The public transit provider for London, Ont., is praising the results of its COVID-19 vaccination policy after the overwhelming majority of employees met the mandate’s deadline.
The results were shared in the agenda for the London Transit Commission’s (LTC) upcoming meeting on Wednesday and show that 96 per cent of London Transit employees are fully vaccinated against the virus.
The policy had given employees until Nov. 12 to provide proof of full vaccination or proof of an approved exemption.
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“We were thrilled with the response that we had from our employees,” said Kelly Paleczny, the general manager for London Transit.
“It’s a great testament to the fact that our employees are obviously concerned about their own safety, but also the safety of our riders.”
One per cent of employees have been deemed non-compliant with the policy and have been placed on unpaid leave.
The remaining three per cent are employees who submitted requests for an exemption. London Transit is currently reviewing those requests and expects to have that work completed by the end of this month.
“It would depend on the specific case, but in all likelihood, if it’s found the exemption does not meet the criteria, they would be placed on unpaid leave,” Paleczny added.
London Transit says its administration team are working with both non-compliant employees and those seeking exemptions in hopes of convincing them to get vaccinated, so that they can return to work.
The organization added that the vaccination policy’s results has not impacted service “beyond what has been common place throughout the pandemic (e.g. one run being cancelled, starting late, finishing early, etc.)”
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Wednesday’s LTC meeting will also discuss a proposed set of service upgrades that would bring more than 27,500 additional hours of service annually to bus routes in the city.
A total of nine routes are slated for upgrades, most of which related to boosting bus frequency during the week. London Transit is also planning to expand Saturday service for Route 24 and Route 93.
A detailed version of the draft plan can be found on London Transit’s website.
The proposed upgrades are tied to a five-year plan that cover service changes between 2020-2024, which the organization uses to determine which upgrades should be prioritized for the upcoming year.
“The type of modifications that we’re proposing will improve the system as a whole versus targeted on routes where we’re not sure what the longer term effects of COVID will be on the ridership on those routes,” Paleczny added.
“We just kind of reprioritize things within that five year window to implement them at a time that makes sense.”
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The impacts of COVID-19 have stayed on board London Transit throughout the entire pandemic.
The organization is contending with a shortage of bus drivers and supply chain issues, the latter of which is expected to be sorted out early next year.
London Transit is also hoping to boost its ridership levels, which have stayed well below pre-pandemic levels throughout most of 2020 and 2021.
While September, October and November have recorded the highest ridership levels throughout the pandemic, they’re still sitting at less than 60 per cent of what’s normally expected for that time of year.
Paleczny added that future ridership levels amid the uncertainty of the pandemic are still hard to predict.
“We don’t anticipate that everybody will return to the workplace, but that doesn’t mean that historical transit riders won’t continue to use transit, they just may use it for different things,” Paleczny said.
“We hope those people will return to transit, we’re just not sure how they’re going to use it.”
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