Echoing the results of a city committee’s vote, councillors backed their partial approval for London’s contentious $500-million bus rapid transit (BRT) plan on Tuesday.
Forty per cent of the plan was scrapped as councillors voted down the North Connection and the West Connection. The portions of the BRT plan receiving municipal nods were the Downtown Loop, East London Link and Wellington Road Gateway.
While the dismissed routes weren’t revisited during Monday’s meeting, they were alluded to on several occasions.
Earlier in the meeting, Ward 8 Coun. Steve Lehman recused himself from voting on the North Connection due to the route running along Richmond Street, where the councillor owns a number of businesses. However, even without Lehman’s vote against the North Connection, approval for the project would have still failed 7-5 as no other councillors changed their positions.
Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire also introduced a motion to direct city staff to explore alternative transit options for north and west London, adding that “leaving people with the impression that we just don’t want to help in those areas… is certainly, in my point of view, the wrong message.”
Squire’s motion had some discussion, but the Ward 6 councillor later withdrew it with the intention of bringing up the motion at the civic works committee.
With respect to the approved pieces of the BRT plan, Mayor Ed Holder said the three routes will benefit employment in the city.
“One of the focuses that we’ve always had is about the number of individuals who are looking for work but may not be able to get there and the number of employers who are looking to hire these people,” said Holder, adding that the selected routes will bring about less obvious upgrades.
“These projects also allow us to make vital water and sewer upgrades below our roads before new sinkholes emerge along with numerous other safety enhancements,” Holder said.
The BRT components were chosen from a total of 19 transit projects presented by city staff that have been recommended for applications to tap into more than $370 million in senior government funding.
Along with three pieces of the BRT plan, council also chose items 6, 7, 9, 12, 14, 15 and 16 from the list of projects above.
The dwindled-down list combines for a price tag of about $383 million, leaving about $94 million in government funds still on the table, according to the city’s treasurer.