London city hall: New opinion poll suggests transportation has become the most pressing issue for taxpayers

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Bus rapid transit. High speed rail. Traffic-clogged streets.

More than one in three Londoners call transportation London’s biggest issue, a just-released poll shows – an astounding four-fold increase over just a few years ago that suggests taxpayers are paying heed to high-profile debates on the topic.

In a wide-ranging survey, conducted for city hall by Ipsos, 500 Londoners were asked an open-ended question about the city’s top priority. Transportation outranked poverty, development or even taxes as the No. 1 response.

“Londoners are clearly telling us transportation is a top priority,” said Kate Graham, a city hall official.

“Transportation is more important in London now than it ever was before. And we need to do something about it.”

The pollster, Ipsos, surveyed 500 residents, asking them to identify the city’s most important issues and what deserves the most attention from city council. The poll has been done every year since 2013, save for the election year, 2014.

In 2013, 10 per cent ranked transportation the biggest issue. In 2015, 13 per cent said so. By 2016 – as a debate over bus rapid transit (BRT) started growing – it had risen to 23 per cent.

Now, 36 per cent call it the biggest issue in London.

Brian Kelcey is a Toronto-based policy advisor who runs State of the City, a public policy and communications firm. He said it’s usually a much more gradual shift between a few competing issues.

“It’s rare to see that kind of dramatic change unless something’s gone seriously wrong or there’s some kind of major public debate, which there obviously is in London,” he said.

The pollster specifically attributed the spike to the heated recent BRT debate. That includes fans and critics alike.

Mayor Matt Brown said he wasn’t surprised by the survey’s results.

“Anytime I walk through a grocery store or attend a community event, Londoners consistently want to speak with me about transportation, about congestion, and about solutions,” he said.

Brown said it only reaffirms his commitment to the BRT system, saying it would “fundamentally change” how Londoners get around.

“It will deal with the congestion issues and make sure we’re ready for the kind of volumes we’re going to see in a decade and two decades from now,” he said.

The city’s $500-million bus rapid transit plan, which council formally approved last month, has long been a focus for London politicians and taxpayers. Only four per cent expressed opposition to rapid transit through the survey, though the project’s details have always been the true battleground.

Almost 20 per cent of those polled specifically said inadequate public transit is a top London issue.

“If you’ve got that many people agreeing that something is a problem, and is a top problem, you’re pretty sure that it’s going to be higher on the radar screen,” Kelcey said.

And politicians should take note of what their constituents want, he added: “They’re judging the success or failure of city government by what it’s doing on those top issues.”

Residents have also identified roads as a primary area for improvement for three years in a row.

Transportation was a key focus for the London delegation at an annual municipal conference in Ottawa earlier this week. The mayor and a team of councillors pushed the province for BRT funds and a high-speed rail system that would link London with Toronto.

The provincial Liberals have pledged to build high-speed rail running from Toronto to Windsor if they’re re-elected. It could be among the hottest issues in next year’s provincial election.

Traffic congestion appears to be a more pressing problem in London, particularly in the booming west end. There’s a plan afoot to dramatically widen Wonderland Road, a key north-south corridor.


95% people polled report a good or very good quality of life in London

89% deem London’s free, live music events important or very important

87% satisfied or very satisfied with city services

36% say transportation is most important issue

19 % not very satisfied with public transit

5% say poverty is most important issue

4% say economics is most important issue

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