BRT rush-hour delay along Richmond Street? About 90 seconds: Study

It all boils down to an extra 90 seconds.

The same amount of time it takes to sing O Canada or to brush your teeth.

That’s the extra delay London drivers will face during afternoon rush-hour on the most contentious stretch of London’s $500-million bus rapid transit (BRT) project, a new projection says.

After months of hand-wringing in Old North and along Richmond Row, a new city hall traffic study suggests drivers will be slowed by 90 seconds between Oxford Street and the Western University gates once BRT-only lanes are built down the middle of Richmond Street- writes

“There will be a bit of a delay. But I think it’s good news, frankly, for people who live in that area of the city,” Coun. Jesse Helmer said of the traffic projections. “What we’re really talking about is fewer cars up and down Richmond Street. If you don’t have a destination on Richmond, you’re probably going to choose another route through the city.”

For those on the bus, that 1.7-kilometre trip on Richmond from Oxford to University Drive, expected to be the most-used BRT stretch thanks to heavy student ridership, is projected to take about six minutes along the BRT lanes. There’s no projection for how much extra time it will add to drivers’ morning rush-hour commutes.

The latest projections are part of the newest cache of BRT documents released by London city hall. It’s a true document dump— hundreds upon hundreds of pages, outlining the nitty-gritty details recommended by staff for every inch of the 24-kilometre network.

The city’s traffic modelling suggests many drivers, up to 300 an hour, will choose to use a widened Western Road or Adelaide Street— where a new rail underpass is planned— once they feel the BRT traffic crunch on Richmond.

Opponents of the city’s $500-million project, dubbed Shift, aren’t convinced by the numbers.

“We’re going to have to see what the actual human behaviour is once we see the impact on the ground,” saidCoun. Phil Squire, whose ward includes part of the Richmond corridor. “Until we actually see it, we don’t know exactly what streets people are going to choose as an alternate. This is just a prediction of what might happen.”

Dan McDonald, spokesperson for anti-BRT group Down Shift, called the 90-second projection “wishful thinking.”

“It just doesn’t seem practical or practicable,” he said, questioning whether drivers heading to north London will use Adelaide. He thinks the traffic studies make the case for routing BRT on Western Road instead.

There will be a bit of a delay. But I think it’s good news, frankly, for people who live in that area of the city

Coun. Jesse Helmer

On Richmond, the so-called north corridor of the BRT system, staff recommend running two BRT lanes down the middle of the road and leaving another two lanes (one northbound, one southbound) for general traffic. That stretch of Richmond now carries four lanes of traffic and would be one of few places in the BRT network where the space for general traffic would be reduced.

Close to 30,000 vehicles travel Richmond daily between Oxford and University Drive. Today, without BRT, it takes afternoon rush-hour drivers anywhere between two to eight minutes to make that trip, the newest study says.

Politicians will debate these fine details next week. Here are a few basics on the project, and more details from the latest documents:

City council has approved a BRT system that would run high-frequency buses along L- and 7-shaped corridors bisecting London, with downtown (specifically the intersection of King and Wellington streets) as the hub. From downtown, buses will run north to Masonville Place mall; east to Fanshawe College; south to a spot near White Oaks Mall; and west to Oxford Street and Wonderland Road. At peak times, those buses will go by every five to 10 minutes.

Plotting traffic volume and flow around Richmond Street is something like a game of Tetris in the bustling north-south corridor. Western University plans to close the University Drive bridge to most vehicle traffic, excluding buses and emergency and service vehicles, as part of a plan to go car-free in the centre of campus. That move will shift more than 200 vehicles an hour onto Richmond Street, traffic modelling suggests, but farther north— between University Drive and Windermere Road. The research projects 200 to 300 cars an hour will migrate away from Richmond between Oxford and University Drive, instead choosing Western Road or Adelaide Street to go north and south. A few vehicles— fewer than 50 an hour — are expected to use other smaller corridors such as Wellington, Waterloo and Colborne streets once BRT is up and running.

Richmond Street will go from four lanes to two, but that’s not including left-turn lanes. Helmer describes it as “one and a half lanes” for cars. Left-turn lanes — and advance left-turn signals — will ensure vehicles waiting to turn aren’t holding up long lines of cars in the only general traffic lane. But waiting for those advance signals is part of what’s expected to cause the 90-second delay.

The other BRT corridors— routes that extend east to Fanshawe College, south to White Oaks Mall and west to Oxford Street and Wonderland Road — won’t see the same kind of delays as Richmond Street, because those roads are slated to be widened. Drivers would be able to use the same number of lanes as they do now— for instance, long stretches of Wellington Road would have the four general traffic lanes (two northbound, two southbound) they have now in addition to the two BRT-only lanes.

Rapid transit will nix a total of 106 on-street parking spots, including 82 spaces along BRT routes in the downtown. Another 122 on-street spaces will remain along the rapid transit routes in the city’s core.

Garbage collection could create traffic jams in BRT corridors where there is only one lane for cars,such as Richmond Streetor in the downtown core where rapid transit lanes are recommended along the curb. A late-night trash run, or pickup at other off-peaktimes could become a possibility in some parts of the city.

There are 469 properties with heritage value along the BRT network, including 16 that are officially designated heritage properties. London’s Advisory Committee on Heritage screened a list of more than 500 heritage properties, but decided that 104 didn’t need to be studied further. The structures and properties that are still on the list will now go through a detailed evaluation and research process to highlight their heritage value.

Staff suggest building BRT-only lanes down the centre of most routes, but recommend curb-running lanes for small portions of the network, such as the downtown couplet where buses are expected to run along the edge of King Street. For a portion of the west route on Wharncliffe Road, buses will run in mixed traffic.

The rapid transit network runs through or near seven natural heritage areas, including two environmentally sensitive areas – the Westminster Ponds area along Wellington Road and the Medway Valley Heritage Forest in north London. Permits from the proper agencies, including conservation authorities and the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, will be required before the city can develop or build in these areas.

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