London

Western student activists pressure city hall to improve public transit

Students demonstrated outside of city hall Tuesday with a large cardboard replica of an LTC bus plastered with comments, concerns, and suggestions from those who make up about half of all yearly bus trips.

The students are concerned about pollution and unreliable bus service

This group of student activists stemmed from a Western University course called "Climate Change and Collective Action." (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

Student activists at Western University are pressuring the City of London and the London Transit Commission (LTC) to address environmental issues and reliability.

They demonstrated outside of city hall Tuesday with a large cardboard replica of an LTC bus plastered with comments, concerns, and suggestions from those who make up about half of all yearly bus trips. 

"We wanted to bring this concern to city hall, and hope that they improve transit and also tackle climate change at the same time," said Eva Deligiannis, a fourth-year undergraduate neuroscience student at Western University.

Complaints and suggestions posted to this replica LTC bus come directly from students and faculty at Western University. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

The LTC has, in the past, struggled to deal with rising ridership on student-dominated routes, especially while contending with staffing issues like shortages of both mechanics and drivers.

In September, CBC News reported that buses frequently blew past stops and didn't stop for students due to having limited space on board.

"Almost every day I have to leave about an hour before I want to be on campus for that 15-minute bus ride, because often when the buses get to my stop at Sarnia and Wonderland Road, they're already full," said Deligiannis.

LTC officials told CBC News at the time, they hoped to have challenges related to staffing and ridership solved by November.

Comments from students on the replica bus in front of city hall included concerns over consistency, the number of available buses and punctuality, all issues echoed by Deligiannis when she recounted conversations she's had with other students.

"What we're hearing overwhelmingly is students saying the buses need to be more on time. There needs to be more buses. They need to be expanded."

Environmental implications

Along with concerns over performance, students present at the demonstration had environmental concerns they said can be aided through better bus service.

Fourth-year Western student Anika Sebudde believes expanded, reliable bus service would reduce car dependency and positively affect the city's ability to meet goals set out in its climate emergency action plan.

"If they can't catch the bus, a lot more students are driving," she said. "I am in the environment and health program, and the geography department, so for me it means a lot because I really do love the environment and I'm very passionate about making a difference."

According to a release by these student activists, within London as a whole between 2015 and 2019, transportation comprised 47 per cent of local greenhouse gas emissions, with personal vehicles making up most of this share.

Anika Sebudde is one of several students present for the demonstration. She is part of the environment and health program, and the geography department at Western University. (Alessio Donnini/CBC News)

Deligiannis is hopeful that with a new council, there will come new changes that positively affect the environment.

"We're really hoping that council will kind of stick to the climate emergency plan that the previous council brought in, and that they will really take a lot of actions to implement those plans," she said.

One of the biggest hurdles, in her opinion, includes getting the city, the university, and the LTC on the same page.

"I think [the current bus problems] speak to a breakdown between Western University and the administration communicating with the City of London and the LTC on how we need to accommodate the growing student population through busing," said Deligiannis.

Deligiannis hopes to bring student concerns, along with an open letter with signatures from roughly 80 students, to city council through the civic works committee.

Their open letter to council can be read here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alessio Donnini

Reporter/Editor

Alessio is a Sarnia-born, London-raised multimedia journalist. Graduating from Fanshawe College's Broadcast Journalism program, he's worked in markets from Toronto to Windsor, and has a love for all things news. Alessio can be heard on weekday afternoons reading the news for Afternoon Drive. In his free time, he can be found enjoying a good book, watching a documentary, or learning to cook a new recipe.

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