Future of London's bus rapid transit on the line at March 20 public meeting

Bus rapid transit (BRT) was a major issue during London’s last municipal election and its future appears to be on the line next month.

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At Tuesday’s council meeting, local politicians asked city staff to draw up a list of potential transit projects that could receive matching federal and provincial funding. That list will undoubtedly include BRT and is expected to be available in the coming weeks and its items will be debated on during a public meeting at Centennial Hall on March 20.

Councillor Stephen Turner spoke on the Craig Needles Show on Wednesday morning to stress the importance of having a big, open discussion, specifically on BRT.

“I think it’s really important that we also get an impact assessment going forward of what the impact is of not proceeding at all, what it would be of only proceeding in part, and what proceeding forward with the current plan would look like too,” he said.

“When I talk to people about BRT a lot of people say ‘well, I don’t use transit’ or ‘what’s BRT going to do for me?’ Valid question, but the answer is that it’s going to save us hundreds of millions of dollars in road work, it’s going to support saving about $40 million a year in tax needs because it supports a more compact growth pattern, it’s going to be a refresh of all the roads and all the underground pipes of 32 kilometres of our road network, and we get a bus system as a result, too.”

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Turner also stressed that the provincial and federal dollars are matching, meaning the city has to pay its share, too.

“In the BRT project, over the $130 million, most of it came from development charges really can only be used for growth-related projects. Most of the ones that I’ve heard being bandied about that would kind of be the pick-and-choose from the list wouldn’t be growth related, which means that the matching funds for that would have to come from property taxes so the property tax impact could actually be substantially more,” Turner said.

“It really is a house of cards. If you pull one thing out, the risk of having everything collapse is pretty high.”

Bus rapid transit was a central issue of the 2018 municipal election, with then-candidate Ed Holder announcing during the campaign that he “cannot support the current BRT plan.”

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