NOVEMBER 1999
Chair: A. Loney
Members: M. Bellemare, W. Byrne, L. Davis, C. Doucet D. Holmes, H. Kreling,
CONFIRMATION OF MINUTES
That the Transit Services Committee confirm the Minutes of the Committee meeting of 1 September 1999, as well as the Minutes of the Joint Corporate Services and Economic Development/Transportation/Transit Services Committee meeting of 16 September 1999.
INTRODUCTION OF NEW GENERAL MANAGER
The Committee Chair, A. Loney, welcomed Mr. Gordon Diamond, newly-appointed General Manager of OC Transpo, to his first Committee meeting. Chair Loney conveyed the best wishes of the Committee and he said he looked forward to collaborating with Mr. Diamond in the coming years.
1. TORONTO PROTOCOL
- General Managerís report dated 01 Sep 99
That the Transit Services Committee endorse the Toronto Protocol, as shown in Exhibit 1.
2. SYSTEMWARE INCORPORATED - APC SOFTWARE
- General Managerís report dated 1 Oct 99
That the Transit Services Committee confirm the award of a contract approved under the Commission Chairís Delegated Authority (Transit Services Committee , 19 May 1999) to Systemware Incorporated of Toronto to an upset limit of $197,000 for the re-engineering of the Automated Passenger Counting software system.
- General Managerís report dated 17 Nov 99
That the Transit Services Committee approve funding in the amount of $222,500 in order for OC Transpo to move expeditiously with modifications to the Main Stores area of the garage at 1500 St Laurent Blvd, required as a result of the incident on 6 April 1999. Funds are available in the 1999 Approved Capital Budget.
4. THE RACK AND ROLL PROGRAM
- General Managerís report dated 8 Nov 99
The Committee Chair, A. Loney, pointed out that the program had originally been funded through the Transportation Departmentís Transportation Demand Management Program and funds to expand it should come from that source.
The Committee heard from Mr. John Calvert, Vice-President, Citizens for Safe Cycling, who spoke in favour of expanding the Rack and Roll program, specifically on long haul bus routes and where there is potential to cross boundaries.
Commissioner Doucet asked whether Mr. Calvert could suggest how OC Transpo could encourage reluctant cyclists, especially female cyclists, to use the program. Mr. Calvert suggested there be demonstration projects similar to one recently held on the Ottawa River Parkway.
Another possibility is for OC Transpo to discuss the program with high tech employers and to participate in community events such as Clean Air Day. He pledged that Citizens for Safe Cycling would partner with OC Transpo in these initiatives. Commissioner L. Davis suggested buses equipped with racks be at transitway stations, participate in the annual food drive and do other outreach activities.
That the Transit Services Committee approve the extension of the Rack and Roll program in 2000 to equip the articulated bus fleet, at a cost of $120,000, subject to the availability of funds in the 2000 budget.
5. PARA TRANSPO SERVICE CONTRACT EXTENSION
- General Managerís report dated 8 Nov 99
The General Manager, Gordon Diamond, made reference to the recent celebration of Para Transpoís 25th Anniversary, calling it a successful event. Mr. Diamond thanked the Commission Chair, Al Loney, and Mr. Jeff Alguire, Chair, Accessible Transit Advisory Committee, for their attendance and Oxana Sawka for organizing the celebration.
Mr. Pat Larkin, Manager of Para Transpo service, presented the report. He indicated that the contract with Laidlaw Transit Services Ltd., which ends June 30th, 2000, contains an option for a two year extension. A proposal has been received from Laidlaw for an increase in the cost of the contract of 3.25%in the first year and 3.5% in the second year as a minimum. Laidlaw will be fully responsible for all additional costs including engine and transmission replacement, paint and body work on all Para Transpo vehicles and any increase in kilometers and in the price of fuel. Mr. Larkin expressed the belief it would be in the Commissionís best interest to approve the contract extension.
Replying to a question from Commissioner J. Legendre, P. Larkin said the current contract calls for a Cost of Living (COL) increase effective January 1 of each year, based on the CPI increase in the Ottawa area or on whatever can be negotiated between the two parties. He added that the COL projection for January 1, 2000 is 2.8%. Laidlaw has requested 3.25% in first year and 3.5 in second year as a minimum in order to accommodate the additional costs enumerated earlier. Mr. Larkin agreed with Commissioner Legendre that the proposal before Committee goes beyond the COL increase.
