Could breaking Shift BRT into smaller pieces save the plan?

A lifeline has been extended to London’s controversial bus rapid transit plan, but it might require amputating one or more segments of the 24 kilometre system.

The project has always been considered to have two integrated routes, the northeast ‘L’ and the southwest ‘7.’

But in a new report, Shift BRT engineers recommend breaking the project into five independent routes - north, east, south, west and the downtown loop.

Councillor Shawn Lewis is pleased to see the BRT plan is no longer an all or nothing proposition, “I like this, it lets me support the pieces I think make sense and reconsider the pieces I don't.”

Council could approve any, all, or none of the five routes later this month before the mayor's deadline to submit transit projects for the $375 million of transit funding available from the upper levels of government.

The new approach could advance some segments of the BRT system and put others on the back burner.

Lewis now has options, “When I have said in the past I do not support the current BRT plan, it's always been the current plan. There are pieces I see as problematic, there are other pieces, the King-Queens couplet downtown as making a lot of sense.”

But Councillor Phil Squire, who opposes the north route running through his ward, is unconvinced.

“We are opening ourselves up to doing horse trading. If you do my route then I’ll do something else on your route.”

The report also suggests completing the environmental assessment for the Shift BRT plan regardless of council's decisions later this month.

But Squire worries the BRT question would hang over his ward through the 2022 election.

“If some routes are just put off for now will they just reappear in the future?”

Each of the five BRT segments will be among a longer list of transit-oriented projects council will consider for funding from senior governments before March 31.