Bus rapid transit gets $170M boost from the provincial government

MPP Deb Matthews, Mayor Matt Brown, and Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca were on hand for a $170 million funding announcement for bus rapid transit. Liny Lamberink/980 CFPL

It’s another piece of the BRT funding puzzle: the city of London is receiving up to $170 million for its rapid transit plan from the provincial government.

Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca made the announcement at city hall Monday, saying the money will help increase transit ridership, manage congestion, improve air quality, and create jobs.

READ MORE: Bus rapid transit information session draws crowd of non-bus riders

“Whether you’re a student at Western University or Fanshawe College looking for a better way to get to class, or you and your family want to leave the car at home when you’re heading out to run errands … rapid transit will transform — literally transform — the way that you move,” he said before a couple dozen politicians and bureaucrats.

With the city committed to spending $130 million of the project’s capital costs, there’s a question mark looming over the $200 million still needed. But Mayor Matt Brown is confident the city will secure the federal dollars it requires.

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“We’re having very positive conversations with federal representatives,” said Brown, adding the project couldn’t take place without a contribution from all three levels of government.

“We provided a sound business case, there is no reason in my mind that I could imagine the federal government wouldn’t follow through with an appropriate level of funding for this community.”

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There was also talk of how the system will connect with the high-speed rail corridor planned by the province between Toronto and Windsor.

“These two programs go hand in glove,” said Brown. While rapid transit changes the way London grows, high-speed rail will shrink the distance between London and Kitchener/Waterloo, Toronto, and Windsor, he explained.

Since Monday’s funding announcement is based on a vision for a rapid transit plan as outlined in a business case sent to the Ministry of Transportation last year, Ward 6 Counc. Phil Squire is left wondering what flexibility the city still has, moving forward.

“There’s not going to be a change in the routes. What I mean by any flexibility [is] what will those routes look like? Will they be four lanes? Two lanes of rapid transit on Richmond [Street] or not?”
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Squire also takes issue with how the announcement was communicated: he didn’t get an email about it until this morning.

READ MORE: London rapid transit staff criticized for poor communication

“When major announcements are made, councillors are given minimal notice,” he said, pointing out that he’s not the only councillor upset by the lack of a heads-up.

“It tells me that in a lot of cases, these decisions have a life of their own. They don’t rely on my input or the input of my constituents.”

While Counc. Jesse Helmer admits to having “small little gripes” about how he found out about Monday’s announcement, his focus is on how the funding is good news for London.

“Our business case is very strong,” he said. “I think things are looking very good on the federal funding side.”

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