Document 1




A Guide to Preparing A Transit Ridership Growth Plan














Prepared jointly by:


·        Province of Ontario

·        Canadian Urban Transit Association

·        Ontario Community Transportation Association

·        Transport Canada

·        Representatives of Municipal Transit Systems

(Conventional & Specialized)

·        Representatives of Municipal Planning Departments





June, 2005


Table of Contents




        This Guide..……………………………………………………………

Provincial Context and Requirements ……………………………..….

Acknowledgements ………………………………………………..…..



Current Community Conditions ………………………………………..

Key Assumptions ………………………………………………………

Objectives ………………………………………………………………


Conventional Transit

Initiatives ……………………………………………………………… 

Growth Management ……………………………………………… 

Urban Design & Site Planning ……………………………………...

Increasing System Capacity ………………………………………

Improving Service Design and Delivery …………………………..

Pricing and Fare Media ……………………………………………

Marketing and Education ………………………………………….

Evaluation and Performance Measures ………………………………..


Specialized Transit

Context ………………………………………………………….….….

Initiatives ………………………………………………………………

Expanding Capacity ………………………………………………..

Enhancing Customer Service ………………………………………

Evaluation and Performance Measures ………………………………..


Appendix A – Glossary …………………………………….………….……


Appendix B – Resources ……………………………………….….…..…….



This Guide

This document is a guide to assist municipalities in preparing their transit ridership growth plans.  It is a generic “best practice” guide; outlining general strategies to achieve ridership growth and suggesting commonly used initiatives for both conventional and specialized transit that municipalities may wish to consider.


It was developed jointly by the Province of Ontario, the Canadian Urban Transportation Association (CUTA), the Ontario Community Transportation Association (OCTA), the Association of Municipalities of Ontario (AMO), Transport Canada, representatives of municipal transit systems and representatives of municipal planning.


Neither the format nor the initiatives suggested in this guide are mandatory. It is expected that each municipality will employ the initiatives and format that best suits its local circumstances and priorities.


In October 2004, the Province announced its intention to invest two cents a litre of the provincial gas tax in public transit in order to ensure that local public transportation services continue and increase overall ridership through the expansion of public transportation capital infrastructure and levels of service.


The development of a municipal transit ridership growth plan is a requirement for receiving gas tax funding. The plan needs to be developed, approved in principle by council and submitted to the Ministry of Transportation by March 31, 2006.  If the municipality already has a ridership growth plan, there is no need to re-write it. The municipality can submit the existing plan to meet the requirements of the gas tax funding. 


If certain components of the ridership growth strategy are already included in other municipal documents, the links should be referenced and the appropriate sections of those documents attached to the ridership growth plan.


In areas where the transit system serves more than one jurisdiction, the ridership growth plan must be developed in consultation with all municipalities served by the system and must address the needs of each municipality.  The plan needs to be approved in principle by the councils of all involved municipalities.


Municipalities contracting transit services from an adjacent municipality, have the option of participating in a joint plan or preparing their own.

The Province recognizes that increasing transit ridership, is not solely an operations issue. Improved service frequency and accessibility alone will not persuade  the public  to use  public transit. Having in place transit supportive  land-uses adjacent to transit routes is critical to improving ridership.


The Places to Grow Act, 2005 and the new Provincial Policy Statements under the Planning Act provide municipalities with direction for managing growth. This initiative will enable growth and development to be more strategically planned over the long term. .


As part of the overall strategy to build strong communities, the government has been developing and consulting on tools to manage growth. The Guide to Preparing A Transit Ridership Growth Plan is one such resource.


In developing the ridership growth plan, the following should be considered:

·         The plan should outline both capital and operating initiatives for meeting its objectives.

·         The plan should outline initiatives to address both conventional and specialized transit, where such services are provided.

·         The Official Plans of the municipalities within which service is being provided

·         In addition to specific transit initiatives, the municipal plan should consider   the provincial Transit-Support Land Use Guidelines (2004),

·         Coordination among transit operators in adjacent municipalities, inter-regional transit providers and private operators

·         The plan should include performance measures to allow the municipality to assess how it is meeting its ridership growth objectives and targets.

·         The level of detail provided in the plan may be different for each time horizon, ranging from broad strategic directions for the long term to detailed specific initiatives for the short term. 

·         Transit ridership may be affected by external factors, not always within municipal control (e.g. blackout, medical epidemic, economic cycles, etc.).  These factors should be identified and noted when evaluating the success of the plan.

·         Similar to other longer-term municipal strategic initiatives, the ridership growth plan needs to be reviewed and updated consistent with the municipal practice for such plans.



In addition to the development of a ridership growth plan, each municipality receiving gas tax funding is also required to annually report to the province on how it is using the dedicated gas tax funds to build transit ridership.  A template for the required annual report is currently being developed and will be provided to municipalities as part of the 2005 Dedicated Gas Tax Program Guidelines and Requirements.










