Are The Best LRT Options for Uptown Waterloo the Ones Not Being Considered?

Last week’s Planning and Works agenda (PDF) had an update on the Rapid Transit project, and the RT Team has also released a summary of public comments from the September 27 Uptown LRT planning workshop held at Knox Presbyterian Church. Kudos to the Rapid Transit team for attempting to organize what was discussed by 24 distinct groups over the course of three one-hour meetings into a very big, rather unwieldy set of tables.

This meeting was good for the community. LRT through Uptown Waterloo is a pretty contentious issue, because everyone is scared of how it will change the landscape. This meeting did a good job of explaining why the Rapid Transit team selected its preferred option — but didn’t present all of the alternatives available, just the ones being considered by the Rapid Transit team.

With that in mind, TriTAG has produced two additional alternatives for Uptown Waterloo LRT routing that would have no impact to the Waterloo Public Square ice rink, wouldn’t require any buildings to be destroyed, would impact road traffic less than many of the presented options, and would improve the user experience of transit customers in Uptown Waterloo.

    Option A

The first alternative uses the existing split-routing model through Uptown, but without splitting the platforms too far from one another, and places an additional station in Uptown Waterloo.

The benefit to this option is that Uptown gets two stations: one at Allen to serve massive condominium developments around the Allen-Union node, and one at Caroline to serve the institutional development happening around the Erb/Caroline intersection, as well as crosstown buses at the current heritage railway station.

The drawback to this option is that its station locations don’t immediately draw customers into the existing King St. business corridor. Customers would have the option of being dropped off or picked up at the fringes of Uptown Waterloo. Also, the folks living at Catalina Homes don’t relish the idea of the lower part of Caroline street becoming a major people-moving corridor.

    Option B

The second alternative uses the east side of King Street, and would turn across the existing sidewalk in front of the Rude Native Bistro to a station placed beside the existing mall, bordering the edge of the Waterloo Public Square.

The benefits to this alternative are that LRT customers are delivered right into the center of most Uptown Waterloo destinations – they have easy access to King St. businesses, a short walk to the Erb and Caroline institutional corner, and are right next to whatever festival has shut down Willis Way, the public square, and King Street from the rail spur to Bridgeport.

Meanwhile, car users are still able to use Bridgeport, Caroline, Regina, and Erb unimpeded by LRT to access parking lots and structures that complement the excellent transit access, and businesses on the east side of King Street get a little bit of extra sidewalk space, and the ability to convert what are now parking spaces into patios or sidewalk displays, increasing revenue-producing floor space.

The drawbacks to this alternative? There’s a bit of a gulf between Uptown Waterloo and the Hospital station, and oh — right, those ten on-street parking spaces on the east side of King Street. Let me tell you a little bit about that.

I have my driver’s license. When I want a car, I rent one: in fact, I just spent the weekend enjoying a particularly sporty machine. I drive both inside the city and outside of it. I visit Uptown Waterloo on foot, by bicycle, using transit, and in a car, and I do so not infrequently: It’s where I go when I want to visit a conventional grocery store.

I had the opportunity to chat with a public figure from the City of Waterloo at the September 27 meeting, and when I asked how they thought everyone got to Uptown Waterloo, their response was “well they drive, of course.” This same individual would prefer that LRT run exclusively on Caroline.

See, here’s the problem: When I drive to Uptown Waterloo, I don’t use King Street, nor do I dare play in traffic to try and find, and then use, one of its on-street parking spaces. Using my particular route from the south, I take Weber to Bridgeport, and access the large parking lots off Caroline.

But suppose I’m coming from the north? Same deal: I stay off King as much as I can, to get to those abundant parking spots on Caroline. East? Bridgeport to Caroline, again. West? Wouldn’t even cross King: Hundreds of parking spaces in lots off Caroline, a handful on King Street. Starting to see a pattern here? The best way to access parking in Uptown Waterloo is not by driving on King Street.

Having LRT go up the east side of King Street in Uptown Waterloo isn’t just a win for transit passengers, and businesses who wouldn’t mind more sidewalk space: it would keep Caroline (and Erb) unmolested for those who need to access the much more abundant parking found in the lots that are currently accessed from Caroline Street. It makes sense for everyone.

Please consider expressing your support for one of these initiatives, before Regional Council makes its final decision in November and it’s too late. You can send an e-mail by clicking here.

12 thoughts on “Are The Best LRT Options for Uptown Waterloo the Ones Not Being Considered?”

