Ontario is investing up to $170 million in London bus rapid transit.
Yesterday, Steven Del Duca, Ontario minister of transportation, announced the government’s support of London’s BRT project. Mayor Matt Brown and Deb Matthews, MPP of London North Centre, were also in attendance.
“The city of London is actually largest city in the country that doesn’t have its own rapid transit system,” said Del Duca at a Jan. 15 University Students' Council roundtable discussion about local and provincial transit.
Del Duca hopes the BRT combined with an Ontario-wide high-speed rail, which will eventually connect London and Toronto, will provide citizens with more reliable, efficient and safer transportation.
London bus rapid transit, called Shift, will make up a 24-kilometer system of high-frequency buses on major streets of London, including a route through Western University.
Ontario’s $170 million investment is part of the province's $31.5 billion Moving Ontario Forward strategy, a plan that supports public transit, transportation and priority infrastructure.
With this new investment, London is one step closer to financing the BRT system's $500 million cost. The city has said it will commit another $130 million to the project while looking for federal funding for the remainder.
According to Del Duca, infrastructural investments should have come earlier. Prior to 2003, he said there was chronic underinvestment in infrastructure in Ontario, which coincided with a period of population growth and increasing transportation needs.
“You have to play catch up and keep up at the same time," said Del Duca. "Often, that means it's more expensive, more intrusive to people and takes a lot longer."
However, for future students, this means faster and more reliable ways to get around London — something student advocates have been pushing for a long time.
“This has been a priority for us for years,” said USC vice-president Landon Tulk. "Time and time again, I still hear from students that we need better transit. We need faster transit, and we need buses that are going to get students to school without them having to worry about being late for class or missing an exam.”
Tulk said the USC will continue to meet with local, provincial and federal stakeholders to advocate for rapid transit until the project comes to fruition.
“We have four members of parliament in the London area whom I want to reengage with in 2018 and make sure they know that rapid transit is still on students’ minds,” said Tulk.
Tulk encourages students to participate in upcoming public consultations hosted by Shift London and to express their concerns.
“Students have been clear that London needs improved transit, and now, with the province on board, we will see this project move forward,” said Tulk.