Commissioner Legendre wanted to know what percentage of the operational costs are labour costs. Mr. Jim English, Director, Finance and Administration, replied that labour represent 55 to 60% of the total costs. Commissioner Legendre asked what are the factors that make it unfavourable to bring the operation in-house. Mr. English said a large component of the increase for in-house service would be capital costs, and having to build into those costs depreciation allowances to replace facilities. The Commission Chair, A. Loney, added that switching over to an in-house operation at this stage would generate substantial capital costs at the outset, whereas the proposal for a contract extension represents only a two year time-frame. Chair Loney pointed out the wage rate is one consideration and benefits is another. He drew the Committeeís attention to the data supplied on the comparison sheets for a more comprehensive analysis.
Commissioner L. Davis asked whether increases to driversí salaries was factored into the contract extension increases. Mr. Larkin replied staff have no knowledge of whether or not Laidlaw intends to pass some of the increase on to its employees. Commissioner Davis wanted to know whether, as the contracting authority overseeing the contract, the Commission did not have an obligation to determine this. Chair Loney reminded the Committee that Laidlaw has just signed a new collective agreement with its employees, and this has implications for increased labour costs to the company. Commissioner Davis recalled that, at the time the contract was first allotted, one of the principles had been that there would be no loss of income to anyone transferring from the previous operator, Blue Line. She requested someone comment on allegations that Laidlaw is making use of part-time workers and on the fact that an experienced driver saw his salary reduced by $5,000 when Laidlaw took over the contract.
Mr. Ted Moorhead, General Manager, Para Transpo Division, Laidlaw Transit Limited was present to answer questions of Committee. He indicated that the companyís wage package for drivers is higher than it was with Blue Line. In addition, workers will receive an increase, effective January 1, 2000 on a contract which runs until December 31st, 2000. With regard to the use of part-time workers, Mr. Moorhead said all full-time employees receive between 76 and 84 hours in a two-week period. The company employs approximately 40 part-time workers. Replying to further questions from Commissioner Davis about people transferring from Blue Line to Laidlaw, and the loss of vacation allotments, Mr. Moorhead clarified there had been no transfer of employees, rather new employees were hired. The Commissioner recalled being assured no one would lose any of their financial entitlements with the transfer to Laidlaw. Mr. Larkin clarified the company representatives had said the wage rate would be continued but he could not comment on the other issues raised by the Commissioner.
Commissioner W. Byrne expressed concern about maintaining service levels virtually frozen since 1993, except for two small, incremental changes in the last few years. She was also concerned about the un-accommodated trip requests having risen from 5,000 in 1993 to 40,000 in 1998 and by the fact that none of the initiatives undertaken by OC Transpo have had a significant impact on those numbers. Mr. Larkin responded by saying staff are projecting 35,000 single trip refusals this year compared to 40,000 in the last two years. He noted that, while a number of demand management strategies have been implemented, there are not the resources currently available on a daily basis to provide all the service requested.
Responding to Commissioner Byrneís query about difficulties with the Trapeze system, Mr. Larkin indicated there have been improvements and the productivity level in October was higher than at implementation. He pointed out that cancellations are down to 11%, partly because of the new cancellation policy and also because of lower seniorsí fares and people moving to conventional transit.
Commissioner Byrne asked about low floor buses, inquiring whether the arrival of winter, coupled with the Regionís snow clearing policy, will affect the vehicleís accessibility. Mr. Larkin said there will be up to 160 low floor buses by the end of the year however this number will not be significant enough to make a dent in Para Transpo demand. The hope is that, by the summer months, there will be a sufficient number of vehicles to attract Para Transpo customers. Commissioner Byrne cited demographics related to the rapidly aging population, and she asked how the Commission will meet the increased demand for service from this clientele. Mr. Larkin reiterated that staff are looking at demand management strategies and he opined that the review of Para Transpo eligibility criteria will have a significant impact. Replying to further questions from Commissioner Byrne, Mr. Larkin said the eligibility criteria review is province-wide and is expected to be completed over the next three months. He said it is not expected the review will have a significant impact in the year 2000 and the KPMG report calls for a three year period before there can be full implementation. As to whether current users will be re-tested or "grand-fathered", he said it is likely that a large percentage will be re-tested.