  1. It seems from wording above that each of the options being considered by the Rapid Transit team might have one or more of the drawbacks mentioned (impact on the Waterloo Public Square ice rink, existing buildings, or road traffic).

    I realize those options are all available for scrutiny via the link Michael provided, but as the drawbacks may not be apparent at first glance to those of us not following these discussions closely, it would be helpful to see a brief summary of each of these options along with their associated drawbacks.

  2. Option 2 looks to be the best for the Uptown, both aesthetically and for practical purposes. How may people are going to Uptown to visit the Clay and Glass Gallery? (no offense to the fine Gallery, but I think my point is well taken).

  3. Why can’t there be a stop out front of Bauer in Option B as well? It would help increase transit numbers by providing convenient access to transit for a lot of people. Plus, I can get get to Vincenzo’s more easily that way (;

  4. Adam – there most certainly could be a second station in Option B.

    I personally would prefer Union as a secondary station, and to shift the Hospital station, well, a little further away from the hospital and towards the top of the hill.

    However, the ridership modelling wouldn’t support my idea, because it would place 2200 jobs further from an RT station. Even if they’re likely to walk from Union or said King Edward station.

    Within the forecasting model, a ridership penalty is also imposed when additional stations are added, because it increases total trip time.

    As a demand forecaster myself (although of a different sort), I would be interested in what alternative models would produce. Basing everything on one model can make your results…brittle.

  5. I wish I could walk, ride a bike too, but I can’t. Those of us who have handicaps must be thought of at all steps of the way. Even one additional station would help me. Think of those who look able and remember that some of us can walk only a few feet before the pain kicks in. We are the invisibles. For instance, I like entering the front of Waterloo Town Square. There is no handicapped access along the entire north side of the square unless disguised as a shopping cart. Some sort of ramp needs to be built if you use a station on the north side. This problem has already hurt Shoppers’ Drug Mart by losing their close parking. When they move SDM into where Scotiabank was, I have just learned that there will still be NO door at the Willis Way end. We who can’t get around very well, will still have to “walk” to the front door and into the mall, or enter at the Willis Way main entrance and travel a long way (to me) to get to SDM. This anchor business must be helped in some way to rethink their entrances – if someone would take on that challenge. I can’t. Remember this issue when placing tracks. I will take a look at the options again.

  6. I prefer Option B for the following reasons:
    1) Option A would not only disturb the Catalina subdivision but it would severely disrupt truck traffic backing into the loading docks at both the Brick Brewery and the Bauer Kitchen and neighbouring businesses within the Bauer complex. Trucks using the latter dock have already torn up the boulevard grass on several occasions as the turning radius is too tight as it is. The proposed Allan station is at this exact spot.
    2) The sharp 90 degree turns at both Caroline and Allan and Allan and King would likely produce a screeching sound that the Bauer Lofts’ owners would not appreciate along with slowing down the trains as opposed to the direct King Street route.
    3) Instead of creating a new station at Allan, why not place the station half way between the Hospital and Sun Life where several hundred people a day can use it.

  7. Great blog post, Tim!

    I am in favor of a hybrid: Option B with a stop at Allen. (I’m not really happy with this approach the Region uses of having us choose options. We aren’t city planners, and also these options are packages that contain some things I agree with and some things I don’t.)

    For uptown, I think we need to have the following:
    – No left turn at Erb or route on Erb
    – Two stations, one at Allen and one in a central, convenient location
    – No loop (because split stations are inconvenient)
    – I’d prefer that the route went straight north and didn’t veer into Waterloo Park at all, or turned further north, such as at Central, but that doesn’t seem to be on the table.

    As to two stations, the question isn’t distance so much as potential ridership and servicing commercial needs.

    Soemthing that’s not being considered is that the north end of uptown is going to become heavily devleoped.

    Some Waterloo politicians are agitating against having LRT run next to the public square, and I disagree completely with that. For one thing, it won’t hurt the square – it will enhance it. For another, they’re asking us to have LRT run next to our homes but they don’t want their precious square to be sullied by LRT? Come on. Finally, there’s a bus idling stop right beside the square, so it’s not like transit isn’t ever-present at the square, and it’s not hurting anything.

  8. I agree with Option B, with the Stations at Waterloo Town Sq. and just below Union. This is a straight forward LTR route with no ‘side tracks’ that impede the traffic any more than needed. It also services two very populated areas but does not “stop” in front of private residences! It also allows for those using the hospital to be closer to the station that at Allen. Please think of the demographics – seniors / sick and those needing accessibility to mode of transportation.

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