union-street

A more perfect Union Street

On Thursday, a neighbourhood meeting was held to present design concepts and solicit feedback on a proposal for bike lanes on Union Street between Margaret and Lancaster. The proposed design would reallocate the existing pavement to designate parking on only the north side of the street, and include bike lanes on both sides. Display boards presented traffic and parking counts, planned and proposed cycling routes, and a diagram of a typical cross-section.

kitchener_cmp_mapA half-metre buffer would separate bikes lanes from parked cars – a marked improvement from other bike lane projects in the City, such as Margaret or Highland. Green thermoplastic markings, (the same material as the sharrows in Downtown Kitchener), would be used to mark conflict and transition areas. The route would transition to sharrows for the narrow curve through the woods, where speed limits are 30 km/h. Staff estimate that the current on-street parking of about 95 would reduce to 45 cars, but this shouldn’t be a concern, as their counts of parked cars has not exceeded more than about a dozen at any given time. This route is classified as a ‘priority’ cycling route under the City of Kitchener Cycling Master Plan.

Response at the meeting was mixed – while there were some who supported the bike lanes, others had concerns they expressed rather vocally.  Some took issue with the City’s parking counts, or feared forcing parking onto their side of the street would make it difficult for them to see approaching cars while backing out. It didn’t help matters that the City’s cross-section didn’t depict the tree-lined boulevards very well, leading some to worry about the look of the street radically changing. (The pavement width is not being changed, so we’ve tried to include the boulevards more accurately in the image at the top.)

It’s easy to assume that a project that’s been a ‘priority’ piece of the Cycling Master Plan for the last five years would be automatically approved, but when objections do emerge, it’s important for staff and councillors to know these changes have broad public support. Please consider taking a moment to write them in support of bike lanes on Union Street.

Also, be sure to come out to the drop-in consultation for East Ave bike lanes, at the Subscriber’s Lounge in the Auditorium, Tuesday April 21 between 7-8:30pm.

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North mainline track condition (a)

What does the GO service expansion mean for Waterloo Region?

On Friday, the province announced its ten year plan for implementing “Regional Express Rail” (RER) throughout the GTHA. Previously cast during the provincial elections as electrification and  15 minute service frequency on all corridors, this plan narrows the scope of this expansion to certain lines and more central areas. Nevertheless, if implemented, RER would represent a quadrupling of the number of weekly train trips in the network, and an expenditure of $13.5 billion. It’s both ambitious  and, for those commuting to or from Waterloo Region, disappointing.

The announced schedule for increased service over ten years only pledges 30 minute “peak period, peak direction” service from Kitchener – a far cry from all-day service in both directions for those travelling from the GTA to work in the Region. Electrification of the Kitchener line, which would enable more frequent and faster trains, is only planned to the Bramalea GO station. (There is also no mention of electrification the CP-owned Milton Line or its extension to Cambridge [1].)

Considering that Kitchener is already expecting two new trips by the end of 2016,  we will soon be close to the pledged 30-minute peak service promised, meaning we may not see many improvements in the remaining nine years. Two adjacent bottlenecks appear to be at play here: the single-tracked Guelph Subdivision from Kitchener to Georgetown, and the freight corridor in Brampton between Georgetown and Bramalea.  (more…)

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Kitchener bike and trail projects need your support

The City of Kitchener is considering a number of trail and on-road cycling facility projects for 2015:

These projects, if completed this year, would implement important pieces in the cycling and trail networks for the City of Kitchener, but many have vocal opponents who could drown out the voices of those who want to enjoy better bike facilities and safer streets in these areas.

Members of Council and staff need to know these projects have public support. Please consider attending one of these public consultations and taking a few minutes to write a letter of support to your councillors.

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april2015transit_changes

2015 GRT preferred service improvement plan

Beginning tomorrow, Grand River Transit will be hosting a series of public consultations on its preferred 2015 service improvement plan.  These new route designs, mostly centred around Kitchener wards 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10, continue the trend of a more direct, grid-like frequent service network we saw for Waterloo in 2013. We encourage you to attend a session or submit your feedback online.

Notable changes include a new Victoria/Highland iXpress route, more continuos cross-corridor (east-west-ish) routes, limited service to Bingeman’s Centre Drive, and gradual shifts away from Highland Hills and Charles Street Terminal towards The Boardwalk and the future transit hub for certain routes. Many of these changes are in preparation for ION light rail. Certain route changes have also spurred investigation of a new highway crossing for people on foot and bike.

Some of the preferred improvements, especially around the central transit corridor, are scaled back from what had originally been proposed in the fall, in part due to the challenges and resource constraints during ION construction.

We’ve tried to summarize these changes in the post below. While not part of the plan under consultation, we’ve also included changes to Cambridge service and the announcement of funding for transit in Wilmot in our discussion.

