Full council voted in favour Tuesday of a recommendation to have city staff come up with alternate routes for London’s bus rapid transit (BRT) plan.
Londoners, including downtown merchants, crowded into city hall as council discussed the much-anticipated recommendation that passed 9 – 2. Four councillors were absent from the meeting.
The decision comes after city staff held meetings with downtown businesses that raised concerns about the impact of proposed routes along King Street and Richmond Street.
Bob DiFruscia, DownShift representative and owner of Bertoldi’s restaurant on Richmond Row, says it took a long time for London’s downtown to come to fruition – only to be torn apart by transit.
“I think that it’s sad,” he said. “And now it’s working and it’s coming and it’s becoming alive and (transit’s) going to shut (it) down. I find that amazing.”
Shift Happens supporter Lori Bursh, on the other hand, sees the $560-million bus rapid transit plan as an opportunity for downtown businesses to gain traction.
“As you’re on a bus, you see these things because you’re looking at what’s going on around you and seeing the city,” she said. “No matter what we do, somebody is going to be inconvenienced for a short time.”
Ward 8 Coun. Paul Hubert insisted that council is taking steps to protect downtown businesses.
“Rapid transit is not about today – it’s about the city 10 years from now,” he said. “But if we’re going to build the city of the future, we have to build the businesses of the future as well.”
The civic works committee accepted a recommendation last week from the bus rapid transit implementation working group that initially proposed staff develop two alternate routes.
City staff is set to meet with rapid transit critics, including a public meeting scheduled on May 3, before presenting the alternate routes to council by May 15.
The final routes aren’t expected to be approved until late July.