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Deputy mayor steers proposed bus pass pilot project through council

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A picture is worth a thousand words, and maybe a couple votes on council.

Deputy mayor Shawn Lewis sent colleagues a series of photographs taken of London Transit’s #7 bus travelling towards Clarke Road Secondary School on Tuesday morning.

He supplied them as evidence that there’s enough unused capacity to fit more high school students on board.

Last week, the Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee recommended city staff develop a draft agreement with the Thames Valley District School Board (TVDSB) and London Transit Commission (LTC) for a pilot project at Clarke Road Secondary School with Grade 9 students receiving free bus passes this September, and Grade 9 and Grade 10 students next September.

“I wanted you to see with your own eyes, there are capacity opportunities on these buses, there are seats available right now,” he said during Tuesday’s council meeting.

However, Coun. David Ferreira responded with ridership data from London Transit’s #35 bus route that also serves the area around the school, “6 a.m. to 9 a.m. in the morning it’s at 134 per cent capacity, at peak time in the afternoon from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m. it’s at 150 per cent capacity.”

Lewis asserts that 200 per cent capacity is the maximum passenger load, when all the seats are full plus an equal number of passengers are standing.

He believes nine different bus routes that stop at Argyle Mall could potentially serve students.

Ferreira sought to defeat Lewis’ motion and table a competing proposal to consult with London Transit before choosing a school, funding source, and methodology for the pilot project.

“We’re not the experts. As a former commissioner of the LTC, I would like to hear [from] LTC,” said Coun. Anna Hopkins.

Coun. Jerry Pribil, who currently sits on the LTC with Ferreira decided to support Lewis’ motion.

“I’ll support this motion because that’s the only thing that potentially gives us a chance to start this September,” Pribil explained.

After a lengthy debate, council voted 8-6 (McAlister absent) to direct staff to develop a draft agreement with TVDSB and LTC.

A final decision will be made by council this summer.

Following the meeting, Lewis flatly rejected suggestions that Clarke Road Secondary School was chosen for the pilot project because it’s in his ward.

“There’s zero merit to the idea that this was picked by myself or by Coun. [Peter] Cuddy,” he replied. “The Thames Valley District School Board picked the school. They passed a motion back in February identifying the school.”

The London Transit Commission will get a verbal report about the proposed pilot project at its meeting April 24.

The deputy mayor offered this message to commissions who do not want to support taking the next step towards an agreement.

“If the commission doesn’t choose to do this, then they will have to respond to the public inquiries as to why,” he added. “And they may end up facing a council direction that they’re going to do it regardless, because ultimately the commission exists because council created a commission.” 

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