(more…)

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Report finds cycling contributes to economic vitality of Uptown Waterloo

On Monday, City of Waterloo Council will be receiving a report from Professor Casello and Professor Moos of the University of Waterloo concerning the economic contributions of bicycle users to Uptown.

Key findings include:

  • There is significant diversity in the modes of travel people use to shop or eat in Uptown – not everyone arrives by car.
  • People who travel to shop by bike do so more frequently than those by car, and spend just as much overall.
  • Lack of bike lanes, traffic, and limited bike parking are barriers to cycling Uptown, (for both cyclists and non-cyclists alike).

This study contributes to the already compelling case for protected bike lanes on King Street. A street that is safe and welcoming to all modes of travel would boost the economic vitality of the Uptown core.

For more details, see the full report below.
(more…)

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Photo credit: laurelrusswurm on Flickr, 2012. https://www.flickr.com/photos/laurelrusswurm/14014027920

TriTAG open meeting March 31

If you’re interested in talking about Waterloo Region walking, biking, and transit, please join us for an informal gathering on Tuesday, March 31 at the Barley Works (upstairs of the Huether Hotel in Uptown), between 6:30pm and 9:00pm.

We’d love to have you join us and share your ideas concerning local transportation issues. This is also a great opportunity to ask us about the work TriTAG is doing or how to get involved. Hope to see you there!

Photo credit: laurelrusswurm on Flickr, 2012.  Licensed under CC-BY.

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Sidewalk Clearing – Time for Change

When I read the article this morning on our new Mayor’s viewpoint on sidewalk clearing, I was very sad. Two very crucial points stood out for me.

Whether or not our Council decides that clearing sidewalks is right for our City, or if building a new arena is the answer, or investing more into the economy or the arts, these decisions cannot be decided upon by the costs of the LRT. I feel a sense of deja vu, back to the RIM Park days when our City Council was held hostage to the RIM Park financing costs and were reluctant to move forward on any other spending for fear of the public backlash.

Trust me, I know that Council should always consider spending and how it will affect the tax payer, but it should not, and cannot be the only consideration.

The second point that stood out for me, was the Mayor’s comment that we can’t move forward because there is little public interest. The following is from the City of Waterloo’s own Transportation Master Plan:

‘From a Complete Streets perspective and developing a “City that is accessible to all”, there is a fundamental need to ensure that public sidewalks are accessible to all through timely and consistent removal of snow and ice. Winter maintenance has been an issue raised by the community under this TMP and the number one issue raised by the Grand River Accessibility Advisory Committee.
Expanding the City’s current sidewalk snow clearing program would promote and enhance safe and accessible pedestrian movement, encourage greater pedestrian and transit use and help make the shift to alternative modes of transportation. This would ultimately reduce the negative impacts and costs to widen more roads and intersections. A phased approach to implementing an expanded program would assist in the budgeting of this program, therefore the focus would be on higher
pedestrian and transit routes. Recommendations of this TMP include reviewing current city practice to identify efficiencies in service, an increase in the existing sidewalk snow clearing program of $100,000 per year over the next five years, subject to the 2012-2014 budget process, and develop a mid to long term strategy to expand the program where necessary. ‘

4 years ago, public input showed that clearing sidewalks mattered and should be considered in order to make our city more accessible. And that public interest, as far as I can see, has only grown in the last four years. not waned. It is an important piece for accessibility when we live in Ontario, and snow is a reality for upwards of 5 months out of the year.

Sorry Mayor Jaworsky, it is time for our City to embrace this change.

Janice Moore is the former chair of the City of Waterloo Recreation and Advisory Committee, and a current member of Waterloo’s Active Transportation Committee.

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Photo credit: waldopepper on Flickr, 2012. Licensed under CC-BY-NC

More consultations!

Regional Strategic Plan

In addition to the online “Strat Chat” forum, the Region is hosting a series of focus groups and public forums to help set its new strategic plan.

Focus Groups:

Focus Group 1: March 6/15
99 Regina Street, S.
Waterloo
Room 508
1:00 – 3:00 pm

Focus Group 2: March 9/15
150 Frederick Street,
Kitchener
Room 110
10:00 – 12:00 pm

Focus Group 3: March 12/15
150 Main Street,
Cambridge
Board Room
1:00 – 3:00 pm

Focus Group 4: March 25/15
Sunnyside Home,
247 Franklin St. N.
Kitchener
10:00 – 12:00 pm

Public Forum:

The Region of Waterloo would like to invite you to a Community Conversation
to discuss our changing population and the trends that could shape our
community’s future.

Key note speaker Doug Norris (Chief Demographer at Environics Analytics) will
discuss the shifts in our community’s population and the potential implications
for policies, programs and services.

We hope you can join us to:
Discuss the trends and implications these changing demographics have
on community programs and services.