This guide was developed by a joint working group, consisting of the following members:


Amelia Shaw

- Transport Canada

Barbara Breston

- Ministry Of Transportation

Bιatrice Schmied

- Ontario Community Transportation Association

Ben Chartier

- Oshawa Handi Transit

Bill Dawson

- Toronto Transit Commission

Brian Rosborough

- Association of Municipalities of Ontario

Charles Fitzsimmons

- Ontario Community Transportation Association

Daniela Kiguel

- Ministry Of Municipal Affairs And Housing

David Onodera

- Timmins Transit

Dorothy DeVuono

- Brantford Operation Lift

Eric Hodgins

- Barrie Planning

Fatima Abdulrasul

- Ministry Of Transportation

George Kaveckas

- Barrie Transit

Irene McNeil

- York Region

Larry Ducharme

- London Transit

Lou Carpentier

- Kingston Access Services

Mark Sture

- St. Thomas Transit

Mona Abouhenidy

- Ottawa Planning

Noam Saidenberg

- Ministry Of Transportation

Pat Larkin

- OC Transpo Specialized Services

Pat Sutherland

- Quinte Access

Philippe Bellon

- Canadian Urban Transportation Association

Susan O’Connor

- Transport Canada

Vivi Chi

- Ottawa Planning



















The municipal ridership growth plan should be developed within the context of present and anticipated future conditions that affect transit and should support broader municipal objectives and policies as described in this section.    


The ridership growth plan could start by describing the current environment within which transit operates (physical, political, social, economic, fiscal and environmental), the existing transit system (fleet characteristics, etc.) and the current transit ridership levels.


Reference should be made here to the broader municipal policies and expectations for achieving economic, social and environmental goals (e.g. improve air quality, reduce congestion levels, reduce road construction, maintenance and servicing costs, etc.). These are outlined in relevant municipal plans and policies, such as the Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Transit Service Plan, Transit Business Plan, budget and other strategic initiatives that impact transit. 


Efforts should be made to integrate into the strategy relevant provincial objectives and policies that support increased transit ridership, such as Places to Grow initiative and the new Provincial Policy Statement.



Since the Ridership Growth Plan is a long term plan, assumptions regarding the future environment within which transit will operate need to be outlined. Typical assumptions may include:


·         Population, demographics and social trends

         Growth forecasts

         Employment rate and trends

         Geographic distribution


         People with disabilities


·         Economic forecast

         Future state of the economy

         Employment growth



·         Future land use

         Future land use pattern

         Municipally identified areas for re-development, or intensification e.g.urban growth centres

         Extent and pattern of sprawl


         Density targets

         Corridors, nodes, and major transit station areas identified for intensification

         Major activity centres

         Regionally significant economic corridors

         Anticipated road expansion


·         Future travel patterns 

         Travel modes and multi-modal accessibility

         Ridership profile of customers

         Future key travel corridors

         Travel patterns into / within / out of the municipality

         Congestion pattern (levels, directions, timing, etc.)

         Availability of alternative modes


·         Availability and use of technology

         Smart cards

         Global Positioning Systems (GPS)

         TSP (Transit Signal Priority)

         APC (Automated Passenger Counting)

         Communications technology


·         Funding availability

         Fare box revenues

         Advertising and other operating revenues




         Local non-profit fund raising


·         Political climate

         Council support

         Community rate payer associations

         Key stakeholder interests (Transportation Management Associations, Urban League, Chamber of Commerce, etc.)

         Provincial / federal trends and expectations


·         Impact of transit ridership growth

         Environmental impacts (e.g. pollution reduction)

         Economic impacts (e.g. congestion relief)

         Social impacts (e.g. community access)


·         Other relevant assumptions.


Much of the data regarding these assumptions is available from the municipal Official Plan studies, municipal Transportation Master Plan, Transit Business Plan and other relevant planning documents, including the Provincial Policy Statements and provincial Places to Grow initiatives.   Transit-specific data is also available from the annual Ontario Urban and Specialized Transit Fact Books prepared by the Canadian Urban Transit Association on behalf of the Ministry of Transportation. 


It is important to understand that while the ridership growth strategies and objectives are developed with these assumptions in mind, the future conditions reflected in the assumptions may often be outside the control of the municipality. Changes in these future conditions may have a direct impact on transit ridership and on achieving ridership growth targets. Therefore, when evaluating the success of the ridership growth strategy, it is important to recognize the degree to which the key assumptions have materialized and assess the corresponding impact on ridership.


The ridership growth plan is a comprehensive strategy for increasing transit ridership in a sustainable fashion.  It can be an important tool in transit planning and a valuable element in municipal transportation planning. 


The main objective of the ridership growth plan is to develop and put in place key strategies to achieve ridership growth. These strategies will help to focus the municipal efforts and will point to the initiatives most suitable for the municipality.  


Typical strategies for increasing transit ridership include:

·        Supporting transit sustainability through growth management initiatives

·        Encouraging transit use by making the urban environment more transit friendly

·        Making the transit system more attractive by improving the quality of service

·        Enhancing the system capacity to accommodate ridership growth

·        Pricing and incentives/disincentives

·        Marketing and education


Similar to other planning and policy documents, the ridership growth objectives and targets should be set for the short, medium and long term. While each municipality may choose time horizons that suit its purposes and programs, the following time horizons may be useful and practical: 

·        Long range:             to coincide with the municipal Official Plan horizon

·        Medium range: to coincide with the capital and operating program (5-7 years)

·        Short term:        to coincide with the annual budget cycle



Conventional  Transit



Each municipality should employ a range of strategies to achieve its ridership growth objectives. The strategies can include a variety of initiatives covering land use planning policies, parking provisions, road design features, service design and delivery, marketing and education tools, pricing features, etc.  These initiatives are inter-connected and may be complementary or conflicting. When developing the municipal plan, these inter-relationships and synergies must be recognized, understood and balanced.


