Tonight I attended a public participation session at City Hall to hear regular citizens talk about the LRT/BRT debate that’s currently happening in our city. I had it in the back of my mind that I might talk but I walked in completely unprepared. As speaker after speaker took the microphone I wrote down some remarks and then I screwed up the nerve to take my turn before council. Here are my remarks:

My name is Shawn Adamsson and I live in Ward 11.

I’m here to speak in favour of LRT.

Since the change in direction to a BRT-only solution I’ve spoken to more than a hundred people and even the most fervent BRT advocates that I’ve encountered can’t seem to get excited about putting another bus on the road. Practical? Sure, if you only look at the bottom line infrastructure upgrades. Game changer? It’s LTC 1.5. Not a chance.

Want to see what BRT can do for a city? Cast an eye to Winnipeg. Their five year old system has attracted almost zero private investment along their BRT corridors.

Want to know what an LRT can do for a city? Travel down the road to Waterloo. Short term traffic issues? Sure. But you’ll also find a community of people gathering to support businesses impacted by the construction. But there’s excitement, cranes are rising in the air along the LRT route and there’s an optimism about the future of the city.

Sure rapid transit moves people around efficiently but just as importantly it builds cities and, as we can see from Waterloo, it can also build civic pride.

A few other points:

Some say we can upgrade the system to LRT later. Ottawa’s doing it right now after-all. I’ve spoken to an engineer working on that upgrade and they were despondent that the city made the mistake of putting in BRT 25 years ago. The upgrade is an economic, traffic and environmental nightmare and it could have been avoided with a little bit vision from the council of the day.

Buses can be environmentally responsible they say. Forget the impact of fuel consumption for a minute, building a bus creates FAR more environmental impact than running the thing. Building 3, 4 or 5 times as many buses to serve the same number of passengers as LRT is far from environmentally friendly.

One last thought, I’m a business owner and every couple of months I have a one on one meeting with each member of our team. Today I sat with one of our Fanshawe co-op students that’s finishing up school in December, a brilliant guy, and when I asked him what his plans were after graduation he said he was looking to leave the city. The naval gazing around things like uber, food trucks, green bins and rapid transit is pushing him to look to progressive cities. This is not the first time I’ve heard this from students. This is who we are to a lot of young people. You should be deeply concerned about this.

Is this who we are?

This will be your legacy. We’re a big city, the time for baby steps has passed. Take a leap.

Make us proud. (end)

Speaking in front of people terrifies me and I was shaking through the whole thing. It was disappointing to see the mayor leave the room at the beginning of my remarks and return at the end but other than that it went better than I could have hoped for.

Kudos to all the excellent people who stood up and made their voices heard tonight.