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:
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:
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.
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.
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.