The initiatives outlined in this guide have been successfully used in various municipalities. However, given the differences between municipalities, not all the initiatives are suitable or feasible for all municipalities. It is expected that each municipality will employ those initiatives that best suit its circumstances and priorities. 




Growth Management Initiatives


Land use patterns have a significant impact on transit ridership and on cost-effectiveness of transit investments. To enhance its success and viability, transit must be supported by land use planning initiatives that promote sustained, phased community growth. These initiatives require the transit operators  to work closely with other municipal departments, especially the Planning, Transportation and Works Departments.


Improve input into the municipal planning and financial process

·     Improve coordination between Transit, Transportation, Planning, Public Works and Finance departments.

·     Ensure the involvement of the transit agency in reviewing planning and major development proposals at an early stage (e.g. Official Plans and amendments, subdivisions, site plans)

Sustainable, Planned Growth

·     Include transit-supportive provisions in the municipal Official Plan and in community or secondary plans such as:

     Direct new growth  within existing the built-up areas, serviced or planned to be serviced by transit

     New growth in greenfields should  be built out at transit-supportive densities.

     Stage development within growth areas in a phased manner to avoid “leap frogging”

     Restrict conversion of agricultural land to low-density urban use

     Delay /defer construction of road capacity that encourages urban sprawl

·     Increase employment and residential densities along current and planned major transit corridors

·     Encourage compact developments with mixed uses that are transit and pedestrian friendly

·     Design street configurations and urban form that supports the early integration and sustained viability of transit services into new sections of the community

·     Provide transit service to new subdivisions as people start moving in to help establish transit use

·     Provide transit service to major destinations early on (employment, shopping, education, etc.)



Urban Design and Site Planning Initiatives


Supportive urban design can make transit more convenient and will contribute to ridership growth.


·     Include transit-supportive provisions in municipal planning documents:

     Official Plan

     Community or secondary plans 

     Zoning By-laws


     Site plans

     Transportation Master Plan

     Master Trail Plan

     Municipal Accessibility Plan

     Other relevant documents

·     Require transit-supportive design features in all new developments or re-developments (e.g. incorporate transit stops in all new subdivisions and other trip generators, locate bus stops near major retail and business entrances, get the built form closer to street, provide a grid pattern of streets instead of cul-de-sacs and dead-end streets)

·     Improve customer convenience through location and design of bus stops.

·     Designate areas around transit stations for higher-density pedestrian- and transit- oriented development (car-oriented uses such as big-box retail would be discouraged)

·     Incorporate pedestrian and cycling amenities in road design (e.g. dedicated bike lanes, curb cuts)

·     Use parking policies to influence travel mode

     Reduced availability of long-term parking

     Reduced parking along major transit routes

     Use pricing and location of public parking to discourage driving

     Reduce parking requirements for new developments

·     Provide incentives to developers for transit-supportive developments

·     Municipalities are encouraged to develop urban design manuals for transit supportive development.




Text Box: More suggestions can be found in Transit-Supportive Land Use Planning Guidelines, Ministry of Transportation and the Ministry of Municipal Affairs, April 1992. 
 Available online at:



Initiatives to Increase System Capacity


Ridership growth must be supported by sufficient capacity of the transit system. Capacity can be enhanced by increasing the fleet size, enhancing usage of the existing fleet and by improving service efficiency. 

Expand Transit Services

·     Increase number of vehicles

·     Increase service frequency

·     Extend period of operation (peak / off peak, evenings, weekends, etc.)

·     Expand geographical coverage by adding new routes and extending existing routes

·     Enhance service standards for headways, loading, wait time, on-time performance, etc.

·     Enhance related support services

Enhance Service Efficiency

·     Reduce service interruptions through the use of newer vehicles, proper maintenance, improved incident management, etc.

·     Improve scheduling and dispatching

·     Improve on-road monitoring 

        Where feasible, use advanced technology such as scheduling software, computer-aided dispatching equipment, mobile data terminals or automatic vehicle location equipment

·     Use transit priority measures

·     Enforce parking restrictions, turn restrictions, HOV lanes, Yield to Bus, etc.

·     Employ effective route planning (e.g. two-way service, direct, etc.)



Initiatives to Improve Service Quality


Convenience, reliability, predictability, and dependability are the main features of a transit system that will attract drivers out of their cars and on to transit.  The following initiatives suggest improvements to service design and delivery that will enhance the quality of service and will make transit more attractive:

Improve Reliability

·     Improve adherence to schedule

     Reduce service interruptions through newer vehicles, better maintenance, better incident management, etc.

     Improve scheduling and dispatching

     Improve on-road monitoring 

     Use advanced technology such as scheduling software, computer-aided dispatching equipment, mobile data terminals or automatic vehicle location equipment, where feasible

·     Provide real time information to customers

Reduce Travel Time

·     Use transit priority measures such as:

     Reserved bus lanes

     Bus-priority traffic signals

     Left-turn restrictions on major transit routes

     Parking restrictions on major routes during rush hour

     High occupancy vehicle lanes (HOV) or high occupancy toll lanes (HOV lanes that allow access to low occupancy vehicles if drivers pay a toll)

·     Improve coordination and integration between modes

·     Improve coordination and integration between neighbouring systems

·     Implement rapid transit services such as:

     Express buses in mixed traffic or in separated transit lanes

     Bus rapid transit (BRT) and light rail transit (LRT) systems on dedicated lanes, with enclosed and secure stations, high-capacity vehicles, rapid boarding, pre-board payment systems, and convenient pedestrian and bicycle access

     Expanded subway lines

·     Enhance service standards for headways, loading, wait time, on-time performance, etc.

