Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) plans could be finalized by July at the latest.
City Council voted 10-1 to investigate more options. Councillors Harold Usher, Tanya Park, Anna Hopkins and Maureen Cassidy were absent from the meeting.
Ward 11 Councillor Stephen Turner was the only one who voted against the motion. “It doesn’t really matter where the routes get placed,” he said, “They will have impacts.”
Turner also said the process took about six years, and that council, moving forward, should look at the options with the lowest impacts.
“We already have mixed traffic on the west leg of RT from Wharncliffe. Can we have mixed traffic for two blocks along King Street, so we don’t have to remove loading zones and parking spots?”
He agreed with City Manager Martin Hayward’s suggestion to financially support Richmond Row businesses during the construction period through a community improvement plan.
However, Turner felt the proposed Richmond Street tunnel wasn’t the best option. “You cannot have rapid transit blocked for 12 minutes by a train. Doesn’t make any sense.”
Ward 10 Councillor Virginia Ridley voted against the motion in earlier votes but voted yes on the final vote.
Kelly Scherr, the managing director of environmental and engineering services and a city engineer, presented the options.
The Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee would approve either the original or alternative BRT routes. The Rapid Transit Master plan would receive a final vote either in mid-June or late July, depending on the decision.
“I think it’s a really good opportunity for us to show our homework to the community and let them see the decision making that’s gone into the recommended options and provide that real-time feedback to some of the concerns we’ve heard from the business community recently,” Scherr said of the decision.
Mayor Matt Brown also felt the decision will provide more information for city councillors and the community.
“It’s going to be a really tough decision and there will be negative effects [and] short-term effects that could occur. Then it’s up to us to identify those and mitigate them” he said.
What others are saying
Vanessa Brown, co-owner of Brown and Dickson Booksellers, felt optimistic about council’s decision. “It means that City Council is listening to the small businesses in the core.”
Brown added that she’s concerned with the construction’s timeline, should there be a BRT route and tunnel on Richmond Street. She heard construction could take two to 10 years.
“Having construction in front of our shop for two years will absolutely bankrupt us,” Brown said, “I think there has to be a solution to have progressive transit in the city and also accommodate small business.”
While she acknowledged BRT’s potential impact on projects like the cycle tracks on Queens and Colborne, she is more concerned about the impact on her own business.
“My personal future is more important than a bike lane,” she said, “there’s a lot at stake here and I feel we need to focus on what makes our city special, [things] like Richmond Row.”
Tony Cosentino has been living in London since 1969. He said that instead of the Richmond Street tunnel, there should be a subway between York Street and Richmond Street to Western University.
“If they wanted to implement a BRT system right now with what we have, they can do it,” he said.
He is also concerned about the tunnel’s effects on Richmond Row.
“If you get rid of Richmond Row and Dundas, our downtown is gone,” Cosentino said adding that the city has spent about 30 years to improve Downtown London.
Cedric Richards, a daily London Transit rider, is divided on council’s decision. “While I did not prefer to have this rapid transit master plan deferred, it gives us as a city some time to evaluate alternatives and check if they are credible and stand up against the preferred corridors.”
He supports the ideas of a Richmond Street tunnel and relocating a single bus lane off of King Street. Richards is also in favour of not moving the North Corridor to Western Road, adding it could sink or swim BRT.
“Rapid transit vehicles cannot sit at a crossing for several minutes waiting for a train to pass. It also cannot sit in mixed traffic at Oxford. It would defeat the purpose of rapid transit,” he explained, “Moreover, there are less than 4,000 people and jobs on the Western Road corridor, while Richmond has over 20,000.”
Richards said that since BRT can affect bus routes, traffic flow, and land use, every Londoner should stay updated. “No Londoner is immune to this topic.”
How you can find out more about BRT
Wolf Performance Hall will hold a BRT public consultation meeting on April 12. Click here for the tickets.
There will also be a public participation meeting on May 3rd regarding BRT.
Visit Shift London’ website for more details about the project.
Feature photo by Emily Stewart
Notice: When originally published, we mistook Virginia Ridley as the only councillor who voted against the motion. It has been corrected to Stephen Turner.