Politicians, staff urged to get on board bus
Change starts at the top.
If the city wants Londoners to embrace bus rapid transit, politicians and staff should use public transit themselves, said one member of a city hall working group.
“We’re asking an entire city to buy into this, and what I’m not seeing is a buy in from this corporation,” Sheryl Rooth said at a Thursday meeting of the rapid transit working group.
She suggested a bus pass program for staff would help city hall lead by example.
“If you want to engage your community you need to start with the people who are asking them to engage,” Rooth said.
And engagement is definitely the goal.
After taking heat for a lack of consultation on bus rapid transit (BRT) in its early days, the city is making an effort to keep Londoners in the loop, as evidenced by a new communications plan presented to the working group on Thursday.
City hall will use as many tools as it can — everything from door-todoor canvassing and social media posts to bus ride-alongs — to tap residents for their thoughts on the BRT plan, called Shift.
That stands in contrast to a clear lack of communication about the $500-million BRT project back in the spring.
Politicians and London residents made it clear that a lot more clarity and detail was expected around the BRT routes, and topics such as safety, traffic volumes and parking, project director Jennie Ramsay said. A consulting firm put in the extra work — but it comes with a price tag.
On Monday, staff will ask a city hall committee to approve a $2.2-million increase to the payment for consulting firm IBI Group, bringing their total fee to $5.8 million.
The funds would come from what’s already budgeted for engineering and consulting work. It wouldn’t increase the $500-million cost of the project or the $130-million contribution from London taxpayers.
“There’s no new money. This is what was allocated,” Ramsay said.
London is asking the provincial and federal governments for the remaining $370 million to construct a BRT system.
The next stage is development of preliminary designs and a draft report, work that will continue until March 2018, Ramsay told the working group.
Coun. Jesse Helmer asked when decisions will be made on electric versus conventional buses. London Transit boss Kelly Paleczny said the city is gathering data on an electric system and results will come to council in coming months.
Residents also will have a chance to weigh in on everything from the design of BRT stations to the placement of dedicated lanes.
Getting Londoners’ feedback is a key goal for the next stage, Ramsay said.