BRT not easy, but ‘it’s right thing to do’
As former politicians, we follow policy discussion closely as citybuilding is an inherent part of our thinking.
We try to avoid publicly commenting on political issues out of respect for the elected members of council and because, frankly, most people don’t want to hear a retired politician’s musings. We have contemplated the debate about bus rapid transit (BRT) and feel we need to share our perspective, because it seems politics has got in the way of good public policy.
Over the years, we have supported various forms of transportation to move people effectively and efficiently. The bus rapid transit (BRT) concept is not a recently determined strategy. It has been studied and advanced by every council since the 2004 Transportation Master Plan, followed in 2006 with the London Transit – Rapid Transit Strategy.
The Transportation Master Plan of 2009, called Smart Moves, integrated transportation policy (including rapid transit) with planning policy and financial growth management strategies. In-depth analysis has occurred through transportation and transit master plans, environmental assessments, infrastructure growth management plans and multifaceted financial assessments. Over a decade of study, a multitude of community meetings and many unanimous recommendations from three different councils, the project moved along from concept to No. 1 infrastructure priority.
The average taxpayer may not realize there is an existing 10-year road infrastructure gap of $202 million. Without rapid transit infrastructure, every major road in the city would require widening to six lanes. This would mean buying up property, homes and businesses and bulldozing trees. Simply put, the cost of carrying new and existing road infrastructure is unsustainable for taxpayers. Period.
Nearly half of all transit riders use the service to get to work. Two-thirds of riders can’t afford to drive a car. Without BRT, we are holding back those trying to move out of poverty. Adding services and tweaking bus routes are not enough. If it was, this would have been implemented long ago. A full realignment of the transit lines as feeder routes into the main BRT lines will bring the system into the 21st century.
The recent United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change updated report, called Global Warming of 1.5 C, challenges citizens and politicians to implement strategies to curb emissions. As the report emphasizes, “The next few years are probably the most important in our history.”
The same can be said about BRT in transforming how we effectively move people. BRT and light rail transit (LRT) are the environmentally responsible approach every large city in the country is undertaking.
We appreciate elements of the system require further refinement, but the structural components of the major route alignment were designed to be a framework to accommodate transportation options as they evolve through time.
Modern cities move people effectively in many ways. It is a key element in building a city that serves those who choose to drive, in addition to those who need or choose rapid transit, cycling or walking. The voting records of the last four mayors indicate consistent support for BRT. This is not a new issue. It has been reviewed for over a decade as an essential plan for London.
We would encourage the incoming council to show leadership, work together and move forward with this transformational project. It won’t be easy, but it’s the right thing to do. BRT is a critical citybuilding infrastructure strategy that will benefit the economic, social and environmental future of London, for generations.
An artist’s rendering shows the bus rapid transit route on Queens Avenue looking east into downtown.