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Week in review: February 18, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

“LRT has left the station”

The first ION vehicle has left Bombardier’s Thunder Bay plant Wednesday. It’s expected to take 10-12 days to arrive in Waterloo. Daily progress updates are available at the Region’s rapid transit website.

Metrolinx is firing back after Bombardier’s notice of injunction over its light rail vehicle order, claiming that the pilot vehicle is not passing their inspections. Metrolinx officials also claimed the ION vehicle isn’t operational during yesterday’s board meeting. Transportation and Environmental Services Commissioner Thomas Schmidt confirmed the vehicle isn’t fully operational yet, and that the vehicle will need to be tested before being accepted.

ION and development

This week, TriTAG member Mark Jackson-Brown writes about Kitchener’s news study for a  crossing of the ION tracks from Traynor Ave to Fairway Road, recommending a more westerly location than the preliminary study location. A final crossing location has not yet been established, but understanding the needs of the community is important to avoid being anchored by the “default” location. Having surveyed residents in the neighbourhood, the Social Development Centre of Waterloo Region echoes our sentiments.

The multi-modal transit hub at King and Victoria will be built in stages, with the help of a private developer. The transit station and train platform components are expected to be complete by 2021, while the mixed-use towers and former Rumpel Felt building may not see completion until 2027. Meanwhile, seven public art pieces have been selected for various ION light rail stops.

Analysis by The Record suggests new housing development is surging near the ION corridor, while new office construction has not. Meanwhile, some businesses along the ION corridor are attempting to claim damages for construction disruptions.

In the Washington D.C. area, residents are questioning why so much parking is being built near transit stations, in what should be walkable, transit oriented environments. We think they’re questions worth raising here as well.

And more transit

Brampton Focus asks Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca for an update on all-day, two-way GO and the CN freight bypass. The Minister indicated that updates on a final agreement with CN will be announced “in the coming weeks and months.” To support more and faster trains along the Kitchener Line under Regional Express Rail, Metrolinx recently announced it was accepting bids to construct another rail tunnel beneath the 401 and 409 highways.

Metrolinx appears to be favouring fare-by-distance for integrated fares across all GTHA transit networks.

Streetsblog has announced a new series on “getting transit right,” which will explore the transit systems of various US cities through the lenses of service quality, land use, maintenance, expansion, and future plans, beginning next week. In the meantime, we suggest you check out their recent comparison between commuter rail systems in Paris and North America, looking at frequent, all-day service, and orienting land use around train stations as reasons why Paris sees so much more ridership than here.

Cycling

Cycling Magazine showcases the latest technology and techniques for keeping bike lanes clear of snow, the Globe and Mail asks (and answers) who has the right of way when bike lanes and protected bike lanes meet intersections, and researchers at Cornell use swerving manoeuvres tracked by accelerometer and GPS sensors in bikeshare bikes to guess where parked cars are regularly blocking bike lanes. (They’re doing it to try to figure out where parking might be in short supply or streets are gridlocked, but it might have great applications in parking enforcement.)

Walking with the crowd(-source)

TriTAG’s winter sidewalk study has reached its halfway point, and will wrap up in early March. We’re excited to share our results volunteers have completed the final counts and we’ve had a chance to process the data.

In Edmonton, political leaders and advocates are pushing for the removal of “beg buttons” at intersections and for changing signal timings to be more pedestrian friendly. It’s inevitably running up against car-oriented metrics of traffic engineers, so advocates are trying to crowd-source data on how disruptive the signals are to getting around on foot.

The Road Ahead

CityLab notes that American car ownership, in decline since 2006, has begun to rebound, but it’s too soon to tell if it will be sustained.  City Observatory shares two important messages this week. First, that tolls are shown significantly reduce congestion and if applied to existing roads, can avoid the need for additional expensive road expansion. Second, as motor vehicle deaths surge due to increased driving, instead of shaming or demonizing drivers, it’s more effective (and fair) to simply expect them to pay the true costs of driving, which will reduce car use and save lives.

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Fairway ION Crossing Proposal – How It Rates

In August, we wrote about the missing crossing of the ION tracks from Traynor Ave to Fairway Ave in Kitchener. Without a pedestrian crossing, it means over a kilometre between crossings, and many residents are now cut off from services that used to be a walkable distance away.

Thanks to the help of the neighbourhood community, the issue made it on to the municipal radar, and the City of Kitchener recently had a public feedback session seeking feedback for a proposed crossing of the ION tracks. See the display boards here.

Read on for some analysis of what’s good, what’s bad, an analysis of how it will impact trips compared to before, and whether a crossing further west at 652 Fairway Rd (Fresh Burrito) might be better. (more…)

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Week in review: February 11, 2016

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Consultations, feedback, and events

ION light rail

Regional staff have revealed their preliminary preferred route for ION light rail stage 2 through Cambridge. Route would use River Road extension to cross Highway 8, follow Shantz Hill to Preston, avoid the Hespeler/Pinebush intersection by using a freight bypass to cut the corner, and follow the rail corridor and Beverley instead of Water to better facilitate future connections with GO trains. Consultations will be held Feb 23, 28, and March 1, and online feedback can be shared until March 17.

