OPINION: Rapid transit a city catalyst

Cities are well positioned to solve some of the most complex problems. It is at the municipal level where the world is going to change because cities have the ability to inspire and transform lives.

We must recognize cities as a mature order of government. The future of innovation is within cities. The cities that become successful are the ones that race for relevance.

London is embarking on a project that could transform the city.

It’s called Shift London and it’s an important initiative for our transportation system.It focuses on rapid transit as part — along with cars, bikes and pedestrians — of the transportation system that will help our city grow and prosper.

 Screen Shot 2015-07-06 at 12.24.28 AMSo why rapid transit? It will help cut the cost of sprawl (keep taxes low), reduce air pollution and traffic congestion, build mixed-used compact neighbourhoods and increase development efforts in London. Rapid transit will be a catalyst for urban regeneration, community building and economic investment. Pedestrian and mixed-use development will increase around transit villages.

 Developers understand that there is a premium to be had on properties that are well linked to rapid transit. Condos sell for more, rental apartments lease for more and businesses of all kinds desire a connected city that can help them attract the best and the brightest to work for them.

 City Planner John Fleming says, “Rapid transit is about much more than just moving people more efficiently and cost-effectively in London. It’s also about city-building.”

 Families can save $7,500 per year for each extra vehicle they can avoid. Transit trips will be up to 50 percent faster, more reliable and comfortable carrying more people on larger, modern vehicles because they will travel in a lane dedicated mostly for Rapid Transit.

 The initial proposal calls for transit lines from a north-south corridor (Masonville Place to White Oaks Mall with Western University along the way), and east-west (Oxford St. and Wonderland Rd. to Fanshawe College and the airport).

 Some call for road widening. However, widening roads will not solve the problem of population growth, congestion and increased ridership.

 Widening roads to fight traffic is like loosening your belt to fight obesity. It has been proven that the cost of road widening would be astronomical ($290 million) and unaffordable to Londoners and the development industry alike.

Smart Moves, the Transportation Master Plan told us that rapid transit was a key to our future. Mayor Matt Brown has said, “There is no London Plan without rapid transit.”

There remains questions as to which form of rapid transit — bus or rail. The benefits of a light rail transit is that fixed form of infrastructure gives developers the certainty they are looking for to launch long-term investments.

Another important question is the cost of implementing a rapid transit system.

London would have to come up with a third of the money, but seems well-positioned to tap into a $14-billion pot the province is offering to municipalities.

Change is impossible unless we are working across traditional boundaries.

Let’s step outside our comfort zone. Let’s not fear success. We need to take ownership in London because we have the ability to transform this city into a beacon for prosperity.

This is about risk. This is about moving people in London faster and creating great places to live and work. And, it’s about developing the foundations to make London attractive for investment. This is about moving London forward.

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.
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