Riders boosting LTC's budget
By Mark Brown
In the wake of its highest ridership in five years, the London Transit Commission approved an increase in its operating budget Tuesday.
The increase in the budget is necessary to deal with heightened operating costs from the year 2000 computer problem, higher maintenance costs and costs associated with maintaining service to meet the demands of increased ridership, said Larry Ducharme, LTC general manager.
The $30.1 million operating budget represents an increase of $880,000 over last year's budget, which is expected to be paid through ridership and the city, Ducharme said.
Ducharme said he believes the LTC will be able to raise 59 per cent of the increase on their own while they plan to ask for the city's approval to help cover the additional $363,000.
Although London Mayor Diane Haskett said she was pleased with the LTC's efforts to improve service, she could not understand the LTC's reasons for increasing their budget. "I am baffled in the face of such success why they would have to lean on the city for added funding."
Haskett added she has not had the opportunity to speak with the LTC about its new budget but it will be something that will be discussed at the city's next budget meeting later this month.
Ducharme justified the budget increase by explaining the LTC's costs have risen since they have had to increase service to accomodate new ridership patterns.
The LTC is also currently attempting to deal with delays caused by increased ridership and construction, Ducharme said.
He added it was too early to say if the LTC will have to reassess the cost of the Western bus pass to help fund the increased budget. The bus pass will be assessed at the end of each year, he added.
University Students' Council president Ian Armour is confident the cost of the bus pass will be unaffected since they are locked into a contract which the students have agreed to, through last spring's referendum.
Armour said he views the budget increase as a positive action by the LTC, as it signals to him they are taking steps to provide extended service.
The USC has received mostly positive feedback now that students have had the pass for a while, Armour said. "The good feedback easily out-weighs the bad feedback."