·     Develop an effective incident management plan

·     Enforce parking restrictions, turn restrictions, HOV lanes, Yield to Bus, etc.

·     Provide real time information on delays (online / telephone)

·     Consider “Proof of Payment” method to speed up boarding

Improve Convenience and Comfort

·     Provide more flexible service (e.g. special needs, special events, shuttles, taxi feeder service, demand-responsive service, partnerships with other transportation providers, community buses, etc.)

·     Provide commuter parking (Park n’ Ride)

     Expanded commuter parking near stations

     Preferred parking for pass-holders and car-poolers

·     Improve links between municipal transit and other transportation modes (inc. airports, trains, intercity bus terminals)

·     Improve transfers between transit modes

·     Improve transit facilities

      Better pedestrian access, especially at high use stops

      Improved safety (security personnel on system, closed-circuit surveillance in terminals, increased lighting, designated waiting areas, etc.)

      Improved riding comfort (seating, lighting, HVAC, etc.)

      Improved attractiveness, cleanliness and ambience of terminals and vehicles

      Reduced vehicle fumes and noise

·     Improve design of vehicles and facilities to better accommodate persons with disabilities and other special needs (this will also help to convert riders from specialized to conventional transit)

      In compliance with the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) requirements, buy only fully-accessible vehicles

·     Accommodate cyclists on the transit system (e.g. bike racks on buses, bike routes and bicycle parking at stations and transit stops)

·     Introduce convenient payment methods

      Easy access to tickets and passes at local merchants and vending machines

      Electronic “smart cards” for local and cross boundary travel

      Payment via payroll deductions (with or without discount)

      “Proof of payment” method

      Payment methods that reflect specific market needs, such as passes (daily / weekly / monthly); arrangements with large institutions and employers for reduced-fare or monthly passes (e.g. University / College U-Pass); summer passes for students (covering summer break)


Improve Customer Service

·     Provide better public access to updated, real-time information

      User friendly online / telephone / paper information providing general information, maps, schedules, contacts, etc.

      More effective display of transit information in shelters and on buses

      Electronic display of vehicle arrival times at terminals and bus stops

      Announcement of stops on all vehicles (could be automated)

      Integration with 511 telephone system

      IVR (interactive voice response) telephone system

·     Collaborate on developing integrated traveller information systems and services, so that customers can have one-stop access to transit information, instead of needing to contact two or three separate agencies for service information

·     Develop local and regional automated trip planning capability on the website that provides routing and fare information by entering origin and destination

·     Provide staff training

      Regular training program for transit staff (could be jointly with other jurisdictions to reduce costs)

      Special training regarding accommodation of persons with disability

      Award programs to recognize employees who provide excellent service




Pricing and Fare Media Initiatives


While passengers are willing to pay for convenience and dependability, transit pricing affects ridership levels. Transit pricing has to balance cost recovery with maintaining and growing ridership.  The objective of the following initiatives is to use pricing and fare media to support the existing ridership base and attract new riders to the system. 


·     Provide fare incentives to attract specific markets (students, seniors, business, others)

·     Reward frequent users with bulk discount through passes (loyalty programs)

·     Encourage employer programs

·     Encourage peak or off-peak travel by special discounts

·     Ensure fare increases are reasonable (e.g. at rate of inflation)

·     Develop multi-jurisdictional fare integration

·     Provide open transfers in all directions for a short specified period (e.g. 90 minutes) to encourage transit use for “errand running”


Marketing and Education Initiatives


Like any product or service, ridership growth must be supported by a good marketing strategy to influence transit use. The objective of the marketing strategy is to identify consumer needs and preferences, tailor services to meet these needs, promote their use and increase transit profile in general.


·     Ensure public participation in transit planning

       Encourage and provide for interaction with the community through advisory / advocacy groups and other mechanisms

       Use public hearings, open committee meetings, public information sessions, workshops and other forums to obtain input from the public regarding service options and other transit initiatives

       Use surveys to identify needs, suggest opportunities and measure success

       Use complaints, enquiries and suggestions from the public as input and feedback

       Identify concerns regarding transit initiatives early in the decision-making process (both individual concerns and concerns of environmental, political, business and other groups)

       Encourage transit staff to provide input and suggestions for service improvement 

·     Use market research to better understand consumer needs, preferences, and concerns

      Tools include customer surveys, customer satisfaction surveys, travel diaries, trend assessment, etc.

·     Develop branding to increase transit profile

     For transit in general or for certain routes or services

·     Develop marketing campaigns targeting current and potential customers, key influencers and specific groups (students, shoppers, business, etc.)

·     Partner with other organizations for marketing and advertising campaigns (other jurisdictions, local events, local tourism, etc.)

·     Advertise events and services through press releases, newsletters, brochures, direct mail and electronically

·     Use the back and side of the bus to promote transit whenever possible

·     Be creative in both marketing and advertising

     Theme days (transit days, smog/clean air, “bring a buddy on the bus”, etc.)

     Free rides on smog days

     Weekend family pass

·     Build relationships with key community influencers and the media in support of transit

·     Provide private service providers incentives for increased ridership


The objective of the education strategy is to increase awareness of the importance of transit by underlining its social, environmental and economic benefits.  Education campaigns may increase support for transit and help build a future ridership base. 


·     Use education campaigns targeting specific groups such as:

     The public in general - to raise awareness of the benefits of transit, to explain fare policy, etc.

