University Area LRT Station Spacing

One of the main goals of rapid transit is to decentralize the bus network from a system of hub-and-spoke routes to a system of cross-corridor bus routes which connect to rapid transit stations. However, the current planned LRT station locations in Waterloo between Uptown and Northfield are not optimally placed to achieve this goal.

Currently, stations in the University area are planned at Seagram Drive and mid-block between University Avenue and Columbia Street:

Current station locations at Seagram and UW Davis Centre with 600m walking radius

The issue with the above setup is that it would divert cross-corridor routes off their corridors and into a terminal station in front of UW Davis Centre. Diverting trips from these corridors would result in longer cross-town travel times, and would reduce the amount of mixed-use development potential at the cross-corridors. Anyone who has travelled on Routes 7 and 8 through Charles Street Terminal knows the frustrating experience that even a minor route diversion can have on your overall travel time. Time wasted sitting at a terminal is time spent thinking about how much quicker it is to drive or even walk.

As such, TriTAG supports altering the University station locations to the following:

Modified station locations at University Ave and Columbia Street with 600m walking radius

Placing a station at the street provides many benefits over a station mid-block:

  • Placing a rapid transit station and transfer point adjacent to a busy cross corridor will showcase to drivers that they have other options for getting around the region. In the same way that a new intermodal terminal at the busy crossroads of King and Victoria will provide a constant promotion for use of transit, placing a transit hub at the crossings of the rail line and Columbia and University will provide consistent, free advertising for the use of rapid transit. If rapid transit is expected to remove drivers from their vehicles, then stations need to be visible from those vehicles, not placed out-of-sight and out-of-mind from the general public.
  • Stations at University and Columbia will promote further transit-oriented development along these corridors. There are numerous opportunities within 600m (a 10-minute walk) of the rapid transit station. This would turn the university district into more than just a destination for students, helping transform it into a place where everyone is welcome to live, work, shop, and play along a human-scale streetscape.
  • These stations will promote the improvement of the pedestrian realm on University Ave and Columbia Street, partially through the incentive for mixed-use development, and partially through the increased pedestrian traffic on these streets.
  • It will actually serve transit users better and increase operational efficiency by eliminating an otherwise arduous detour and layover at a UW Davis Centre terminal.
  • Better coverage of the UW Campus, particularly of the southwest corner.

A vision of how a rapid transit hub at University Ave will look can be found within the University of Waterloo’s 2009 Master Plan.  The plan depicts the potential opportunity for a public-private partnership to redevelop the existing University Shops Plaza into an area which is well-integreated with transit and the surrounding area. A station at University would allow for a better integration of GO bus routes into a new transit and pedestrian oriented facilility.

Station location alternative from the University of Waterloo Master Plan (p. 104 in South Campus - B document from

Although moving the current intercity bus stop from UW Davis Centre to University Ave may not happen immediately, this shouldn’t become a reason not to build a rapid transit station here. Once a station location is finalized, it can be very difficult to get that station moved, and as discussed earlier, placing a station mid-block at Davis would entrench existing inefficiencies into the bus network which prevent people from getting where they want to go in a timely manner.

Concerning Seagram Drive

One of the main arguments for a station at Seagram Drive would be to serve Wilfrid Laurier University, however the location of this station is not ideal. The distance between the Seagram Station stop and the classrooms at the edge of the Laurier campus is roughly equal to the width of the campus. Many Laurier students, especially in the winter, will opt to transfer to frequent local bus service either at UW Davis or Uptown Waterloo. An origin-destination study of Laurier students should be considered when rationalizing such a stop.

As a student at Laurier, I would much rather be dropped off in front of campus instead of 700m from the closest classroom door entrance along a corridor with high exposure.

Despite the issues TriTAG has with the Seagram Drive stop, we believe that a stop here could still make sense as a special event or weekend stop as it was considered earlier in the Rapid Transit process. The stop could even be retained as a regular stop. Closer stop spacing like in Uptown Waterloo and Downtown Kitchener could be justified as the University/Technology Park area could be considered analogous to a CBD.

