Could city council abolish London Transit Commission, take over bus service?

Could city council abolish London Transit Commission take over bus

Could transit in London be better operated out of city hall rather than an arm’s length commission?

Could transit in London be better operated out of city hall rather than an arm’s length commission? Two politicians are looking to answer that question as they push for a full operational audit.

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Going before city politicians Tuesday is a motion from deputy mayor Shawn Lewis and budget chair Elizabeth Peloza to dig into the performance of London Transit, which is overseen by a seven-person body.

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They argue that despite a significant bump to funding in the latest municipal budget, concerns remain about a lack of new service, including to the city’s industrial areas, and hours of operation. London Transit officials had pushed back amid budget deliberations with a public awareness campaignsaying costs for fuel, maintenance and labor have shot up by double-digit percentages and more funding was needed.

The final budget approved by city council gave London Transit a 2024 budget of $58.3 million, up from $45.8 million one year prior.

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It appears the proposed third-party audit would be more focused on the organization’s structure rather than just its finances. Lewis and Peloza are also asking whether city hall would be better equipped to oversee London Transit, rather than the current system – an independent body overseen by a board of appointees, including some city politicians.

The London Transit set-up is akin to London police – city-funded, but independent of city hall. What the politicians are mulling would be more like the London Fire Department, overseen directly by municipal officials.

Lewis said a similar change was made when city hall took over the Housing Development Corp. He wants a “fresh set of eyes” on how London Transit operates.

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Stephanie Marentette is chair of the London Transit Commission. She said it’s unlikely city hall could take it over, citing its own struggles with rising costs just to maintain services and the unionized contracts of its workers.

London Transit Commission vice-chair Stephanie Marentette speaks during a news conference on June 20, 2023, alongside Mayor Josh Morgan and Ward 2 Coun. Shawn Lewis. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

“I really don’t find it credible to suggest that the city is going to take the (London Transit Commission) in-house,” she said.

The prospect of an audit was raised during city council budget talks and Marentette says she isn’t concerned, calling it “a function of healthy, good governance.”

She added: “We’re just trying to do our job and we’re trying to support one another, so we’re very, very happy to open the books.”

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