Rapid transit is the big issue of our time in London.
All city councillors are supportive of building a rapid transit system in London. So what now? If you take the 6, the 13, the 90 Express, and the 106 buses, you’ll know.
Sometimes you’ll take two lights to get through Oxford and sometimes you’ll get stuck at the tracks for several minutes at a time. Sometimes both. The north corridor has become arguably the most contentious portion of the project. It runs from downtown to Masonville Place via Richmond St., main campus, and Western Rd.
Since 2015, there have been plans to construct a tunnel that will run from Victoria Park to St. James St. It would bypass the tracks beside Molly Bloom’s and Oxford St. It would save a substantial amount of time on a commute by bus. While the city planned to finalize the routes by the end of March, a public information session in late February drew the ire of downtown businesses that fear that the proposed routes would harm their businesses.
There are groups in the local community who seek change to the originally proposed route. Their options range from rerouting in the downtown on different streets to scrapping the project entirely. Within all of that, there is some support to divert the entire route to Wharncliffe and Western Road. That proposal presents some problems on its own. On March 27, city staff presented a comparison between the two corridors. The people and jobs figures between both were no contest. Western/Wharncliffe had fewer than 4,000 and would remain that way for the next 20 years. Richmond has over five times that amount and it would grow to just over 25,000 by 2035.
Upon looking at that, London Mayor Matt Brown cautioned against building a “rapid transit system that goes nowhere.” The numbers alone make it clear that Richmond St is where the people are at and a rapid transit system needs to be built around the most people.
Other problems include building developments in a floodplain and the severe property impacts of rapid transit construction in a heritage conservation district. On top of all of that, the argument is not rooted in being for something. It’s rooted in being against something. This rapid transit system is for the benefit of all Londoners; it should not be treated as an albatross.
Take a look at the proposed north corridor that is up for discussion. You have Richmond Row, Victoria Park, Old North, Gibbons Park, St. Joseph’s Hospital, King’s University College and the main campus community. From King St. to King’s, these are among the places that matter in London. Relocating substantial parts of the rapid transit lines, doing away with rapid transit in general, and vague suggestions to “expand the bus system” will do nothing to unlock the potential in our transit system.
Next month, London city council will vote on a pivotal piece of this rapid transit plan. In one vision of London, 50 people on a bus down Richmond Street are stuck at a train crossing. In another vision of London, 50 people on a bus down Richmond Street are smoothly making their way through Richmond Row, into campus, into the core and all over London. It’s time to get in the tunnel with them.
— Cedric Richards is one of the founding members of Shift Happens, a citizens' group supporting London's rapid transit plans.