Rapid transit system discussed during TMP talks
London Community News
By Mallory Clarkson/London Community News/Twitter: @MalloryClarkson
How London residents get from point A to point B will have a nearly $1.2 billion tune up, if council approves the Transportation Master Plan (TMP) next week.
During a Civic Works committee meeting Tuesday (June 19), councillors reviewed the plan that outlines the growth and development of everything from cycling and walking pathways to parking. At the heart of the TMP is the creation of a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system that would run from Western University to White Oaks and Oakridge Mall past Fanshawe College.
Mayor Joe Fontana began the discussions around the committee table, first questioning how the TMP could fit within the city’s fiscal framework.
“I think we’ve got it right on the macro side of things,” he said. “All of this has to fit within our financial plan, which we in fact will start to discuss within the next number of weeks.”
If approved, the master plan should be implemented by 2030. The $1.2 billion covers off things like improvements to municipal roads ($745 million); municipal transit ($378 million); and walking, cycling and parking ($44 million). The additional dollars (around $60 million) include intersection improvements and minor road widening.
But, before any major move is made, business and financial plans would have to be created first.
The BRT system would run on Richmond Street north of the river, Oxford Street west of Richmond, most of Wellington Road south of Horton Street and parts of Dundas Street, Highbury Avenue and Oxford Street East. If implemented, it would cost approximately $340 million out of the $378 million allotted for municipal transit.
But, it’s expected up to one third of the total cost could be covered by both provincial and federal governments.
Ward 5 Councillor Joni Baechler said it’s imperative to have a progressive transit plan in order to qualify for such funding.
“Progressive cities are looking at how to move people in innovative, creative, multi-modal ways,” she said. “Here we are today with a plan that considers all of those factors and really talks about how we build a vision for London that is a city of the future.”
She added if the city is stuck in the “old roads mode,” it will go nowhere fast and also won’t be getting its fare share of money from the provincial or federal governments.
“(That) means tax payers are going to be on the hook for the widening of what we’ve got,” she said. “Let’s face it, we can’t pay for it, we absolutely cannot afford it.”
While the plan comes with a hefty price tag, John Lucas, manager of Transportation Planning and Design with the city, said the full weight also won’t be felt at once. He added there are necessary major road upgrade projects totaling $655 million, which would be needed even without the implementation of the TMP.
“It’s hard to say this is truly going to cost you more, when in fact there are mechanisms to mitigate that,” Lucas said, adding another way to alleviate that cost is through timing.
He stressed movement on the plan will be budget driven.
“It will be where do we get our money from and how much is available and it will be subject to the capital budget all of the time.”
Baechler added she wanted assurances that while the plan would build solutions for today, it still could be changed. “I want to be assured it’s adaptable in terms as how we go forward in the future.”
London Transit Commission (LTC) Larry Ducharme gave that assurance, saying if approved, the TMP wouldn’t have carte blanche and all decisions moving forward would have to come back to council for approval.
The TMP will be voted on by council next week.
While it wasn’t included under the TMP, a ring road and a “GO West” transit system for southwestern Ontario were also discussed as part of the Forest City’s transportation future.
“If we’re thinking long-term and if we’re thinking of moving people, not necessarily forcing cars through our inner-city roadways, I want to know whether or not there’s been any thought … (on) a ring road system,” Fontana said. “Mistakes were made in the past; there’s no doubt the 402 always ought to have come up around the north.
“But I would hope that we’re looking to the future and we’re looking to some other things that are happening through the province.”