Shift or Shifty? #Ldnont #Ldnpoli

Full disclosure, I do not live downtown, nor do I live in one of the proposed satellite hubs. I am however a fan of a light rail transit system (LRT) for London, just not the proposed one. Slapping a rapid transit facade on London’s current public transit system transform the city, magically or otherwise, into a Twenty First Century player. To use Nineteenth Century theory and Twentieth Century technology will damage London Ontario. The hub and spoke approach is what London needed a hundred years ago, express buses are what London needed thirty years ago.

How about a hypothetical London by-law that told motorists travelling from one end of Commissioners Road to the other end that the must change cars downtown? Good idea, Commissioners is too insignificant to go straight through, right? Think of how downtown businesses would benefit. This same by-law could make any travel around the city go downtown before the final destination. In fact the Province and Federal Government should help insure such a system of travel couldn’t be altered regardless of requirements.

I suspect any politician that proposed the hypothetical by-law would be laughed out of office and have to emigrate from Canada to run again. If such a transit design is laughable for motorists, then why does London insist transit users take such meandering routes? Are transit users second class residents? Many of London’s existing bus routes look exactly like what not to do in the Provincial Guidelines for Transit.

In my limited research on hub and spoke transit systems the term Single Point of Failure came up. Or as London calls it Dundas/Richmond or Dundas/Clarence. North America’s cargo rail has a hub in Chicago which can take container six to twenty-six months to go through. I suspect under the Shift plan there are no promises that accidents, power outages, crime scenes, fires, or any other blockage will occur at London’s hub.

Another term I came across, also connected to Chicago, is Transit Desert. These are places where if transit exists at all it is slow and means commuting times are long. Inevitably as transit becomes the favoured option in a community the transit deserts become places of poverty. With transit unreliable these poor require cars to get around the city, not only adding to their costs but adding to the city’s congestion problems.

Without knowing the routes to feed the proposed plan in London it is difficult to say which areas will be left out. This lack of information is another reason to reject this plan until we see the full plan. My suspicion is they will be meandering routes that lengthen commutes, increase congestion for cars and buses, and are inconvenient to use. Is there a map that shows London’s jobs in relation to London’s transit routes and London’s underserviced areas? An example of what it would look like is here.

It is easy, and fun, to be critical but let’s be a bit constructive. As Chicago is cold this time of year let’s head to Tallahassee Florida, where in 2011 they replaced the entire hub and spoke system with a grid. When London does the same we should do it in the summer when students are gone. My suggestion is for six LRT lines in London, maybe not fully flushed out to begin with but covering the busiest sections of each area. I’m using colours based on the current, closest routes.

  • Gold Line: From Masonville Mall along Fanshawe Park Road to Wonderland to Exeter Road to White Oaks Mall
  • Grey Line: From Masonville Mall along Richmond Street to Central to Wellington to White Oaks Mall
  • Green Line: From Masonville Mall along Fanshawe Park Road down Highbury Avenue to Bradley Avenue to White Oaks Mall
  • Red Line: From Byron Baseline Road along Boler Road to Sanitorium Road to Oxford Street to London Airport
  • Blue Line: From Byron Baseline Road to Springbank Road to Horton Road to Richmond Street to Dundas Street to Clark Road to Oxford Street to London Airport
  • Pink Line: From Boler Road along Commissioners Road to Highbury Avenue

With these six trunk lines it should be relatively easy to add local grid systems to feed them and bypass them when needed. The hubs are still there but the system loses the single point of failure. In non peak times only six trains need to operate, one per route and they won’t have to go the full distance. In fact the outer north south lines could be looped together to reduce the number of trains even further, such as the last call specials.

Institutional orthodoxy tells us the Shift plan is the only plan that will save London and get people back downtown. That any other plan will hurt London and is anti-downtown. The downtown is my favourite part of London and bordering on agoraphobic I definitely do not want it to become one of those American hub airports full of frustrated travellers and lost luggage. Being a pessimist I suspect London transit riders will see more of this:

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