London rapid transit staff criticized for poor communication

London’s bus rapid transit plan is once again being criticized for poor communication with the public.

Ward 6 Coun. Phil Squire took city staff to task at Thursday’s rapid transit working group meeting over their failure to inform the public about a workshop planned for next week.

Squire says he was approached by one of his constituents last week asking about a meeting scheduled for Nov. 15 and had to admit he didn’t know anything about it.

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“What I’m looking for is an undertaking to use the abilities of councillors. I have an extensive list of contacts with my constituents, I like to let them know what’s going on,” he said.

Squire has been critical of the BRT plan and the communication of the plan. Squire’s ward includes the Richmond corridor that was in focus at the Thursday meeting at London city hall.

BRT project director Jennie Ramsay explained they’ve been using the government relations master calendar of events to keep people informed.

“In this case we weren’t aware of the protocol to be able to, in addition to that, send individual email notices out to councillors. Going forward we will be following the communications protocol,” said Ramsay.

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This isn’t the first time there has been communication problems regarding BRT. The city faced criticism earlier this year for not communicating well enough before finalizing routes.

A workshop will be held Nov. 15 from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the central library to showcase rapid transit stations and streetscapes.

Squire says the city needs to do a better job notifying the public about meetings and workshops.

“I was looking at the emails that were going out to my constituents today (Thursday) in reply to questions, they weren’t mentioning the Nov. 15 meeting at all. The Nov. 15 meeting, people don’t seem to be getting notified about it,” he said.

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City hall will also hold public information meetings Dec. 11 to Dec. 15 across London. It’s at those meetings Londoners will be able to discuss various routes.

London will need to alter nine roads to accommodate the BRT plan.

Road widening openings for Richmond Street between Oxford Street and University Drive were presented to the rapid transit implementation working group as an example. The other eight areas will be presented to Londoners next month.

Based on the conceptual drawings, some homeowners along Richmond could lost a chunk of their front lawns, depending on what option the city goes with.

London could keep Richmond as a four-lane roadway with two lanes set aside for BRT. This would require the addition of either a centre median or left turn lane. The city could also expand Richmond to a six-lane roadway with two lanes specifically for BRT. This would also require the addition of either a centre median or left turn lane.

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Keeping Richmond as a four-lane roadway would see some homeowners lose between 0.7 and 1.9 metres of their front lawn, expanding to a six-lane roadway would see some front lawns reduced by between 4.1 and 4.9 metres.

City staff say regardless of what London does, Richmond Street needs to be expanded to accommodate rapid transit.

“I think that’s the critical message here. Richmond in this section isn’t working today, there are a number of deficiencies that can be addressed through any one of these designs,” said Mayor Matt Brown.

If Richmond were to expand to six lanes, that would only be possible north of Oxford. Expanding to six lanes south of Oxford would result in a major alteration to the downtown area.

© 2017 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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