A major question mark in London’s rapid transit plan may soon be answered.
Western University is open to allowing the bus rapid transit system to travel through the campus, however the specific route has yet to be decided.
When London City Council approved full bus rapid transit last year, they did so without knowing whether Western would permit rapid transit buses to cut through the campus. The university has settled on a preferred route, but it hasn’t been finalized.
Western’s preferred route would see the buses take the Lambton Drive route where they would travel along University Drive and Lambton Drive through the southern part of the campus.
It was one of five routes up for consideration. Routes along Middlesex Drive, Perth Drive and Philip Aziz Drive were all considered, as was bypassing the campus altogether and sending buses up Richmond and then along Windermere to Western Road.
While the Lambton Drive alternative would result in a slightly longer transit time, it would also mean up to two-thirds of Western’s campus would be motor vehicle free. The Lambton Drive route could result in the Thames River Bridge being replaced, with private cars and trucks no longer permitted to drive on the new bridge. Traffic would be limited to rapid transit buses, emergency vehicles and Western maintenance vehicles.
Ward six councillor Phil Squire told AM980 there are concerns that would increase congestion along Richmond and Western Road.
“If we go across the bridge that’s in the middle of the campus, that’s going to basically prevent the through traffic from cars from one side of the campus to others. In my view that’s going to put increasing car pressure on Western Road and Richmond Street as we move forward.”
The university has indicated in recent years they would like to reduce the amount of traffic on campus, especially in light of recent fatal crashes that occurred on campus.
The first of two public consultation sessions will be held at the university Thursday from 12-2 p.m. in the McKellar Room at the University Community Centre. The second public meeting is scheduled for next Tuesday from 2-4 p.m. at the same location.
“What the city can do is say we don’t like that routing and we’re not going to accept that. The end result of that of course is that Western owns the land that it’s on so really at the end of the day they’re going to make that decision and the ball is going to be in our court as to whether we accept that routing or not,” said Squire.
Western likes the Lambton Drive alternative because it would maintain existing transit hub locations, is generally removed from sensitive research activities and would be a convenient stop location to service students, faculty and staff.
The Richmond/Windermere alternative would be seen as the least attractive option by the city as it would completely bypass the campus, potentially leading to a lower transit ridership.
A big reason for rapid transit is to service the high number of university and college students who would use the service.
Following the on-campus consultations, recommendations will be considered by Western’s Board of Governors January 26th.
London is near the end of the second stage of the Shift plan. This stage will develop a detailed design for the preferred rapid transit routes and provide a plan to build the rapid transit network including how it will be funded.
City Hall has yet to secure funding for the $500 million project from either the province or federal governments.