TriTAG Urges Region of Waterloo to Cut the Gas Tax Budget for Sprawl

Investigation by the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) reveals that the planned 2010 budget for the Region of Waterloo is heavily skewed towards road expansion and makes minimal investments in transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure.

“While the Region is budgeting $100 million for road infrastructure in 2010, little of that money is for sidewalks and bicycle lanes — and most of that expenditure is almost incidental”, said Tim Mollison, a TriTAG founding member. “Major Regional roads such as Franklin Boulevard, Ottawa Street, Fischer-Hallman Road, Coronation Boulevard, Westmount Road, King Street, and Hespeler Road are all still missing sidewalks. Of the Region’s proposed $100 million transportation budget, less than $1 million is planned for sidewalks, and out of a total expenditure of $2.2 million for sidewalks and bike lanes, only $300,000 is not part of an existing road project.”

“These numbers are an absolute embarrassment for the Region,” said Michael Druker, a founding member of TriTAG. “If you channel most of your infrastructure funds to roads and road expansion, it’s hardly surprising that sprawl and air pollution are the result.”

“Grand River Transit is struggling with an aging fleet of buses and insufficient funding to accommodate existing ridership on its most important routes,” said Mollison. “Just $250,000 is allocated to hiring more drivers, and Regional Council is still awarding tenders to rebuild twelve-year-old buses so they can run for another three to six years at best.” At the same time, the Region of Waterloo plans to spend $71.6 million on road capacity expansion, with $17.5 million on new roads and $18.9 million on road widening.

The Government of Canada’s Gas Tax Fund (GTF) contributes stable revenue of $14.2 million annually to “support environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure projects.” In contrast to these stated aims, the Region actually plans to use 100% of its GTF allocation for road projects between 2010 and 2019.

In citing the road infrastructure deficit as the justification for this expenditure, the Region of Waterloo ignores its transit infrastructure deficit and its active transportation infrastructure deficit. “The Gas Tax Fund is explicitly provided for municipalities to invest in sustainable infrastructure, and yet the Region of Waterloo is squandering this opportunity,” said Druker.

TriTAG is calling on the Regional government to direct at least 50% of its Federal Gas Tax Fund allocation to truly environmentally sustainable infrastructure: transit and active transportation. The group first made this request at the November 25 meeting of the Budget Committee. TriTAG will continue to advocate for more prudent use of the GTF until the Region of Waterloo is adequately funding environmentally sustainable and community-enhancing transportation infrastructure.

“The Region is doing a commendable job with its new Official Plan and the Rapid Transit project, but at some point the rubber has to hit the road, and without adequate funding for transit, that rubber will belong to cars and not buses,” said Druker. “The more people the Region gets on their feet or into buses, the less needs to be spent on road expansion. In addition to its significant benefits, transit and active transportation infrastructure costs far less than does road infrastructure.”

The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) was founded in May 2009 with the idea that people should be able to walk, cycle, and take transit to everywhere they need to go, with dignity. These modes should be accessible to as many people as possible, and made as useful as possible, because transit and active transportation are better for the environment, public health, and the form of our cities. TriTAG believes that through the promotion of both transit and active transportation, the Region of Waterloo can be an even better place to live.

For media inquiries, please contact Tim Mollison at (519) 886-5339 or e-mail

2 thoughts on “TriTAG Urges Region of Waterloo to Cut the Gas Tax Budget for Sprawl”

  1. “Grand River Transit is struggling with an aging fleet of buses and insufficient funding to accommodate existing ridership on its most important routes,” said Mollison.

    The cost of the GRT to local tax has nearly tripled in the last decade, while ridership has not even doubled. How can TRITag support an increased expenditures and massive construction costs related to streetcars in the Region, when the underlying system is neglected?

  2. We support both the light rail and improvements to the bus network. The bus network will be redesigned to be more effective through the use of cross-corridors that will connect to the light rail — which will be used as a spine for the whole transit system. In that capacity, it will be able to operate at a much lower cost per rider than buses do due to lower labour and energy costs. At the same time it will attract substantially more people to transit (as the iXpress is helping do), which will lower pressures on road expansion in the region. The Region already spends about ten times more on roads (most on expansion) than it would spend on a light rail operating subsidy. And that’s at opening; once the system is in place, accommodating higher ridership will come at minimal extra costs, while bringing in more fares.

    The light rail should not be compared with current spending — it should be compared with a “business as usual” approach. And that approach would necessitate a very large road expansion program to accommodate growth. It is cheaper as well as better for the regional economy and environment to build the transit infrastructure that will guide the growth to the urban centres.

    As for the cost of GRT, part of its increase in costs has been its provision of basic transit service as a social good, i.e. more service in Cambridge when it took over from Cambridge Transit. But yes, if you want people to ride transit, you have to provide more than hourly buses on weekdays. It does cost money to provide the kind of frequency of service that makes transit a viable option relative to private cars.

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