     Youth (schools, scouts, etc.) - to help build future ridership

     New immigrants - to introduce them to the system, teach them how to make connections between different routes and modes and explain the various payment methods

     Travel training for specialized transit users - to encourage conversion to the conventional system as it get more accessible

     Transit employees - to ensure employees are aware of changes in culture and public expectations, to provide sensitivity training, etc. This will improve customer satisfaction

·     Develop and distribute information material including a map of the local and neighbouring transit systems, detailed information on fares and passes, key phone numbers and tips on using the system

    Use strategically-placed transit personnel throughout the system to answer questions and provide guidance (e.g. GO Transit’s “transit ambassadors”)






A ridership growth plan must include performance measures to allow the municipality to evaluate its success in achieving its ridership growth objectives.  These measures are intended to monitor trends and  year to year progress within each community and are not intended for comparison with other municipalities.


·         The ridership growth plan is developed with certain assumptions in mind regarding the future (e.g. expected funding levels, efficiency level of the system, population and demographic characteristics, economic and social trends, etc.).  Changes to the future conditions that are reflected in these assumptions may have a direct impact on transit ridership and on achieving ridership growth objectives and targets.  Therefore, it is important to note the degree to which the key assumptions have materialized and assess their impact on the ridership growth plan. 

·         It is important to recognize that implementing a ridership growth plan may not necessarily result in immediate growth in ridership.  Usually, the plan takes time to mature and yield sustainable results.

·         To make the evaluation manageable and easy to understand, it is recommended that simple, acceptable and established performance measurements be used, consistent with those set out in the annual Ontario Urban Transit Fact Book.

·         Not all the proposed performance measures can be quantified.  A descriptive assessment can be used for the unquantifiable measures.  

·         A consistent and clear methodology for monitoring progress




While the performance measures outlined here are commonly used in ridership growth plans, none is mandatory. Each municipality can use those measure that are applicable to its situation and consistent with its operation.






Table 1:  Available Performance Measures - Conventional Transit


Performance Measures*

Ridership Growth

·      Regular service passenger trips

·      Regular service trips per revenue service hour

·      Regular service passenger trips per capita

·      Ridership makeup by market segment (i.e. students, seniors)

·      Transit mode share, if available

Growth Management

·      Integration of transit supportive land use planning in the municipal planning process

·      Achievement of transit supportive densities

·      Achievement of intensification objectives to support increased transit ridership .

·      Increase density along major transit routes, nodes and major transit stations

Urban Design

·      Parking / sq. ft.

·      Average parking cost

·      Pedestrian and transit oriented design requirements

·      Percentage of population within X metres to transit services

·      Road design (sidewalks, curb cuts, bicycle lanes)

·      Average distance between bus stops

·      Urban design manual

System Capacity

·      Number of revenue vehicles

·      Regular service revenue hours 

·      Regular service revenue kms

·      Number of new routes

·      Number of route extensions

·      Number of routes with improved frequency

·      Regular service revenue hours per capita

·      Number of peak service transit vehicles

Quality of Service


·      Service interruptions per X kms

·      Average interruption time

·      Deviation from / adherence to schedule


·      Percent of population within walking distance to transit

·      Number and % of accessible transit vehicles

·      Number and % of accessible routes / stops

·      Number passengers switching from specialized transit

Comfort / convenience

·      Average fleet age

·      Number of transit vehicles with air conditioning

·      Average operating speed (veh kms/service hour)

·      Percentage of stops with passenger shelters

·      Average passengers per vehicle

·      Mode integration

Customer satisfaction

·      Number of customer inquiries, complaints etc. per X riders

·      Results from customer satisfaction surveys


·      Average fare by fare category

·      Percent change in fares versus inflation

·      Use of passes

·      Parking spots / full time student

·      Volume incentive pass programs

Marketing & Education

Marketing / Education

·      Availability/distribution of transit information

·      Transit education programs

·      Advertisement

·      Branding initiatives

Public attitude / acceptance to transit

·      Number of published articles, editorials, and letters to the editor as well as survey results, etc.

·      Percentage of population using transit at least once per year



·      Investment in support services (maintenance, planning)

·      Smart transportation technology



* Definitions of the performance measures from the Transit Fact Book are found in Appendix A.







Specialized Transit


For the purpose of this exercise, specialized transit is a public transit system that provides various transportation services for persons with disabilities that meet eligibility criteria for the respective services.


Within the context of specialized transit, “ridership growth” is viewed as improving the system’s capacity to meet unmet, latent and growing demand while delivering service that meets the customer needs at a fair and equitable price.


In addition to adding more service, improving capacity of specialized transit can involve implementing innovative service options that bring into play local transportation resources (accessible transit, taxis, volunteer services, private operators, etc.) to address the multitude of delivery needs.   


Success of the ridership growth plan would result in growth in the number of passenger trips taken by traditionally eligible clients on the entire local transit system (including both conventional and specialized services). 


This approach to ridership growth is required due to the unique nature of specialized transit and its customers as well as the unique challenges it faces. These challenges impact both the demand and the service’s ability to respond:


Demographics: With the aging of the population there is a corresponding growth in age-related illness and disabilities that may impact an individual’s transportation needs (e.g., kidney failure which requires dialysis, severe arthritis, visual disabilities, etc.).


Health Care Restructuring: The shift in emphasis from traditional hospitalization to outpatient treatment, the increasing role of regional care facilities, and the changes in the provision of dialysis result in increased demand for specialized transit services.