Commissioner D. Holmes asked what percentage decrease of trip refusals did OC Transpo want to achieve. Mr. Larkin replied that a 5% refusal rate across Ontario is the norm: in Ottawa-Carleton the rate is somewhere between 4 and 5% and it is difficult to judge whether it can be reduced to 3%. If those who can access conventional transit were removed from Para Transpo, a much better quality of service could be provided. Replying to a question from Chair Loney, Mr. Larkin said virtually zero percent of requests from persons in wheelchairs and scooters are currently being refused; for ambulatory customers, the vast majority of medical trips are being accommodated, and on many days, 100% of requests are met.
Mr. Jeff Alguire, Chair, Accessible Transit Advisory Committee, began by saying there is a need to maintain and increase service, given the demographics previously cited. He expressed his support for the eligibility criteria review, pledging that ATAC will work in partnership and do its part to best use the resources provided. Mr. Alguire pointed out that the funds to cover the Laidlaw contract extension will come from existing reserves, and he posited this cannot be sustained over a longer period of time. At some point in time, the Commission will need to take a serious look at how it will deal with the aging population, with inflation and with other issues. He reiterated a comment he made at the 25th Anniversary celebration, namely, that a person with a legitimate disability who requires specialized transit should have the same probability of getting that trip as someone without a disability on conventional transit. Mr. Alguire said ATAC will be coming forward with eligibility proposals. He asked that, as an absolute minimum, the Commission maintain the levels of service. In addition, there needs to be a serious look at increasing the service.
Mr. Alex Cullen, Executive Director, the Council on Aging, addressed the Committee. He pointed out that, in 1993, there were 330,000 hours of service provided whereas in 1999 there are 340,000: the 1993 budget was $15 million, whereas in 1999 it is $15.86 million. He said he was pleased to hear there are demand management strategies to counter the large number of un-accommodated trip requests. Mr. Cullen said he has met with P. Larkin and Dr. Helen Gault, and they have recognized there is a large amount of pent-up demand not being met. The Council on Agingís Fact Book on Aging contains data showing there are 80,000 seniors in Ottawa-Carleton (1996 Census figures), an increase of 10,000 over the 1991 Census.
The following statistics were highlighted:
Mr. Cullen said the Council on Aging supports the eligibility review, but hard decisions will have to be made to compensate for the increases in the number of disabled and aged persons Ottawa-Carleton is going to see. By the year 2031, 1 person out of 5 in Ottawa-Carleton will be over 65. Mr. Cullen opined that the eligibility review will not absorb the increase in seniors and disabled persons. He asked that, when considering the year 2000 budget, the Commission begin addressing the six year gap/ He said that, while there are many competing priorities for the public purse, the requirements of the fastest growing population in the community must be considered.
Commissioner H. Kreling spoke in support of extending the contract at this point in time, in light of the massive changes underway in the transit system, and dealing with service levels during the budget deliberations. He spoke about the challenges awaiting Para Transpo in the future, saying the Commission needs to look at whatever options are available to deliver the service. He suggested that, rather than looking at the issue solely from a financial standpoint, every other major consideration be examined in order to present the Commission with a menu of options for providing the service. Commissioner Kreling posited this kind of analysis will be needed well in advance of the contract expiry date. The staff report makes reference to formulating a new contract by mid-2001; at that time, the Commission should have a menu of options as opposed to negotiating a new contract. Chair Loney directed that staff proceed with the analysis starting in January 2001 to ensure there is sufficient time to examine the issue
Moved by H. Kreling
That an in-depth analysis of financial, physical and personnel resources be prepared for consideration by the Transit Services Committee in advance of the June 30, 2002 expiry of the Para Transpo services contract so that the Committee may fully consider the various options available to provide Para Transpo services.
Commissioner Holmes expressed her disappointment at hearing that reserves are being depleted just to maintain the status quo and that there is no capability of adding service when so many people are being refused. She expressed the hope the Commission will move faster on the eligibility criteria review, something that will have to go hand in glove with increasing funding. Commissioner Holmes called it a scandal that there is no federal or provincial funding for transit. She asserted it is time for public discussion on this lack of funding, as well as on the eligibility criteria. She asked who better than those being denied service being enlisted as allies in the lobbying effort.