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Consultation materials from the public meeting regarding re-introducing pedestrian access between the Traynor/Vanier neighbourhood and Fairway road retail amenities, separated by the ION light rail tracks, have been posted online. Feedback is due February 24.

Finally, Bombardier has applied for a court injunction against Metrolinx to prevent it from terminating its contract to provide light rail vehicles for the Eglinton Crosstown and other future GTHA rapid transit lines. Both sides now blame the other for delays. In November, when Metrolinx filed a notice of intent to terminate the order after lengthy delays, local officials stressed that disputes between Metrolinx and Bombardier would not impact our vehicle order. The first ION train, originally expected last year with the other 13 vehicles, is now due to arrive before the end of the month.

Census

Population counts from the 2016 Census were published Wednesday, revealing a trend of growth toward urban centres. Waterloo Region grew by 5.5% from 2011-2016, with the Northdale neighbourhood more than doubling in size, thanks to increased density allowances, mixed-use zoning, and reduced parking requirements. Other figures from the long-form census, including transportation mode shares, are expected to be published late in the year.

Maps showing rates growth for the Region tend to exaggerate growth in sparsely populated areas, where small numbers look like significant rates of change. So we’ve put together our own map of the results, scaled by land area to show effective changes in density for each census tract:

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As the map shows, significant growth is seen in both Uptown Waterloo and Downtown Kitchener. Growth in census tracts along the ION light rail route was over 6%.

Transit

This summer, the Region will recruit 500-750 participants from the Transit for Reduced Incomes Program (TRIP) waiting list for a study on how low-cost transit passes improve their quality of life.

Around the GTHA, a new study reveals that GO train passengers are exposed to elevated levels of diesel exhaust, Pearson airport hopes to turn itself into a new transit hub, where light rail, bus rapid transit, and future high-speed rail on the Kitchener Line can converge, increased growth in the 905 has planners hoping to see better transit options beyond just getting to Union Station, and Raise the Hammer mulls why Hamilton’s transit ridership is in decline. (Hint: it’s service cuts and fare hikes. Sound familiar?)

Elsewhere, the mayor of Cleveland’s refusal to allow buses to connect in the city’s main square sounds somewhat reminiscent of the University of Waterloo acting as an obstacle to light rail/bus connectivity. And don’t miss Transit Center’s great post on how smart cities and transportation systems are more about good planning and policies than the latest technology.

Cycling

Bill Bean on his blog Take the Lane has a post about the life and work of local and artist and entrepreneur Robert Linsley, who was killed last week while riding his bike.

The 2017 Winter Cycling Congress took place this week. Local researcher Robin Mazumder (and present KPL guest librarian) presented a keynote on how cycling infrastructure can help our mental and physical health in winter. He shared some of his thoughts on this with Canadian Cycling Magazine. Meanwhile, Torontoist looks at what Oulu, Finland is doing to keep its residents cycling through the winter.

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Week in review: February 4, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Vision Zero

A man cycling on King Street near Conestoga Mall Thursday was struck from behind and killed by a driver coming from the highway. Police say charges are pending. TriTAG notes that the conditions of this highway exit encourage fast speeds before merging.

Toronto lawyer Patrick Brown writes that recent court decisions in New York show how Ontario municipalities could be exposed to liability if they fail to heed calls for traffic and speed calming measures. He notes efforts to enact vulnerable road user (VRU) laws to Ontario, which would increase the penalties for killing or injuring people walking and cycling. (more…)

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Week in review: January 28, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Parking

Record reporter Catherine Thompson covers a recent City of Kitchener study that found that most lots and garages are never more than 69% full, thanks to onerous parking minimums. She also highlights our blog series on parking.

It tolls not for the DVP

The Premier has denied the City of Toronto’s request to allow it to toll the Gardiner and the DVP. Despite this prohibition being bad policy – tolls are effective tools for managing congestion, shaping travel incentives, and having highway drivers actually pay the full cost of the infrastructure they use – Toronto’s loss is Waterloo Region’s gain. As part of the announcement, the province will be doubling the share of the provincial gas taxes municipalities receive to help pay for transit, phased in over 2019 to 2022. Under the present rates, Waterloo Region is receiving $10 million this year, which could increase to $20 million under the new formula. (The Region’s share of the pie could further increase if ridership growth with ION outpaces the rest of the province.)

The federal government is pitching in $96 million to widen the 401 from 6 lanes to 10 between Hespeler Road and Townline. We’re just going to leave this here:

Transit

The Region continues to gear up for building the multi-modal transit hub, inviting potential private partners to submit qualifications. It is expected that the final developer would be selected within the next 18 months. Meanwhile, Kitchener and the Region are holding a public meeting today (January 28) at 1pm concerning providing pedestrian access to the far side of the ION tracks for the Traynor/Vanier neighbourhood.

