It's back: London poised to reopen bus rapid transit debate
LONDON, ONT. -- A new report is drawing fire for breathing new life into the debate over bus rapid transit (BRT) routes in north and west London.
"Shock would almost be a mild word," said a frustrated Councillor Phil Squire. "I never expected that council’s will to not do the north BRT route would be ignored."
After years of division in the community, council appeared to settle the BRT debate in March 2019 with a political compromise. The south, east and downtown routes would be advanced for senior government funding, the controversial north and west routes would not.
Instead, city engineers were directed to consider alternative ways to enhance transit service in the north and west parts of the city.
But some of the new recommendations are not new.
They include an option to install BRT on Richmond Street, and also to build transit-only lanes along a segment of Oxford Street according to the 'original design.'
"I was sorely disappointed to see staff give us something we didn’t ask for," explains Councillor Steve Lehman referencing the west route in his ward. "We did not ask for that option to be reintroduced. We asked for other options."
But supporters of the original five-segment bus rapid transit system tell CTV News the findings in the new staff report should not be a surprise to anyone.
"The experts knew what they were talking about. They’ve come forward, done further analysis and said we got it right the first time," says Marcus Plowright of Build This City.
Plowright believes the north and west routes could be shovel-ready in time to attract more senior government funding aimed at restarting the economy post-pandemic.
"We need to move these infrastructure projects forward," adds Plowright.
But Squire warns reopening BRT discussions will reopen old wounds in the community.
"This is a real recipe for a divisive and difficult debate, and I just can not imagine we are going to enter into this again," he says.
Lehman says there is no appetite to reconsider previous council decisions, "To go back to this BRT discussion, I don’t want it. I don’t think London wants to have it."
There remains $105.5 million of senior government funding that has yet to be allocated to transit-related projects in London.
The Rapid Transit Implementation Working Group will discuss the new report’s recommendations on June 30 at city hall.