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BRT shifts gears: First of 45 stations rising from the ground

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London is getting closer to getting bus rapid transit (BRT) rolling, with the construction of the city’s first station starting this week.

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London is getting closer to getting bus rapid transit (BRT) rolling, with the construction of the city’s first station starting this week. The stop, part of the east London link, is one of several that will be cropping up in the city as work continues on the major transit infrastructure project. Our Jennifer Bieman reports.


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This week’s BRT milestone

London is marking a milestone in its years-long push to get BRT underway. Workers began installing the city’s first rapid transit station earlier this week on Ontario Street at King Street, by the Western Fair District market. City hall is holding an event Thursday to mark the big moment. 

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The bus shelter will take most of the week to install, city hall said in a statement. Getting the station wired for electricity, lighting and other amenities will unfold in the coming weeks. 

Crews had to close parts of King and Ontario streets because a large crane was required to lift the structure into place. The lane restrictions are expected to remain in place until Friday.  

first of 45 rapid bus shelters
Workers erect the first of 45 bus rapid transit stations at Ontario and King streets in front of the Western Fair District market in London on Wednesday, April 24, 2024. (Mike Hensen/The London Free Press)

What’s at the BRT station?

Rapid transit stations are designed to have a consistent look and feel across all corridors, London city hall said in a statement. Public input gathered during the environmental assessment process has helped shape the final design.  

Each shelter will have a tall, freestanding pillar to prominently mark the station location. The locations, which are larger than a traditional bus stop, will have all the expected amenities, such as a seating area, route information, security cameras, lighting and tempered glass. 


BRT basics 

Bus rapid transit is not just a regular bus route, but a system of high-frequency public transit buses designed to carry more people more quickly across the city. 

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London’s bus rapid transit system, once fully built, will have a loop downtown with two routes, one running east to Fanshawe College and one heading south along Wellington Road to White Oaks Mall. 

The whole bus rapid transit project is slated for completion in 2027, with the Wellington gateway as the final leg of the plan.


How we got here 

BRT has been something of a political hot potato at London city hall, the subject of much hand-wringing over cost, routes, ridership and desirability since the concept was proposed in 2016. 

At one point, light rail was on the table, and a route extending up into the north end of the city was contemplated. By 2017, various aspects of the plan attracted organized opposition from Down Shift, an anti-BRT group spearheaded by business owners. 

BRT was a key issue in the 2018 civic election, with council candidates staking positions for or against the plan.  

Ultimately, a partial BRT plan – with routes in the core, to the south end and to Fanshawe College – was approved. Routes to the north and west parts of the city were rejected by city councillors.

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The project’s price tag has ballooned by more than 50 per cent to about $454 million due to the rising cost of real estate and construction.  

Londoners got a glimpse of what BRT eventually will look like last fall, when crews installed bright red bus-only lanes on King Street from Wellington to Lyle streets, part of the rapid transit plan’s east link. 

BRT red lane
A crew from a Toronto company called Multi-Seal paints a bus lane red on King Street between Wellington Street and Waterloo Street in London on Thursday, Oct. 5, 2023. The red lane is the first of many coming to the city as part of the bus rapid transit project. (Derek Ruttan/The London Free Press)

What’s next? 

Expect to see more BRT transit shelters popping up as city hall builds three corridors connecting downtown to Old East Village and south London.  

Officials hope to build about 10 new rapid transit shelters this year, including four core stations.  

Londoners also can expect to see more bright red, bus-only lanes painted on Wellington, Queens Avenue, Ridout and King streets this year as part of the BRT project. 

jbieman@postmedia.com

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