London council committee lowers 2050 target for transit and active transportation

A divisive debate at city hall about long-term transportation targets in London’s upcoming Mobility Master Plan (MMP) ended in a compromise.

On Tuesday, council’s Strategic Priorities and Policy Committee (SPPC) considered a staff report about future mode-share targets, specifically what percentage of trips in London will be made by car, transit, and active transportation (cycling and walking) by the year 2050.

Coun. Steve Lehman put forward a motion to delay the decision until other staff reports related to residential intensification are completed.

He also wanted more public feedback about the mode share options.

“I’m not against providing alternative means with transit, cycling, or walking, but not at the expense of artificially constraining the choice of an automobile,” Lehman told colleagues.

“We need to plan for walking, biking, and busing as more common modes of transit,” responded Coun. Skylar Franke. “Referring this [report] and potentially missing out on federal funding, and missing out on the DC Master Plan, will not set this city up for success.”

Civic Administration warned that a delay establishing the mode-share targets in the MMP would jeopardize timelines to update Development Charges (DCs) on new construction.

London would also risk not having a list of shovel-ready projects for consideration by the federal government when a new permanent transit fund begins accepting applications from municipalities in 2025.

“What we need the [mode-share projections] for, is to model the network that we’re going to be recommending to the community and council,” explained Deputy City Manager of Environment and Infrastructure, Kelly Scherr.

In 2019, 23 per cent of trips in London were by transit or active transportation

  • 8 per cent transit
  • 15 per cent walking/cycling
  • 61 per cent personal vehicle (driver)
  • 16 per cent personal vehicle (passenger)

City staff recommended boosting the target to 35 per cent by 2050, thereby reducing the percentage of car trips to 65 per cent.

Lehman’s referral was defeated, but a motion by Coun. Sam Trosow to establish a target of 35 per cent or greater, faced its own opposition.

Lehman successfully amended the motion down to 30 per cent (or greater), in line with an alternative mode share split that was analyzed but not recommended by city staff.

“If we set the bar too low, what won’t be different [in 2050] is the frustrations and issues of people who are trying to move around the city,” said Coun. David Ferreira.

Deputy Mayor Shawn Lewis initially backed Lehman’s lower target.

“I think those are actually attainable goals, because it’s down to peoples’ choice. We as a city are not going to change the culture of what people choose,” Lewis said.

Sensing the growing divide on council, Mayor Josh Morgan proposed a compromise — splitting the difference at 32.5 per cent.

“We’re going to make adjustments in the future, but we need a framework to plan by now, and ideally has a wider support of council,” Morgan implored.

Morgan’s amendment for 32.5 per cent (or higher) transit and active transportation mode share included a review of the targets every four years — it was approved 9-6.

After the meeting, the mayor addressed concerns that his compromise may not be popular with Londoners.

“This is all about planning, it’s not about the actual projects that go on the ground. Those decisions will all come at a later date,” Morgan said. “For now, we have passed the ability to make those plans and hopefully move forward with meeting all the funding deadlines that we have.”

Council will consider finalizing the mode share targets at its meeting on April 2.

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