A major change may be required for London’s proposed rapid transit plan.
London’s rapid transit implementation working group was told Thursday the city may need to alter one of the four arteries proposed for the new transit system.
The original plan called for the high-frequency buses to run down Dundas Street from the downtown core through Old East Village, but the road has proved to be too narrow and would impact some heritage buildings, curbside parking and trees.
City staff and consultants have come up with two alternatives, one would be to run buses both ways down King Street, effectively turning it into a two-way street for rapid transit buses only while remaining a one way street for vehicles. The other would see buses run one way down Dundas Street then snake down King Street in the opposite direction.
Ward six councillor Phil Squire told AM980 neither option is great.
“There isn’t a perfect solution but the impression I got from the committee, when I was listening to the committee, is they really prefer to have both lanes on King Street. They felt it was a better route, it was more practical.”
While it may seem off to long-time Londoners accustomed to King Street running only east, consultant Eric Beisel told the committee he didn’t anticipate any problems if that ended up being the preferred new route.
“You’ve got to think every three minutes, if you count to 180 Mississippi’s, the times that you’ll be passing a bus, the car will actually feel like it’s a wild area. When you’re passing a bus, odds are it will only be one, but even if it’s one in either direction, it’s a very spontaneous event. It’s not like driving down the 401 and you’ve got semi-trailers three lanes wide. It’s not that sort of experience.”
It may turn out to not be ideal to have buses on Dundas Street at all, given the possible impacts it could have on the flow and feel of Old East Village.
“If you just, in your mind’s eye think about looking eastward from Adelaide along Dundas Street, there are a substantial number of trees there, there’s lots of parking there, there’s street furniture, a lot of that would have to disappear,” said London Planning Chief John Fleming. “Patios spilling out, restaurants, cafes, some of the pubs etc.. that are really starting to develop in the area, those opportunities for engaging people by taking the inside and coming outside could be limited.”
It’s wake-up call that the reality of rapid transit may be different than what people envisioned.
“The other thing you see with rapid transit is how much it changes the streets around. In other words, it turns streets that used to be one-way into two-way, it changes turns where you could turn left, now you can only turn right.”
Plans for the $500 million project call for the system to run on L and 7 shaped corridors with 34 transit stations and the downtown acting as the hub.
London has pledged $130 million to cover part of the cost, with that money coming from development charges. The remaining $370 remains unfunded, with the province and federal government expected to cover the rest.
Technically, the business plan for the two levels of government still isn’t finished. An updated business case will be coming back to council in February or March based on a provincial review.