WATERLOO REGION – Throughout the recent media conversation on light rail transit (LRT), the bigger picture of transit in the Region of Waterloo seems to have fallen by the wayside. In June 2010, Regional Council approved a game-changing new Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP). However, it has not received the attention warranted by its importance to the transportation network in Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and the surrounding townships.
“Incoming councils at both levels of municipal government need to remember that Light Rail Transit is part of a comprehensive Grand River Transit network upgrade”, said TriTAG executive member Tim Mollison. “Many politicians are suggesting replacing LRT with Bus Rapid Transit, but this isn’t a cheaper option – its $600 million price tag is for a system that will be over capacity within ten years of opening day, requiring expensive in-operation replacement with rail. Furthermore, cost per passenger would be higher with buses than the proposed rail plan, because you need to hire more union drivers.”
“The only Canadian city to have built a Bus Rapid Transit spine now faces bus jams and out of control costs, while simultaneously having failed to promote reurbanization and redevelopment”, said TriTAG executive member Taylor Byrnes. “Buses are well suited to suburban services, not for building the backbone of a transit network.”
“Light Rail will keep the escalating cost of union labour under control”, added Mollison. “Where 60 union drivers and their wages might be required to operate a bus-based solution, only 12 would be needed to maintain the same capacity using rail. A single rail vehicle carries up to five times as many passengers as a diesel bus, without any of the dirty fumes.”
In the face of growth, urban intensification targets, and limited space on roadways, the plan calls for steady increases in local transit funding while maintaining road investment at current levels. In addition to Light Rail along the central corridor, the 20-year plan includes over $1 billion for bus operation and fleet expansion. The plan will expand Grand River Transit from 200 buses today to over 600 by 2031.
TriTAG executive member Duncan Clemens has shown the Region’s transit plans in an easy-to-grasp map. The schematic map shows the planned light rail and express bus corridors from the RTMP in sharp relief. “This is better than a fantasy map – this is an approved Regional plan”, said Clemens. “Within ten years, most of the Region’s suburbs will be within easy reach of an iXpress-style bus route.”
“The incoming Waterloo City Council has quite reasonably sensed that the current light rail plan is costly”, said Mollison. “They would benefit from engaging in the cost-cutting discussion already underway at the Regional level.”
“It is imperative that Regional staff be allowed the time they need to arrive at cost savings for this project,” said Byrnes. “We must continue to promote cost efficiency in government over political posturing.”
The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group is a community organization with the goal of promoting transit and active transportation (walking and cycling) within Waterloo Region. TriTAG is composed entirely of volunteers, and is exclusively donation-funded by members of the Waterloo Region community.
For media inquiries, please contact Tim Mollison at (226) 476-1313, x 801.