Moved by D. Holmes
That OC Transpo (Para Transpo) bring back a report on options to deal with the increase in demand and the continued 35,000 trip refusals and that this report be considered as part of the 2000 budget process.
Commissioner Davis posited that the Commission hasnít touched the tip of the iceberg in terms of unanswered demand. She said the criteria whereby Para Transpo customers have to be able to make it to the curb to access service must be examined to ensure persons needing medical attention can get it. Commissioner Davis said she wanted to know whether savings would accrue by having someone else provide the service. She expressed her surprise at the fact there wasnít more lead-up to the discussion, noting the options remaining at this stage are either to go to the market to see if anyone wants to compete or extend the existing contract. She alluded to Councillor Krelingís Motion, requesting that the analysis include an analysis of the skill sets required by regular transit drivers to accommodate the cross-over of Para Transpo customers to conventional transit vehicles. Commissioner Davis felt the analysis should focus on a seamless system and should include Light Rail transit. She made reference to the fact some Para Transpo drivers have had reductions of $5,000 in their earnings, and have lost benefits that were provided by the former service operator, i.e., additional hours, a paid one-half hour lunch, different benefit levels. She asked that this also be part of the analysis.
Commissioner Byrne said she wanted to see the matter of 35,000 trip refusals addressed. She pointed out that, while there are initiatives in place, these are not having the desired effect. Some of the factors that impact include accessibility problems with low floor buses in winter and the fact that the eligibility review may not be completed before the year 2001. Commissioner Byrne said it is not known what percentage of the decrease from 40,000 to 35,000 represents persons who are discouraged and are now shut-in because they canít access public transit. Councillor Byrne indicated this restriction is not placed on able-bodied persons and making public transit available to everyone should be a priority.
Commissioner Legendre asked that the analysis contain a real comparison of the benefits paid to drivers in the Blue Line contract, prior to the factor which kicked-in at the end of that contract, making that company unable to compete. With regard to the eligibility review, Commissioner Legendre pointed out it should not only focus on mobility impairment, but also on persons suffering from blindness, or with Downís Syndrome, or with other impairments. He said he expected the decisions around this topic to be difficult to make, and staff should not try to artificially simplify matters to help the Commissioners. He asked that criteria be suggested to address all mobility issues.
Chair Loney pointed out that, presently in Canada, only the city of Edmonton is relatively close to the level of service Ottawa-Carleton provides. On a per capita basis, the city of Toronto provides half the service delivered here. Staff have provided a report which identifies the source of funding, but they have not said this item couldnít be part of the regular budget and the reserves be used to add service when required. Chair Loney said Commissioners will need to be mindful of these facts during the upcoming budget deliberations. The proposal before Committee is an effort at stability over the next two years to help the Commission deal with changes being forced upon it by the Province. In addition, some time would be required to make a fundamental change to a new provider. As well, by the time the review starts, the new municipal structure will be in place, and the foundation must be in place for the service to continue.
Chair Loney said he was anxious to get on with the review of the eligibility criteria. He expressed the view there is considerable room for tightening up the rules without denying anyone who really needs the service. He posited some will be surprised to see the amount of service used by some compared to others, the usage patterns and data on medically necessary trips as opposed to other kinds of trips. Chair Loney pointed out that trips for recreational activities are also a necessity. The Commission must focus on containing the costs and on ensuring it is getting full usage of the service. Chair Loney said Commissioners must also be aware that the subsidy is likely closer to $22 dollars of taxpayer money for every trip taken on Para Transpo. If that kind of money is being spent, there must be assurances it is for those who really need the service and not for someone who could use other transportation methods.
The Committee then considered the staff recommendation:
That the Transit Services Committee recommend the Commission approve a two-year extension of the current Laidlaw Transit Ltd. contracts for the provision of Para Transpo services for persons with disabilities.
