Londoners get their chance to speak out on bus rapid transit plan

It’s an issue so big, they needed an arena.

Budweiser Gardens will be the setting for Wednesday’s highly anticipated public participation meeting on London’s controversial bus rapid transit plan.

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A timeline of London's Bus Rapid Transit debate

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Interest in the $560-million plan exploded earlier this year as the city unveiled details regarding where the routes would go and the impact they would have.

The details have sparked both passionate support and opposition.

Down Shift, a group made up of downtown merchants and residents, have pushed for major route changes while Shift Happens, a group of transit riders and supporters, have called on council to keep the proposed routes and continue with the plan.

Both groups are expected to attend Wednesday’s 4 p.m. meeting.

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Richmond Street business owners raise concerns over London bus rapid transit plan

Two proposed routes are at the core of Wednesday’s meeting. The north corridor which starts on Clarence Street and includes a 900-metre tunnel that runs below Richmond Row and resurfaces on Richmond Street near St. Joseph’s hospital and King Street, which runs one-way going east but could be reduced to one lane of vehicle traffic with dedicated bus lanes running east and west.

Mayor Matt Brown, who made rapid transit for London a central part of his 2014 election campaign, supports the tunnel and the plan. Brown told AM980 he isn’t worried about Wednesday’s meeting getting heated.

“I’ll approach it the way I always do. We expect to have a respectful decorum, I expect nothing less from London. We’ve been through meetings like this in the past and I’m confident things will go well,” he said.

The overall price tag is $560 million, that includes $130 million from the city of London, which will be paid through development charges, the rest will come from the Ontario and federal governments.

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The BRT plan itself was approved by city council last year. The system would see high-frequency buses running on L and 7 shaped corridors, both running through the downtown.

Budweiser Gardens, the setting for Wednesday’s showdown, has publicly stated it wants changes to the plan, saying their ability to attract big-name acts could be impacted. Their concern is the routes would make it difficult for high-profile and complicated acts to load and unload their shows.

Brown hopes a couple hundred people will show up for the meeting. He says city hall booked the arena because other venues were already taken.

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Council to decide on alternate routes to London’s rapid transit path

Ward 6  Coun. Phil Squire has been a vocal opponent of the proposed routes. The 900-metre tunnel runs right through his ward. Squire says he thinks the meeting will be well attended.

“I know that in my neighbourhood there’s not only signs, there’s signs for the meeting and there are signs directing you to go to the meeting so this has a high level of public interest,” he said.

The meeting will start with a presentation about London’s rapid transit plan, followed by an open mic session. Councillors will also be able to ask city staff technical questions before the meeting comes to an end.

City councillors will vote on the proposed routes May 15 and 16.

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