Conversations surrounding the future plans of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes on campus are still ongoing; the USC has written a letter to Western expressing their support for the approved route.
The proposed route will run from Richmond Street over the University Drive Bridge, to Lambton Drive, through Alumni Circle, to Western Road, and by Windermere Road. An overwhelming number of students have come out in support of a car-free campus core, which will minimize traffic throughout campus while maximizing safety and efficiency for pedestrians.
Jamie Cleary, USC vice-president has been working with the university to address concerns about pedestrian-heavy intersections surrounding campus, such as Western and Sarnia Road. The suggestion of pedestrian tunnel construction has been added to the board's agenda plans to negotiate with the city.
"When it comes to the idea about the pedestrian tunnels, the city was already doing an environmental assessment at that intersection," said Cleary. "The city worked on a four-year budget cycle, so they knew in their next upcoming budget cycle which is 2019, there will probably be capital investment put into the idea of some form of tunnel ... when it comes to the safety of students, we need to make sure that we have appropriate infrastructure."
In the letter addressed to Western’s board of governors, Cleary listed a few main areas of concern that students had about the BRT plans. Extensive student consultations and feedback were collected by the USC’s advocacy standing committee, and Cleary hopes that the BRT discussion will focus on these points.
Affiliate students make up a big constituency group at Western. Students want to make sure that affiliate bus shuttles would be able to operate alongside the BRT to allow access between main campus and the affiliate colleges.
With plans to reduce vehicular traffic on campus and promotion of pedestrian safety measures, students voiced concerned about the availability of transportation in the evening hours. Cleary said that students want taxis and Ubers to have access to inner-campus after hours when the BRT is no longer running, in order to promote student safety.
According to the letter, students are also requesting London Transit Commission (LTC) buses to be allowed to run on campus. Since the BRT route will not service students who live on the south side of Western’s campus, a low-frequency LTC route is being proposed to accommodate those students. Cleary explained that there is a possibility that there will be a route that will service University Hospital, but other options have yet to be fully explored.
"The BTR implementation is very long-term," said Cleary. "It probably won't be completed until 15 years down the road. It definitely is a long-term process that's going to have many steps."
Although the proposed considerations will not directly affect overall BRT plans, Cleary, who also sits on London's rapid transit group, believes that all three concerns will be brought up in the board meeting this coming Thursday.
“I think that showed the value of the student perspective on it and while it does not directly influence the decision being made by the board, it will be a good conversation as the decision happens on Thursday and we can continue moving forward,” Cleary said.
The campus BRT route will be voted on at the board of governors meeting on Thursday. Cleary's letter to the board can be read in full below.