Share your thoughts and ideas to help inform the Region of Waterloo’s
priorities for the 2015-2018 Strategic Plan.

Two sessions are being offered:

Thursday, March 26, 2015
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Waterloo Region Museum (Theatre)
10 Huron Road

Friday, March 27, 2015
10:00am – 12:00 pm
150 Frederick Street
Kitchener, (Council Chambers)
This session will also be webcast.

RSVP online at:  http://bit.ly/1vGSEPw

Growth Plan and Greenbelt Review

“The best transportation plan is a great land use plan.”
– Brent Toderian

How our communities are laid out has a profound impact on how we are able to get around: growing our cities up, not out, enables more people to choose to walk, bike, or take transit. Ontario is reviewing its Greenbelt Plan and the Growth Plan and is hosting a town hall in Waterloo Region to gather your input. We encourage you to attend this event and urge the Province of Ontario to strengthen the tools our municipalities have to shape healthy growth.

March 25
6pm-7pm Open House
7pm-9pm Formal Meeting
Bingeman’s Conference Centre
425 Bingeman’s Centre Drive, Kitchener
Facebook event

Climate Change Plan

The province is also performing consultations in preparations for its climate change plan. As enabling better transportation choices can improve carbon footprints, this is an opportunity to advocate for better active transportation and transit. A town hall to receive feedback is being held in Waterloo Region.

March 19
6-8pm
Kitchener Public Library, Main Branch
68 Queen Street N, Kitchener
Facebook event

Bill 31, Transportation Statute Law Amendment Act (Making Ontario’s Roads Safer), 2015

This bill contains a number of road safety improvements including a 1 metre passing rule, explicit permission for municipalities to build contra-flow bike lanes, and changes to pedestrian crossing rules. The bill is currently in committee, and will be reviewed on March 9 and 11. Details on how to present or submit written comments to the Standing Committee on General Government can be found here: http://www.ontla.on.ca/committee-proceedings/committee-hearings-notices/files_html/Bill%2031%20Ad%20-%20English.htm

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Transit and the 2015 budget: a letter to Regional Council

Dear members of Regional Council,

Over the past several years, transit has been squeezed to meet arbitrary cost-recovery targets. Now that GRT has achieved those targets, TriTAG is pleased to see that the proposed 2015 Regional budget does not include any more painful cuts to transit, but instead focuses on continuing to prepare for integration with ION light rail and adapted bus rapid transit service.

We hope that 2015 also marks an end to the sharp fare hikes of the last few years. As the Region develops its new Strategic and GRT Business Plans, it has the opportunity to set fare and cost-recovery policies to satisfy concrete goals for transportation, ridership, social equity, and the environment.  We encourage council to be proactive in considering these goals when deciding on fare and service changes. (more…)

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Photo credit: simmogl on Flickr 2008. Licensed under CC-BY-NC

Winter Sidewalk Round-Up

A lot can change in a week or two. When TriTAG set better winter sidewalk maintenance as one of its priorities for the year, seeing political movement on the issue seemed almost beyond reach. But thanks to your letters to councillors, the path has been cleared to real public debate about where our community’s priorities lie with winter mobility.

Here’s a breakdown of the story so far:

On Tuesday of last week, The Record published a column by Professor Alejandro López-Ortiz calling on our cities to plow sidewalks like they do roads. This week, Kitchener Post columnist James Bow also called on Kitchener to investigate offering this service.

After seeing the positive public response to López-Ortiz’s column, TriTAG published its councillor contact form, allowing you to raise the issue with your representatives. Many of you did.

We also searched our past municipal election surveys to remind you of what your elected representatives promised regarding winter sidewalk maintenance.

In response, Mayor Berry Vrbanovic and Kitchener City Council voted to review its sidewalk clearing policy, and reconsider the possibility of plowing sidewalks as other cities like London and Mississauga do. Regular Record columnist Luisa D’Amato praised the move as part of the mayor’s broader approach to governing. Councillor Dave Schnider also invited feedback from the public:

Meanwhile in Waterloo, Councillor Brian Bourke put out an online survey  to gauge public support for changes to sidewalk policy and how to pay for it. At the time of this post, more than three quarters of respondents support the city plowing sidewalks, with nearly two thirds in support of a tax increase of at least $20 a year to pay for it. Councillor Bourke also appeared on the 570 News Midday Show to discuss the pros and cons of the city taking on this responsibility. Waterloo has yet to direct staff to study sidewalk clearing, but it is encouraging to see members of council begin to open up the discussion.

We’ve only just gotten the ball rolling by getting municipalities to consider sidewalk plowing as a possibility. We need to continue to engage with our public officials and help them evaluate the options that municipal staff lay out in the coming months. Please consider taking a few minutes to write to your elected representatives and supporting sidewalk clearing as a Regional priority, so that this story ends with sidewalks that are accessible to everyone.

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