BRT Overview

London’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system is one of the defining issues for the city this election season, with many candidates making their decision about its implementation a key part of their platforms. It’s a major municipal transit approach that hinges on this election, too: Many candidates have staked out clear positions for and against the current Shift BRT project.

How you cast your vote could determine whether or not London ever sees a BRT system. Here’s what you need to know about it before making your decision.

What is Bus Rapid Transit?

As many transit reformers will tell you, London is the largest city in Canada without a “modern” rapid transit system. These systems come in all shapes and sizes, with light rail, subways, and monorails being the most common examples. London recently rejected light rail as a form of rapid transit in favor of only using the BRT, another form that was initially going to be used in conjunction with light rail.

Although there is some dispute over calling a bus-based system “rapid” transit, the plans would make London the first city in the world to have an electric BRT solution, and it would operate more frequently than the current conventional bus fleet. BRT is proposed as a less intrusive project that will share the road with cars: Buses will get their own lanes along the corridors, and the plan is for buses to arrive every five to ten minutes.

The system itself would be 24 kilometers, snaking along London’s major arteries in two main routes. One will run west-south, from White Oaks Mall down Wellington and over to Wonderland and Oxford; the other will go east-north, from Fanshawe College down Oxford to Masonville Place along Richmond.

The BRT would also be electric, as opposed to the diesel operated bus system now in place. They would charge up in special stations along the route.

What is the cost of BRT?

The cost for the BRT is projected to be $500 million, making it the largest infrastructure project in the London’s history. The money will come from all three levels of government:

$170 million will come from the provincial government
$200 million will come from the federal government
$130 million will come from the municipal government

What is Still Not Known about BRT?

While Londoners know some of the details, there are still some unknowns. The consultation for the plan (formerly called a Transit Project Assessment Process or TPAP) has been paused so the city can reassess ways to mitigate the project’s effects on heritage properties and landmarks, which could impact costs and routing. Details on how other “nonrapid” bus routes will accommodate the rapid system would be developed as the project is implemented over the 10-year implementation cycle.

Although there is a proposal to have a fully electric system, the type of buses used by the project may not be available immediately and may need to be bridged with vehicles using conventional fuels such as diesel or natural gas. And although the federal government has allocated $204.8 million in transit funding for London over the next 10 years, it can review the business case for the use of those funds, which means some or all of the BRT system could have funding altered or reallocated.

Candidates for mayor and council have a wide range of views about the current BRT plan, and consultations for the project are still underway. There are several grassroots organizations lobbying for and against BRT who offer competing assessments and may persuade you if you’re in the undecided camp. Find out where the candidates stand on the issue and mark your ballot for the candidate that reflects your stance!

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