Thursday, January 31, 2019

OC Transpo refusing to publish performance reports due to LRT construction

Today I went to the OC Transpo website to find information about recent performance of the transit utility, and was surprised to see that they hadn't published an Annual Performance Report since 2014:

At first I wrote it off as an administrative oversight--I assumed that they had simply forgotten to upload the reports for the last few years, so I used Google to try and find the reports in case they were uploaded to the city's website or some other source.

Instead, through an official response to an inquiry from former Rideau-Rockcliffe Ward councillor (and soon-to-be National Capital Commission CEO) Tobi Nussbaum, I discovered that OC Transpo was intentionally withholding the information. Councillor Nussbaum's inquiry, submitted in February 2018, was as follows:
"I was not able to locate OC Transpo Annual Performance Reports after 2014 either in the documents records of the Transit Commission or on the OC Transpo website. Were Annual Performance Reports prepared for 2015, 2016 and 2017? If so, can these reports be posted on the OC Transpo website? If not, could staff please provide updated statistics for all of the figures measured in the 2014 Annual Performance Reports through to 2017."
In response, in June 2018, officials from OC Transpo said this (emphasis added):
"Annual performance reports have not been published for 2015, 2016, or 2017, as operations have not been comparable to the previous years because of the effects of construction of O-Train Line 1, the Confederation Line. Staff continue to monitor and track key performance measures to identify system changes and proactively make improvements where required, and where resources are available.
"Staff will be developing a new performance reporting dashboard following the transformation of OC Transpo into a multimodal system with the opening of O-Train Line 1, the Confederation Line, which will be based on current best practices in the transit industry."
This, to me, is an unsatisfactory response. Impacts on service levels as a result of LRT construction was to be expected, but that doesn't mean OC Transpo can simply not issue reports to the public. In fact, these reports could have provided valuable context and qualitative explanation to the service impacts that transit users are witnessing every day.

Along with their response, OC Transpo included a table outlining a series of performance data metrics related to customer relations, ridership, operations and maintenance, safety and security, and financial indicators.

There aren't many revelations in the performance data, but a few things stand out:

  • Ridership declined again in 2017 to 95.5M trips, the lowest number since the transit strike cratered ridership in 2009.
  • On-time performance is flagging, likely due to the effects of LRT construction; 13% of morning peak-period regular-service buses are more than 5 minutes late (18% for Connexion), and 29% of afternoon peak-period regular-service buses were more than 5 minutes late (31% for Connexion).
  • No ratings for overall satisfaction were published for 2015, 2016 or 2017--I'm not sure if they didn't ask customers or if they simply didn't want to release the information, but the gap certainly stands out.
  • The rate of mechanical failures per 100,000 vehicle kilometres where service was fully cancelled has gone up pretty significantly, to 11.4 in 2017 from 7.3 in 2014. I haven't seen coverage of this, so I'm unsure whether it's simply bad luck or if there are some red flags leading to these problems.
  • The revenue-cost ratio, or percentage of operating costs paid by transit users, remains at 50%.
The full three-page table, from OC Transpo's official response, is below (click to enlarge):


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