Legislative Requirements: Various pieces of legislation, such as the Ontario Human Rights Code, Canada Human Rights Code, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Highway Traffic Act and others, directly affect both the customer base (by defining disability) and the service requirements and standards. While the legislation sets requirements, it does not provide the funding required for complying with them.


Growing Expectations: There is a growing expectation for universal access to the community.  For individuals with disabilities, this may require specialized transportation services.


Delivery Challenges: The diverse needs of the customers compete with each other for the available limited capacity, making it difficult to equitably accommodate all.


Low productivity:  Productivity of specialized transit in terms of passengers per hour is typically low due to the individualized nature of the services and the uniqueness of its customers.   Factors impacting the efficiency of specialized transit include individual “door to door” or “curb to curb” trips, cross boundary trips, customer mobility which may require individual assistance and specialized vehicles, lack of certainty resulting from daily scheduling and re-scheduling, size and topography of service area, etc.


Financial challenges: Specialized transit systems often face greater financial challenges than conventional transit, including:

·         Insufficient municipal funding, often resulting in the need for fundraising.

·         Higher operating costs per trip while maintaining fares close to those of the conventional transit.

·         Pressures to control costs, raise fares or limit service due to limited funding have greater impact on specialized transit due to the high cost of specialized transit trips.



Ridership Growth Initiatives

Within the context of specialized transit, ridership growth initiatives focus on two main objectives:

-     Enhancing and expanding capacity of the system to accommodate the demand

-     Enhancing the quality of service for customers


The following initiatives have proved successful and useful for various municipalities. Given the differences between municipalities, not all the initiatives are suitable or feasible for all municipalities. It is expected that each municipality will consider those initiatives that best suit its circumstances and priorities.     



Initiatives to Expand Capacity

·     Expand fleet

·     Extend service hours / days (peak, off-peak, evening, weekend, etc.)

·     Expand service area coverage to un-served and under-served areas

·     Enhance scheduling, dispatching, booking systems (e.g. automation, centralized system, better on-road monitoring)

·     Utilize available capacity of other local transportation resources

      Taxi or mini-van services

      Taxi scrip program

      Partnerships with other service providers (e.g. volunteer community groups)

·     Join forces with other community groups

·     Convert current customers to the conventional system, wherever possible, by increasing accessibility of the conventional system

·     Advocate for better municipal funding for specialized transit

·     Build community partnerships (forums, improved dialog to share info about new services, programs, etc.)


Initiatives to Enhance Customer Service

·     Improve the booking process

      Expand reservation hours

      Improve pre-booking time

      Introduce same-day service

      Allow reservations for multiple trips

      Introduce online trip booking

      Improve telephone booking, (e.g. decrease call hold time)

      Develop interactive voice response telephone system

·     Improve cross boundary trips

      Work with neighbouring municipalities towards a common service policy, including harmonized hours of service, eligibility criteria, transfer points and timing, single fare, etc.

·     Improve access to information

      User friendly online / telephone / paper information system, providing general information, booking information, other service policies, etc.

      Provide real time information to customers (online / telephone)

      Ensure choice of colours, font size, etc. for all information products is appropriate for customer base

      Offer information and education programs in collaboration with health care providers, senior citizen facilities, social services agencies, shopping centres, etc. especially for “beginners”

      Enhance community outreach to provide forums for dialogue with the community and with advocacy groups

·     Educate health care and social services providers regarding services and system use

·     Improve community accessibility

      Improve accessibility throughout the community (e.g. curb cuts, sidewalks, access to bus stop locations)

      In consistence with the AODA requirements, include persons with disabilities in the review process of community, subdivision and site plans

      Ensure that drop-off and pick-up points are kept clear, are in close proximity to entrance and exit locations and are fully accessible 

      Ensure all subdivisions are accessible by specialized vehicles

·     Better customer service training for employees & contractors

      Ensure all employees receive appropriate training (including OCTA’s Skilform Program)


Evaluation and Performance Measures


Performance measures are necessary for evaluating the municipality’s success in achieving its objectives.  These measures are not intended for comparison with other municipalities.

·         It is important to recognize that implementing the ridership growth plan may not necessarily result in immediate growth in ridership.  The strategy will take time to mature and yield sustainable results. 

·         To make the evaluation manageable and easy to understand, it is recommended that simple, acceptable and established performance measurements be used, consistent with those set out in the annual Ontario Specialized Transit Fact Book.






While the performance measures outlined here are commonly used in ridership growth plans, none is mandatory. Each municipality can use those measure that are applicable to its situation and consistent with its operation.



Table 2: Available Performance Measures - Specialized Transit


Performance Measures*


system capacity

·      Ridership by eligible persons– total trips

·      Fleet size (dedicated / non-dedicated)

·      Capacity of fleet for wheelchair / ambulatory customers

·      Service hours / days of operation

·      Call centre hours / days of operation

·      Km/eligible passenger (dedicated vehicles)

·      Eligible passenger trips / hour  (dedicated)

·      Trips / registrant

·      Trips / hour

·      Unaccommodated trips

Conversion to Conventional

·       Eligible passengers converting to conventional system

·       Strategies to encourage conversion to conventional system

·       Number of accessible conventional routes/vehicles/stops

·       Road accessibility (curb cuts, stops, etc.)


