Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) concerns continue…

These concerns may have stemmed from a lack of communication, according to Western University’s Local Government program director.

Martin Horak, a political science associate professor, said Londoners were more informed about the London Plan than BRT.

He explained past London Plan public consultations informed Londoners. However, communication dwindled in the past year.

“I think that opened up an opportunity for people to start to get worried about this,” Horak said of BRT.

Signs protesting BRT all across the City of London represent the concern.

A white sign on Doon Drive and Sunnyside Drive. It says "BRT will spell the end of peace and safety on this street. Stop BRT."
One of the anti-BRT signs found on Doon Drive. Photo by Emily Stewart

Two recent surveys said many Londoners are against it, but another survey said the city is divided on the issue.

Beyond Public Participation Meetings: What surveys say

Downshift London’s survey said two-thirds of Londoners disagree with the BRT plan. However, Horak felt that the survey wasn’t the best resource.

“The way the questions were phrased and the way the introduction was phrased, that poll set people up to answer in a biased way,” Horak said.

The professor added that he felt the Mainstreet and London Free Press’s survey questions were more neutral. According to that poll, 46% of Londoners support BRT, 30% are unsure, and 24% are against it.

A survey filled out by the Downtown London Business Association revealed a quarter of Downtown merchants support rapid transit and feel it would benefit everyone in the Forest City. Downtown London declined to comment on BRT until a later time.

Horak added that while there are many Londoners, including younger residents, supporting rapid transit, it’s hard to know what routes they support.

“The question about Rapid Transit in London, in my mind, is not yes or no, but it’s how?”

However, many Londoners expressed their opinions for or against the proposed BRT plans this spring, including at the Budweiser Gardens Public Participation meeting.

Many red lights… and few green ones

You could tell before the meeting at Budweiser Gardens that many were opposed to BRT.

Guests waiting outside received Down Shift London pamphlets.

Photo by Emily Stewart

During the meeting, several Londoners held anti-BRT signs. Messages such as “Down with Brown” and “BRT= Worst Idea Ever” stuck out from a distance.

Jeff House, opposed to BRT, asked London City Council to listen to Londoners. Before he finished his feedback and sat down, House asked every person against BRT to stand up. The majority of those in the audience at the time stood up in opposition.

“That’s all I need to say,” House concluded.

A small number of people showed support for BRT. At least two people held signs reading “Great cities need great transit.” Others wore green to show their support.

Helen Reardon, one of the supporters of BRT, at the Budweiser Gardens BRT Meeting. She is wearing all green to show her support
Helen Reardon expressing her support for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) at Budweiser Gardens. Photo by Emily Stewart

“There will be some pain, but there will be long-term gain,” Helen Reardon, one of the supporters said. She added that it takes less time to bike to her destination than to bus with the current transit system.

As the seats emptied during the six-hour long meeting, more people showed their support.

Emily Leighton, a young professional, said she takes the bus for cost-effectiveness and light environmental impact. She supports BRT and added she would take the proposed route that would run along Richmond Street.

“Much of the language around this issue has been extremely isolating to me as a rider and a great deal disheartening to me as a community member,” she said, “It took me about three hours to get the courage to come down here and speak.”

Jesse Helmer tweeted that while the conversation was “helpful,” he wished everyone at the meeting felt confident to speak up.

Horak said that the controversy blocks the chance to have “a productive discussion” on BRT.

What’s next on BRT’s agenda?

The plan’s price tag is around $560 million so far. However, city staff recommendations could decrease that. There are reports that said staff recommends scrapping the Richmond Street tunnel, along with approving the Queen’s Avenue and King Street couplet.

After Monday’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee, City Council will discuss BRT on Tuesday, May 16.

Feature photo by Emily Stewart

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