If approved, it would be the largest infrastructure project in London’s history.
A report going before the city’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee on Monday outlines four alternatives for rapid transit in London, but suggests a hybrid network — combining bus and light rail vehicles — as the preferred option.
The estimated cost of that plan is between $850-million and $900-million, spread out over 10 years.
The City of London would cover $125-million, mostly through development charges, while the rest of the funding would come from the provincial and federal governments.
If funding can be secured from other levels of government, it’s hoped rapid transit construction could begin in 2018 or 2019.
The Rapid Transit network being recommended would be defined by two main corridors.
The north-east line, utilizing light rail, would connect Masonville Place, Western University, Western Research Park, LHSC, St. Joseph’s Hospital, downtown London, Old East Village, the London Psychiatric Hospital redevelopment lands, Fanshawe College and, in the future, London International Airport.
The south-west line, utilizing buses, would connect White Oaks Mall, LHSC, downtown London, and the Oxford-Wonderland residential and commercial hub.
This plan would involve significant construction, including road widening along the main corridors, and a number of major structural projects, including a Richmond Street rapid transit tunnel, and widening of Wellington Street south of Horton Street to provide fully separated lanes.
Aside from the preferred option, at a cost of $850-$900-million, the other three proposals range in price from $260-$280-million, $475-$525-million, or $1.1-$1.2-billion.
London Transit General Manager Kelly Paleczny tells AM980 that council has a tough decision between the four options.
“If you’re looking at it from a purely transit perspective, certainly the question would be why do I need to spend the $1.2-billion when I can spend the $290-million? But the whole environmental assessment was looking at more than just the transit transportation. It’s looking at community building, economic development, city building opportunities, so there are a number of other things to consider.”
Why does London need such a monumental overhaul to its transit system?
The report points to a number of factors, including:
- London is the 11th largest urban area in Canada, and every city in the Top 10, and some outside that list, already have some form of rapid transit.
- The volume of auto trips is expected to increase by 25% within 15 years, resulting in more congestion on local roads.
- London’s population is expected to add another 77,000 residents by 2035, according to the London Plan, and another 43,000 jobs.
- The addition of rapid transit is projected to increase LTC ridership by 40% from 2014 totals.
- Increased speed of travel — a trip from downtown London to Western University, for example, would be 7 minutes less than it is right now when using LTC.
Speaking on The Pulse with Devon Peacock, Mayor Matt Brown said the funding plan being proposed in London would see the city pay just 13.8% of the total cost.
“At this point we have identified the $125-million, I think that’s a significant contribution to whichever direction that we go.”
Regardless of which option Council chooses, it’s dependent on funding from the provincial and federal governments.
“I also recognize that our provincial partners identified in the 2015 budget that London is a possible site for rapid transit investment,” said Mayor Brown.
The Ontario government has committed to investing $130 billion over 10 years into infrastructure in Ontario. Already, the province has agreed to pay $1.6 billion for a light rail project connecting Mississauga and Brampton, $1.2 billion for a light rail project in Toronto, up to $1 billion in Hamilton and investments in Kitchener-Waterloo and Barrie.
London would also count on the newly elected federal Liberal government following through on its commitment to invest in public transit. The Liberals have pledged to quadruple federal investment in public transit, up to almost $20 billion over 10 years.
Aside from debate at City Hall, more public consultation sessions are planned for December.
Final approval at Council could happen by January, while a preliminary design for the project could be completed by fall of 2016.