Politi­cians, staff urged to get on board bus

The London Free Press - - LOCAL - ME­GAN STACEY THE LON­DON FREE PRESS

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.

Rooth

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