Despite what the song says, things aren’t always better when you’re downtown. London’s Dundas and Richmond area has a reputation that often ranges from sketchy to downright scary.
In such a light, the London Transit Commission’s plan to reroute buses is a sensible solution to end the dinginess caused by congestion. But city planners need to be careful about how they address the other problem with downtown — the people.
Because beneath all the discussion about moving buses and improving the area, there’s a power keg of class politics. Critics have frequently questioned the logic of having a welfare office and a bus junction in the heart of the city, because this is where down-on-their-luck citizens will naturally congregate. It’s not the best image for a city centre, and while politicians recognize it, it’s a touchy subject to solve.
If London wants to realize its longstanding dream for an ideal downtown, they have to address its people problem. Doing so requires care, because traveling down that road comes with a litany of political implications and could eventually lead to gentrification.
So far the city has taken the right approach. The LTC’s proposal doesn’t prevent anyone from going to the core, considering most routes will move only one or two blocks away. They’ve rightly focused their attention on the buses, appeasing critics who know the change will move its passengers as well.
With the simple rerouting, Westerners and Londoners alike will be more encouraged to travel to the core. And they certainly should. Since the John Labatt Centre’s opening and the renewal of the Covent Garden Market opened, the area surrounding Dundas and Richmond has blossomed into a beautiful and diverse place. As the area continues to develop, having a core that appeals to everyone in London will help build momentum and give the city a face it can be proud of.
It’s significant that a single corner can have such a profound impact on businesses, citizens and the city as a whole. That’s exactly why the LTC is willing to spend $583,400 to make such a marginal move — they recognize the effect a rotten core can have on a city.
A small investment now can reap benefits to the surrounding area as the downtown continues to grow. It’s just what’s needed to lure Western students — who have a well-established reputation for suckling from the teat of the Western bubble — to the city centre.
— The Gazette Editorial Board