One Small Town Transit’s Experience of Attending the Annual Ontario Transportation Expo: April 2018

Date: June 7, 2018

By Vickie vanRavenswaay, Pelham Transit

With limited professional development funding, every year it is a challenge to determine which professional development opportunities to attend. Being new to the world of providing transit services for the community, in the past I would determine which sessions would be of benefit and attend this annual conference for a half day. This year I felt it was important to attend the full conference; to take in all the sessions, put faces to colleagues I had only spoken to over the past 2 years, and take advantage of the networking opportunities - which were priceless!

I have highlighted some of the sessions that I attended here:

Annie Sovcik, Busing on the Lookout Annie was the Keynote Speaker on Monday morning and brought to light what bus drivers can be doing to assist in the fight against human trafficking. This is something that goes on every day that normally we would not think about. Our bus drivers deal with customers all day and if they feel something is suspicious they are encouraged to report it immediately. “Make the call, save lives!” Annie gave examples on how bus drivers have already made a difference. Training CDs were also available for free.

Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) Earl Glyn-Williams, presented responsibilities of an employer when someone gets hurt on the job, from the time of report of the injury through the entire process. He also spoke about the potential penalties that could apply if processes were not followed, how to reduce liability, new legislation for stress and a specialized team to support claims. What was wonderful about this session was the time spent on the question & answer period. How great it was to not only ask a question and get an answer immediately by an expert from WSIB, but to also hear about situations that we have not had to deal with as yet and find out about the correct ways to handle such situations.

Cannabis Legalization and Alcohol/Drug Zero Tolerance: Impacts for Bus Operators Shelley Brown, of Steinberg Title Hope & Israel LLP, spoke on cannabis legalization and zero tolerance for commercial drivers. This year is bringing in a host of new changes which will impact how transit operators and drivers deal with alcohol and drug related issues. Within the presentation some of the changes to the Employment Standards Act were also presented. I have been to many presentations regarding this topic and, again, the Q & A period was very beneficial with regard to the challenges of dealing with changes in the Employment Standards Act.

Ridership Growth Success Stories Speakers from Kingston, Niagara Falls & Brampton all spoke of their success stories regarding increasing ridership. As we know, ridership numbers factor heavily into formulas for provincial and federal funding, such as the gas tax which is earmarked for public transit. All transit services increased ridership using different methods and each operator shared their strategies. Some examples included: offering free transportation for high school students; implementation of adult monthly passes; U-Pass agreements for University and College students to ride free; and the implementation of policies for downtown parking.

Micro-transit 2.0: Real World Experience This session brought together a panel from the TTC, the Town of Innisfil, Good Travel Software and Pacific Western Transportation. Whether you call it shared-mobility, micro-transit or ride-sourcing, transit agencies are launching innovative partnerships to solve the “first-mile/last-mile” challenge. Each panelist had ways of dealing with transportation in a non-conventional transit way, such as smart shuttle software or using Uber. In Pelham we have a pre-scheduled, dial-a-ride service.

AODA Recommendations: Marketing Culture Change The mandated 5 year review of the AODA Transportation Standard is now complete. This was a very interesting session on how the transit industry, in cooperation with the Province, should move forward on recommendations that speak to marketing campaigns which target “culture change” and common courtesy. Discussion took place on priority/courtesy seating issues and enforcement; support person programs & passes; issues with strollers and mobility aids; policies for service animals vs. pets (including: what is the definition of a service animal, as you are able to order a vest on the internet for any type of animal and call it a service animal), and how do you enforce this.

HR Topics: Changes to Employment Standards Act Very informative session on changes to the Act including minimum wage, pubic holiday pay, vacation, maternity leave, new personal emergency leave, and again, more information on how to handle the legalization of cannabis. Excellent session relative to our daily operations.

Ministry of Transportation (MTO) Update This session’s speakers included: Kevin Dowling, Municipal Transit Policy Office, MTO; Jennifer Bailey, Strategic Investments & Programs Branch, MTO; Adam Meldrum, Provincial Transit Policy, MTO; and Luke Hillan, Inter-Governmental Policy Branch, Ministry of Infrastructure. This session provided an opportunity to hear directly from the MTO Staff who work closest with the Municipal Transit industry. This year’s update included information on: the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund (PTIF) - Phases 1 & 2, the Community Transportation (CT) Grant Program, the Public Transit (PT) Gas Tax Fund, and details of a branch re-organization to create an office for strategic transit investments. After hearing the updates from Ministry staff, there was a question/answer period which was very informative. This also provided an opportunity to meet Ministry staff in person.

Small System Round Table This was an open forum, with a moderator, for peer-to-peer information sharing and problem solving. It was a time for people to bring up any issues that they were experiencing. Items included: stroller issues, empty bus syndrome, employee attendance/employee dedication, pets on the bus – comfort/service, charters (e.g., what are the going rates), and how do to determine the life of a bus. A great interactive session.

Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA): Fact Book Workshop CUTA Staff gave an overview of CUTA and their mandate, information on their upcoming conference, as well as information about the annual data collection system. Wonderful to meet Calvin Chia and put a face to a name.

Ontario Transportation Expo: Trade Show Manufacturers, suppliers, consultants and providers of bus products, vehicles, parts and services were on site. You could explore and learn about all sorts of things.

Well, that pretty much sums up my experience of attending the OTE Conference & Trade Show… Was it worth it? Definitely! A big “shout out” to the Ontario Transportation Expo organizers for ensuring that new transit providers feel welcome and having the insight to provide sessions that relate to all transit providers. My hope is to see additional small transit providers attend this event - See you next year!