London gives green light to $440M bus rapid transit plan

After months of debate around the biggest project in the city's history, council gave final approval to planned routes during a meeting on Tuesday.

The transit plan is the biggest project in the city's history

London Mayor Matt Brown. (Matt Brown/Facebook)

It may not be exactly what anyone wants, but the City of London has officially finalized a $440-million bus rapid transit plan.

After months of debate around the biggest project in the city's history, council gave final approval to planned routes during a meeting on Tuesday. 

Mayor Matt Brown commended his colleagues for their hard work on the transit plan and celebrated the decision.

"BRT is happening in London," he said. "Council has made a very critical decision."

The final vote came after council nailed down major details during a meeting Monday night. Following the meeting, Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire described the plan as a compromise that won't totally satisfy anyone.

"None of us are completely happy," he said. "But that's often what you get in large public projects. Nobody is happy at the end of the day, but we are moving forward with something and I think there was a big fear we were going to do nothing."

London councillor Phil Squire speaks during a council meeting Tuesday. (City of London/YouTube)

Council killed one of the major sources of controversy surrounding the project during a meeting Monday night by ditching the proposed 900-metre tunnel with a $90-million price tag, that was to run beneath the city's busy Richmond Row shopping district.

Many business owners in the area feared construction for the tunnel would drive away customers and bury them financially, according to Squire.

"I think they're very relieved," he said. "They're quite happy to know at least they're not going to have a street that was dug up for three years."

The next step will be for city staff to present the plan to the provincial and federal governments who have been "waiting" for the routes to be settled.

After the council voted in support of the plan, several councillors stood up to express optimism about the future of transit in the city and encouraged citizens to continue sharing their perspectives as the project moves forward.

Coun. Jesse Helmer said although it may seem "demoralizing" that the proposed transit system went from a $800-million project combining light rail and buses to its current bus-only form, he says there will still be a lot of time for Londoners to have their voices heard.

"This is just one step in a long process," he said.

London's finalized BRT plan:

  • Dedicated BRT lanes will remain on Richmond Street, but will no longer run through a tunnel
  • Staff will study options to bypass the rail crossing on Richmond Row
  • One of two BRT lines planned for King Street downtown has been moved to Queens Avenue, creating a "couplet"
  • Corridors approved include: North to Masonville Place mall, east to Fanshawe College, south along Wellington Road to White Oaks Mall, and west to Wonderland Road