This week, CityLab published two articles on transit. The first looks at the importance of good transit as an equity issue for women, especially minorities, in light of congested Metro trains to the Women’s March on Washington. The second shares new research showing that buses are significantly safer than driving in cars.

Taxis and ride-hailing

The Region is still rolling out implementation of its new vehicle for hire bylaw, as taxi drivers complain about a lack of taxi stands (or the inconvenient placement thereof).

Cycling

Waterloo Bikes has a write-up on the upcoming public consultation for the Uptown Streetscape redesign. Construction, which will introduce protected bike lanes to King Street for the first time, is expected to begin this spring. Kitchener has approved its 2017 budget, which includes improvements to the southern stretch of the Iron Horse Trail.

The Metcalf Foundation has published a new report on how to make Toronto a world-class cycling city. It’s recommendations, which include integrating cycling routes with transit connections, winter maintenance of cycling facilities, and building protected bike lanes are likely equally applicable here. And the CROW Design Manual for Bicycle Traffic, the bike infrastructure bible from the Netherlands, has just been updated (in English too!)

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Week in review: January 21, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Walking and Cycling

Transit

Car sharing, ride-hailing, autonomous vehicles, and of course, parking

What we’re reading

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Week in review: January 14, 2017

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Consultations, feedback, and events

Winter walkability

Transit

  • The 2017 Regional budget was passed on Wednesday. New or more frequent trips for routes around Conestoga College and Cambridge, and for the 201 and 202 iXpress are being introduced this fall (bundles 1 and 2). Meanwhile, the already postponed 205 Ottawa Street iXpress (bundle 3) has been further delayed until spring 2018. For more details on the service changes, see the budget issue papers.
  • Frederick, between King and Duke, is due to close for four weeks, causing routes 1, 4, 8, and 200 to return to detours via Water.
  • Dates have been announced for the next round of public consultations, concerning the extension of ION light rail into Cambridge. Regional staff will be presenting their preferred route in mid-February.
  • On the 10th anniversary of the opening of Charlotte’s LYNX Blue Line, Modern Cities looks at the transformations and developments that light rail system has catalyzed. Something to look forward to in Waterloo Region.
  • New research shows that busy traffic can make your wait for the bus feel even longer.

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Week in review: January 7, 2017

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Consultations and feedback deadlines

(more…)

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A year and a week in review: December 31, 2016

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12 days of TriTAG!

To celebrate the coming of a new year, we’ve been sharing our top 12 blog posts from 2016 via social media. Here they all are, in one place:

  1. Announcing our ION station button campaign, through which we raised over $4000 to help fund our incorporation as a not-for-profit. (Stay tuned for more details on that process in the new year!)
  2. Don’t overlook the humble bus: while there’s lots of attention on getting better GO train service to the Region (as there should be!), it’s easy to overlook the potential GO buses to nearby communities have.
  3. Don’t panic: why you shouldn’t worry about declining GRT ridership just yet.
  4. Housing and parking minimums – or why the rent is too damn high: how mandatory parking needlessly increases the cost of living. especially for those in apartments. Part of our series on parking in the City of Waterloo zoning bylaws.
  5. Missing the connection: Will the University iXpress bypass ION? We raise the alarm on how administrative resistance at UW could mean less functional transit.
  6. Could the City of Waterloo move beyond parking minimums?  The first in our seven-part series on parking requirements in zoning bylaws.
  7. What’s in store for Grand River Transit? We look at the proposed GRT business plan and how it will shape getting around in 2017-2022.
  8. ION, walkability, fences, and it’s never too late to fix mistakes:  a look at how the Traynor/Vanier community got cut off from local businesses, and what’s needed to restore the connection.
  9. Could parking minimums hurt light rail? Another from our series on parking minimums, we look at how damaging car-dependent zoning can be to sustaining rapid transit.
  10. A potential game changer for downtown Kitchener: another parking one! This time, we look at how Kitchener’s proposed exemption on parking requirements for the first 10,000 square metres of floor space will help downtown to thrive.
  11. This corner shows what’s wrong with transportation planning in Waterloo Region: the corner of Queen and Charles is awful for pedestrians. We show how it’s symptomatic of misplaced traffic planning priorities.
  12. Big changes for Bridgeport, Erb, Caroline, and Albert: as we watch light rail construction transform our city cores, there’s been a lot of interest in what’s next, making this our top post for the year.

From us at TriTAG, we wish you the the very best in 2017. Happy New Year!

The past 7 days of TriTAG:

Your regular weekly update continues below: (more…)

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Week in review: December 27, 2016

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Consultations and feedback deadlines

Local government

Vision Zero

Transit

Bicycling

Autonomous cars soon? Maybe not

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