Upon arrival at Budweiser Gardens, DownShift London set the tone for the public participation meeting hosted by the full staff of city council. Signs such as “Down with Brown”, “listen to the people!” “Don’t Kill London Row” and more made sure that even the silent voices were heard. Approximately 900 Londoners filled the arena eager to participate in the hot button topic. Opinions were mixed, some in support of BRT but pleaing for plans that would better suit London and those who were passionate in their fight for their homes and livelihoods.
Each speaker was given 5 minutes to share their concern, no negative language was to be used, even an utterance of a “shame on you” was shot down immediately. City council pledged their interest in hearing the voices of their constituents but were eager to keep things amicable despite the emotional impacts their final decision could have.
The night overall was respectful but for some the stakes of their futures were harder to keep at bay. Local business owners feared the impact that changes to Richmond Row would have on their existence. One young entrepreneur, a local restaurant owner, has put his life’s savings into his business. He fears that many like himself will be left with nothing if on May 15th council chooses to proceed with the current plans. He asks city council “how can you in good conscience vote for something that affects the future of young entrepreneurs?”
Large stakeholders attended the meeting such as George Georgopoulos who educated the arena with statistics of how these decisions will and are already impacting London’s economy. In fact, upon arrival he gained a client whose home will be directly impacted with a train planned to go right through their home.
Much of last night’s commentary surrounded people’s belief that councillors are not listening, suggesting that the recent vote to pass the implementation of a ranked ballot system is an example of their claims. Mayoral runner up to Matt Brown, Paul Cheng supported this belief, saying that council “drank the Kool-Aid,” he said that he was all for a rapid transit plan that transformed London but called the current plans a fraud.
Some were in support of London’s need for a rapid transit plan, but many stated that they need not look at cities such as Waterloo and Kitchener, but look to what London needs. Many claimed the need for a plan that is accessible to all, including those with health challenges. Some suggested that Shift needs to look to the future for its changes in technology before jumping on a plan that once completed may be outdated.
City Council and Shift presenters explained that the concerns of the public will be considered in making final decisions on BRT. Council will debate and decide on May 15th with any necessary changes to be addressed accordingly.
Below are images of the current BRT plans.