Chair Loney made reference to correspondence from the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) tabled with the Committee. He proposed, and the Committee agreed, that this be incorporated as the second part of Commissioner Byrneís Motion:
Moved by W. Byrne
Commissioner Davis suggested that Commissioners take a more active role than the one described in Commissioner Byrneís Motion and set up appointments with senior ministers to lobby on behalf of public transit. Chair Loney thought this might be an unnecessary complication, as appointments have already been made to see the Finance Committee. The General Manager, G. Diamond, mentioned that CUTA was becoming a more aggressive advocate for public transit and he suggested the Commission choreograph its activities with the association for maximum effect.
Commissioner Davis made note of the fact that CUTA has only started coming to Ottawa to lobby, notwithstanding the fact the association has been in existence for over 20 years. She said her Motion is meant to further enhance CUTAís role by raising the issue in a complementary fashion. Chair Loney mentioned that, as part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalitiesí initiative on infrastructure, he has been party to meetings with Members of Parliament. He said he could agree with the Motion, as long as it doesnít slow down the process.
Moved by L. Davis
That a delegation of Transit Services Committee be established to meet with the federal and provincial Ministers responsible for transit issues.
6. ACCESSIBLE TRANSIT ADVISORY COMMITTEE
- General Managerís report dated 8 Nov 99
That the Transit Services Committee appoint the persons listed herein as members or alternates of the Accessible Transit Advisory Committee for the period 1 November 1999 to 31 October 2001.
7. SENIOR PASS PRICING
- General Mangerís report dated 17 Nov 99
Dr. Helen Gault, Director, Planning and Development, introduced the item. She indicated that, while the number of seniorsí passes sold has gone from 7,000 to 8,000 per month since the introduction of the $19.99 price, it is still costly for OC Transpo to maintain this program. Staff recommend that a price reduction be maintained by setting the seniorsí pass rate at $24 per month starting in January 2000. Dr. Gault pointed out that this amount still represents a loss of revenue compared to the regular price of $28 per month. Staff estimate the price reduction will mean $300,000 less in revenue, an amount equivalent to 6,000 hours of transit service. She added that maintaining the $19.99 price would cost $670,000, an amount equivalent to 8 or 9 peak period buses or 15,000 hours of service. Replying to a question from the Commission Chair, A. Loney, Dr. Gault said that, while increasing the price to $28 means fewer passes will be sold, some customers will move to buying tickets, resulting in less revenue loss.
Commissioner W. Byrne asked whether staff knew how many seniors have moved from Para Transpo to conventional bus service. The Director, Para Transpo service, Mr. Pat Larkin, said that a lot more tickets are being used, and the over-all demand since June has decreased by 2,000 requests per month. He added that the average senior pass user has gone from taking 21 to 18 trips per month, indicating that he/she has found other means of travel.
Commissioner J. Legendre asked whether staff are still recommending a top-up, albeit a lesser top-up, since the price of the pass has increased. Mr. Larkin replied in the affirmative. He explained the process whereby staff evaluate the monthly pattern of clients doing priority medical trips and provide these clients with tickets to ensure the cost does not exceed $28. Staff recommend this practice be continued in 2000 for the half-dozen clients who take advantage of it.
Commissioner Byrne presented a Motion calling for the price of the seniorsí pass to be set at $20, calling it an appropriate way to celebrate the year 2000 for those clients. She pointed out that the reduced price has been very popular among seniors, many of whom live on limited, fixed incomes. Commissioner Byrne expressed the view the $19.99 price has also been effective in helping reduce the demand on Para Transpo services and she asked for the Committeeís support for her Motion.
The Committee heard from Mr. Jeffrey Alguire, Chair, Accessible Transit Advisory Committee (ATAC). He began by saying the Commission has to manage Para Transpo usage with limited resources and he expressed his willingness to discuss significant increases to those resources. Mr. Alguire referred to the need to ensure there are appropriate incentives for clients to move to public, conventional transit, and he posited the arrival of low floor vehicles will assist in this regard. He also encouraged the Committee to maintain the top-up if it is not willing to significantly increasing Para Transpo funding.
Chair Loney pointed out there are persons currently using Para Transpo who could use conventional transit and the entire matter will need to be examined in the new year. He asked that, in the meantime, the top-up be maintained since it has been useful and the process is no more onerous than it was before. Chair Loney said his concern lies in the fact the numbers presented are "guesstimates", projections, and these will need to be reviewed as they relate to seniors.
