A group opposed to London’s Shift rapid transit plan is taking a new approach to drumming up support for its campaign.
Down Shift London is distributing hundreds of lawn and window signs as it continues to voice opposition to the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) routes, and what the group feels was a lack of consultation by city officials.
The signs include the slogan “Don’t let council throw London under the bus!”
Down Shift London was started by downtown merchants opposed to the plan, but spokesperson Dan McDonald said their campaign has attracted residents from outside the core.
“Every time we talk to a group, they keep saying, ‘we didn’t know about this, we don’t know what’s going on,’ so we hope that we’re jarring people when they see those pieces either in the stores or on people’s front lawns to just start asking questions of your councillor,” he said.
The group wants residents to research the proposed routes along King and Richmond streets, which Down Shift London feels will do harm to the downtown.
“The main concerns still are the route selection and the criteria that was used for that,” he said. “The other major issue is the tunnel and its exorbitant cost and the city really hasn’t explained why that needs to be as long and as big as it is.”
The routes haven’t been finalized, but staff have proposed converting a section of King Street outside Budweiser Gardens into a single lane of eastbound traffic, with two lanes for BRT.
Members of Down Shift London are concerned with a reduction in parking and loading zones, as well as vehicular and pedestrian traffic.
City officials say putting a rapid transit route on King Street addressed a problem discovered earlier this year: that Dundas Street in the core and in Old East Village may be too narrow for a single dedicated transit lane, without sacrificing curbside parking.
The Richmond Street tunnel is estimated to cost $90 million. That amounts to nearly one-fifth of the rapid transit budget, which stands at roughly $560 million. City hall has capped its contribution at $130 million and has been lobbying upper levels of government to cover the rest.
Staff have proposed the underground tunnel run from the northeast end of Victoria Park to the north end of St. Joseph’s Hospital near Cheapside Street.
McDonald hopes residents and city officials take notice of the new signs.
“The wording alone about being thrown under a bus, I mean it’s certainly a figurative concept but it’s just getting people to engage and people have busy lives,” he said. “When they’re sitting in traffic or they’re at a cash register and checking out, even if it makes them ask the question ‘why?’ and move on.”
The group started distributing the signs to residents and business owners on Wednesday, and anyone who wants one can contact the group through its website.
Meantime, city officials are meeting with Richmond Street business owners on Thursday at Centennial Hall to get their feedback on the BRT plan. The gathering follows last week’s meeting with King Street merchants.
The London Downtown Business Association (LDBA), which represents downtown merchants, committed earlier this month to conducting a survey of its members to find out how they feel about the Shift plan. Officials with the LDBA said it won’t be crafted until after a meeting of council on Tuesday, April 4.
Councillors are expected to vote during that meeting on a recommendation from the civic works committee to have staff propose alternate routes.
Due to ongoing debates, the proposed routes aren’t expected to be finalized until June.
The rapid transit plan is the biggest project in London’s history. London is the largest city in Canada without rapid transit.