Quality of Service

·      Convenience of the registration system

·      Average telephone hold time

·      Average pick-up / drop off window

·      Adherence to schedule (pick-up, drop-off)

·      Pre-booking time

·      Call centre hours / days of operation

·      Customer satisfaction rating (calls, complaints, etc.)

·      Results of customer satisfaction surveys


·      Innovation (e.g. vehicle leasing strategy, fleet management, etc.)

·      System automation (GPS, MDT)

·      Improvements to scheduling / dispatching / booking system

·      Integration of specialized and conventional systems (e.g. community buses, transfers)

·      Demand management strategies (e.g. travel training programs, etc)

·      Incident management

·      Municipal accessibility (e.g. number of new curb cuts)


·      Ridership (ambulatory and wheelchair)

* Definitions of the performance measures from the Transit Fact Book are found in Appendix A.





Appendix A




The following definitions are taken from the Ontario Conventional and Specialized Transit Fact Books.


Average Operating Speed: 

Revenue vehicle kilometres divided by revenue vehicle hours.

Regular Service Passenger Trips: 

All passenger trips for which the fare system applies, including those paying full fare, reduced fare, riding free (e.g. employees, mail carriers, police officers), or with passes/tickets purchased by other agencies (e.g. school boards).

Revenue Vehicle Hours: 

Annual vehicle hours operated by active revenue vehicles (e.g. buses, railcars, etc.) in regular passenger revenue service, including scheduled and non-scheduled service; does not include auxiliary passenger service (e.g. school contracts, charters, cross-boundary services to adjacent municipalities), deadheading, training, road tests, or maintenance.

Revenue Vehicle Kilometres: 

Annual kilometres travelled by active revenue vehicles (e.g. buses, railcars, etc.) in regular passenger revenue service, including scheduled and non-scheduled service; does not include auxiliary passenger service (e.g. school contracts, charters, cross-boundary services to adjacent municipalities), deadheading, training, road tests, or maintenance.

Total Vehicle Hours: 

Total vehicle hours operated by active revenue vehicles (e.g. buses, railcars, etc.) including regular passenger service, auxiliary passenger service (e.g. school contracts, charters, cross-boundary services to adjacent municipalities), deadheading, training, road tests, or maintenance.

Total Vehicle Kilometres: 

Total annual kilometres travelled by active revenue vehicles (e.g. buses, railcars, etc.) including regular passenger service, auxiliary passenger service (e.g. school contracts, charters, cross-boundary services to adjacent municipalities), deadheading, training, road tests, or maintenance.



Dedicated Service:

Service provided in vehicles exclusively dedicated to the transport of persons with disabilities (e.g. vans, smalls buses). This service can be provided internally or under contract.

Non-Dedicated Service: 

Service available to persons with disabilities provided by non-exclusive vehicles, usually taxis under contract.

Taxi Scrip / User Subsidy Program: 

Provides eligible users with coupons that are purchased at a discount and can be used on participating taxi services.










- Association of Municipalities of Ontario


- Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act


- Automated Passenger Counting


- Automated Vehicle Location


- Bus Rapid Transit


- Canadian Urban Transit Association


- Global Positioning System


- High Occupancy Vehicle


- Heating, Ventilation, Air Conditioning


- Interactive Voice Response


- Light Rail Transit


- Mobile Data Terminal


- Ontario Community Transportation Association


- Ridership Growth Plan


- Transit Signal Priority






Appendix B





This appendix has been included to provide municipalities with some links to innovative practices, publications and contacts that may be useful in developing their ridership growth plan.






Transit Supportive Land Use Planning Guide, MTO and MMAH, 1992

This document, prepared jointly by the Ministry of Transportation and Ministry of Municipal Affairs provides examples of planning and urban design initiatives that encourage transit use.  Highly recommended. Available online at:



U-Pass Toolkit: The Complete Guide to Universal Transit Pass Programs at Canadian Colleges and Universities, Canadian Urban Transit Association, 2004.

This document is a guide to developing a student pass program. Available online at: For further information, contact:  CUTA (416-365-9800).



Public Transportation Partnership for Tomorrow, APTA

This document provides useful information on marketing campaigns. Available at:



Metro Magazine

Many articles about various aspects of ridership growth and transit in general can be found through the Archives of this USA on-line magazine. Available online at:



The Transit Cooperative Research Program

TCRP provides tools for solving problems in the transportation industry. Documents are downloadable online at


Report 50 – A Handbook of Proven Marketing Strategies for Public Transit


Report 55 – Guidelines for Enhancing Suburban Mobility Using Public Transportation


Research Results Digest, No 29, August 1998 – Transit Ridership Initiatives

Based on interviews with more than 50 transit system managers in the USA, the report provides a number of general observations on key factors and initiatives that have led to ridership increases.  Available online at:


Research Result Digest No. 69, April 2005 - Evaluation of Recent Ridership Increases

This digest assesses key factors and initiatives that led to ridership increases at 28 transit agencies, nationwide, for the period 2000 to 2002.



Federal Urban Transportation Showcase

Urban transportation showcases are multi-year initiatives that demonstrate and evaluate integrated approaches to reducing GHG emissions. Showcases must include several coordinated measures within a transportation and land use planning framework. Several initiatives are related to municipal transit service and operations, and promotion and support. Information can be found online at: For more information, contact:   Surface Policy Branch, Transport Canada (613-998-1848). 


A Handbook of Innovative Transit Services to Serve Market Niches, Canadian Urban Transit Association, Strategic Transit Research Program Report No. 18, October 2001.