The General Manager, Gordon Diamond, began by saying that OC Transpo has considerable infrastructure and other needs, and must make efforts to trim its budget. Mr. Diamond said the $19.99 price was a one-time event, and increasing it to $20 will mean having to take nine buses out of peak period service, thereby impacting on the normal ridership. He expressed the view that $24 dollars represents a good compromise.
Commissioner Byrne referred to the KPMG Report having made it clear that OC Transpo was not going to make money for a while and would have to spend money to attract riders. She added that, while it was understood the $19.99 price was a one-time event, seniors hoped it would continue. Commissioner Byrne reiterated many seniors are on very fixed incomes, and even an additional $4 dollars makes a difference to them.
Commissioner Legendre pointed out that, whether the price is $24 or $28, this amount is still a significant reduction from the regular price of $57 for a monthly pass. The Commissioner said he has been waiting for a report on how to make Para Transpo more effective, and for an opportunity to review the criteria regarding who can and canít access the system. He recalled that Para Transpo was meant to serve those people with no real options. Jeff Alguire agreed the criteria must be reviewed, and this will be a priority for the Accessible Transit Advisory Committee over the next few months.
The Committee then considered the following Motion:
Moved by W. Byrne
That recommendation 1 of the staff report be amended to set the senior pass price at $20.00 for the Millennium year, 2000.
NAYS: M. Bellemare, L. Davis, H. Kreling, J. Legendre 4
YEAS: W. Byrne, C. Doucet, A. Loney 3
Moved by H. Kreling
That the Transit Services Committee recommend the Transit Commission approve that;
1. TRANSIT PRIORITY DURING ROADWAY CONSTRUCTION
Commissioner D. Holmes asked that staff prepare a policy to ensure there is priority for transit vehicles during roadway construction/re-construction projects
Commissioner W. Byrne requested that OC Transpo explore establishing a partnership with the Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design Division of the Ottawa-Carleton Regional Police Service and the Womenís Action Centre to assess safety and security at transit stations and other appropriate transit areas, and make recommendations for improvement.
Commissioner L. Davis asked that there be an automatic link-up between OC Transpo and her office on matters relating to the proposed Loblawís development at Kirkwood Avenue and Richmond Road. Chair Loney directed that staff meet with Commissioner Davis on this matter.
2. SAFETY AUDIT AT WESTBORO TRANSIT STATION
Commissioner Davis acknowledged the work done by Mr. Kerry OíLeary, OC Transpo, during a safety audit around the Westboro Transitway Station. She indicated that Mr. OíLeary has demonstrated cultural sensitivity in clearing up traffic problems, with the assistance of the Transportation Department, around the Hintonburg mosque.
Responding to a suggestion from Commissioner Davis about the need for a more visible staff presence at transitway stations, the General Manager, G. Diamond, indicated some measures will be undertaken in the near future.
3. VENDOR NETWORK
Commissioner Legendre pointed out that vendors are required to sell small quantities of bus tickets to customers, and this is a Commission directive, not a recommendation of the Regional Transit Advisory Committee, as noted in the General Managerís memorandum of 8 Nov 99. Commissioner Legendre asked that Mr. Diamond review the established policy with a view to resolving the issue with vendors. He also indicated his willingness to re-debate this issue, if required.
Commissioner Legendre mentioned receiving numerous E-Mail messages about the unreliability of buses arriving at their expected time, especially in the case of early arrivals. He expressed the hope staff would place some emphasis on this, and he posited that the arrival of the Global Positioning System on all OC Transpo vehicles will have a positive impact.
Commissioner Legendre mentioned receiving complaints about noisy, squeaky vehicles, and he asked whether it is true this is systemic with low floor buses. Mr. Diamond responded by saying staff have been looking into this matter, and measures will be undertaken to address the situation. Commissioner Legendre spoke about this being a serious health problem as well as an irritant. He spoke about a documented case of someone living close to a bus stop having gone deaf because of this problem.
6. OC TRANSPO FASHION SHOW
Commissioner Legendre posited that an opportunity was missed by not having a bilingual presentation of the new OC Transpo uniforms earlier in the meeting. The General Manager, G. Diamond, said he agreed with the comment, and this will be done in the future.
The meeting adjourned at 11:45 a.m.