Looking Forward

University Ave currently sees 25-30 buses an hour in peak periods.  There are currently five conventional and two (soon to be three) 200-series routes which run through or near the intersection of University and the rail spur. With these kinds of numbers, there is plenty of opportunity to change schedules so a bus arrives at your footstep every 4 minutes between Westmount and Weber.

As the region continues its process of restructuring and rationalizing its routes through this corridor, University Ave will warrant some variety of dedicated transit infrastructure whether it be dedicated bus lanes or an eventual LRT line.

Stations at the intersections of University and Columbia would play a part in transforming existing developments into more walkable, livable mixed-use ones.

Rapid Transit will be a project whose impact on development and travel patterns will last for generations and as such, it is important that the line is able to reach is maximum potential for all areas on Day One.

8 thoughts on “University Area LRT Station Spacing”

  1. There are additional benefits to putting stations at major streets crossings rather than mid-block. The trains would have to slow down for the stations and therefore they would cross the major streets more slowly and safely. Also the trains may operate more quickly since they would not have to slow for major intersections as well as mid-block stations.

  2. I’ll admit I’m not too familiar with Waterloo and its commuting patterns, but after a quick look at Google Maps and the GRT route map, I do see a method to their madness.

    From what I gather, the university and RIM are the key destinations along this route. While there is some low density commercial/industrial to the east, I don’t see the number of riders going across to be so great that such a detour to the LRT stop is going to be a deal breaker.

    As for the stop locations themselves, while they are in a bit from the major roads, they are closer to the destinations along the route. The Columbia/University stop looks to be closer to the centre of the university and the south RIM buildings (not sure if there is to be a stop to better serve the north RIM buildings, if not then that does take a bit away from this stop’s location advantage). The Seagram stop looks to better serve some of the dorms, a park, and the stadium. While the south parts of the university don’t look to be as well served as they would be if the stop was further north, they are relatively well covered by the Columbia/University stop.

    I’m thinking the planners looked and saw there was more potential ridership within the blocks than at their edges when justifying the stop location. If it makes you feel any better, Toronto’s planned LRT lines are to have frequent stops and would probably stop at all the locations discussed in this article, greatly slowing down service.

  3. A stop at Columbia is most central to the RIM campus, and stops at Columbia and University cover the UW campus better than does just one stop.

    The issue with a mid-block station and bus terminal is a network issue — it prevents either good service across the corridor, or it creates a poor transfer. Next year an express route will be introduced on University Avenue, a major corridor itself between the west-side residential areas, the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, east side residential, as well as a northeast business park. Other service along University Avenue is likely going to be reorganized to funnel into this one.

    For the network to make sense and allow for whole-city travel rather than UW-focused travel, the connections need to work and the cross-corridors need to work.

  4. The drawing of a transit station proposal at University Plaza is an amazing idea, with the addition of one bus bay on each side of University (the south side may be tenuous without a pedestrian tunnel, which may be a hard sell considering the limited use of the existing bridge from the building). End loop for whatever form the 7 takes or is replaced with, 200 series stops that don’t leave the major road, and if you move the GO buses to the space freed up by the current IXpress stop it is a REALLY short walk to this installation. As for the north end of campus, north side of Columbia should serve RIM and the R & T park as it stands now

  5. Sorry for the second post, but I just thought of this: Is there enough space there to add a bus only access directly from Ring Road into this terminal? Northbound buses can exit directly onto Ring Road, and South/Eastbound could enter the top of the station and stop at a platform located where the access road turns toward Philip (in front of E5). That would free up a lot of traffic at the Seagram entrance to UW and shave up to two minutes off of all those bus routes on busy days.

  6. I would much prefer stops at the major intersections. The new columbia location would offer better coverage for future R&T buildings. Seagram doesn’t seem to have the population density, half of the coverage is over Waterloo park… Also, Ring Road has enough traffic and students crossing mindlessly.

  7. Great post. This is the single biggest problem with the current design for the LRT today. Passengers traveling from the east or west along University or Columbia streets will have a very long walk to the nearest LRT station to transfer. What if someone is taking the 29 from out on the west end, and wants to go to Conestoga Mall? They will have to get off on University Ave, and take a 5 minute walk all the way to Davis Centre just to transfer.

    Can someone in the know post the e-mail address of a good person to leave a comment with at the Region?

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