This report defines, identifies and describes the different types of current or emerging innovative transit services in Canada and abroad. For further information, visit or contact:  CUTA (416-365-9800).



Developing Travel Demand Management Programs: Action Planning for Transit Systems, Canadian Urban Transit Association, Strategic Transit Research Program Report No. 14, December 1995.

This report develops a simplified approach for stimulating transit demand management-related initiatives by transit managers. For further information, visit or contact:  CUTA (416-365-9800).




Examples of Municipal Ridership Growth Plans


TTC's Ridership Growth Strategy, Toronto Transit Commission, March 2003

The TTC ridership growth strategy outlines how the TTC will support achieving the City of Toronto’s Official Plan objectives.  It includes a large number of initiatives. Available online at: pdf/ridership_growth_strategy.pdf. For more information, contact:  Superintendent of Route and System Planning, Toronto Transit Commission (416-393-4490).


London Transit Commission Business Plan, London Transit, 2004-2006 Edition

This plan represents a mid-size transit system and describes objectives, initiatives and performance measures. For more information, visit

Contact: General Manager, London Transit  (519-451-1340 ext 337).


York Region Transit 5-Year Service Plan (2002-2006)

An executive summary is available on the YRT website:


Destination 2025: A Mobility Plan for the Pikes Peak Region: Specialized Transportation Plan, Colorado Springs, USA, 2000

This specialized transportation plan establishes a 25-year plan for specialized transit service for the Colorado Springs, USA.  It includes a large number of initiatives. Available online at:


Moving Forward: Durham Region Transit Improvement Plan, Durham Region, September 2003

This plan presents initiatives to improve conventional and specialized transit across the region of Durham (including Ajax, Oshawa, Pickering, and Whitby). Available online at:


Regional Transit Action Plan, Atlanta, Georgia, June 2003

The plan provides examples of ridership growth initiative in a rapidly growing area characterized by poor transit service and great reliance on the automobile. 

Further information available online at:




Cornwall Transit
Customer Focused Service Design For A Small Sized Transit System In Eastern Ontario, prepared by ENTRA Consultants - Angela Stern Iannuzziello, P.ENG. and Dennis A. Kar, M.U.P.  

Service review leading towards a strategy to increase ridership of three specific market segments: students, industrial employees, and seniors. For more information, contact:  Cornwall Transit Manager  (613/930-2787 ext 2202).





York Region

An example of recent rapid transit system developed for a growing suburban area. The system includes high-end frequent buses, transit priority measures, easy payment methods, GPS, real time information.

Contact:  General Manager, York Region Transit (905-762-1282)



Innovative Partnering With Employers


York Region (Beaver Creek Business Area)

Ottawa (Nortel)

In both cases the local transit system and the particular employer arranged for extended service into their facility to encourage employee to commute by transit.

Contact:     General Manager, York Region Transit (905-762-1282)

Director of Transit Services, City of Ottawa (613-842-3636 ext 2271) 



Innovative Partnering With Tourism


Ottawa (Corel Sports Centre)

OC Transpo offers a special direct service into the centre during games at slightly higher fares.

Contact:     Director of Transit Services, City of Ottawa (613-842-3636 ext 2271) 





Kingston: Employer-provided transit passes

Ottawa: Monthly pass payment via payroll deductions

GO Transit and York Region: Proof of Payment





Ottawa:  “Bring a buddy on the bus” on clean air days

Windsor: Free service on smog days

York Region: “Viva” branding of BRT services

York Region: “Stay and Play” initiative with York Tourism 

North Bay: Santa Claus days (half fare with donation to food bank)

Barrie: Joint advertisement with Kempenfest

TTC:  transit promotion through ads on the buses

London: “Public Transit – Defining the Future” 





York Region / Mississauga: Transit information kits for high school students

Contact:     General Manager, York Region Transit (905-762-1282)

Director of Transit Services, City of Mississauga (905-615-3868) 


Barrie: Transit information kits for Georgian College.

Contact:     Traffic Transit & Parking Manager, City of Barrie (705-739-4220)


Waterloo Region / York Region

Transit education is part of the official school board syllabus for primary junior students.

Contact:     Director of Transit Services, Waterloo Region (519-585-7597)

      General Manager, York Region Transit (905-762-1282)



Specialized transit


York Region

Fund raising from private business to finance vans/taxis for the specialized transit


London / Hamilton

Have education programs to help convert users to the conventional system


Useful Contacts


Ontario Ministry of Transportation

Transit Policy and Programs Office

Urban and Rural Infrastructure Branch

Ministry of Transportation

1201 Wilson Ave, Bldg B, 2nd Floor

Downsview, Ontario M3M 1J8

Information regarding the Gas Tax Program:  416-235-3981 

      Information regarding this Ridership Growth Guide: 416-235-4086


Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA)

55 York St., Suite 1401

Toronto, ON M5J 1R7

Phone: 416-365-9800

Fax:  416-365-1295



Ontario Community Transportation Association (OCTA)

520 Temagami Crescent

Mississauga, Ontario L5H 1S8

Telephone: 1-877-762-OCTA (6282) or 905-271-6663

Fax: 905-271-6613




Information regarding marketing is available through work of the OCTA Marketing Committee 



Smart Commute Association of Black Creek (Transportation Management Association)

William Small Centre, Room 120

4700 Keele Street

Toronto, Ontario M3J 1P3

Phone: 416-650-8059

Fax: 416-736-5879