Thoughts on the GRT 2015 Improvement Plan

We’ve written briefly about Grand River Transit’s proposed 2015 Service Changes, and we’d like to share a few observations we’ve had, both about how these changes will improve the transit system in Waterloo Region, and the challenges ahead as we move towards a fast, frequent, grid network.

We encourage everyone to provide your feedback to GRT, at both at their final public consultation on Wednesday November 26th, and via their online response form.

Route 7

With a consolidated route 7 appearing in both options for the 2015 service, it seems that GRT is strongly committed to the kind of service improvement that we have talked about on numerous occasions. Splitting the East/West service off of route 7 by removing the 7D/E branches and replacing them with increased University and Columbia service is an important change that will improve the transit experience along the full length of King St without increasing costs.

New Route 7

The new consolidated route 7 will allow for frequent, direct, service every 7.5 minutes to employment and retail on King St north of Columbia, and Weber St east of the expressway. Coverage goals around Fairview Mall would be served by the 1, 8 and 23. This keeps the most frequent service on the busier corridors without having to run through quiet residential streets, but keeps local service for the neighbourhood.

With the separation of the north-south from east-west services at King & University, this will mean transfers. Currently the 7 does not connect with the 202, and it is a long walk to the existing iXpress stop. As the major east-west route, the 202 will need a stop at King & University to support these transfers.

University/Columbia Capacity

Removing the 7D/E branches will take away existing capacity on University and Columbia Avenues. GRT will need to evaluate service on these streets, to make sure there is enough capacity to handle the extra ridership on the remaining buses.
The 92 Loop route may need to be upgraded to be an all-day service, to provide enough capacity on University, while providing enough buses with staggered schedules on Columbia to give frequent service to support untimed transfers to the 7 at King & Columbia.

West UW Campus

450m walking distance from proposed stops, with 600m walking distance from iXpress stops in red

450m walking distance from proposed stops, with 600m walking distance from iXpress stops in red

We’ve heard of concerns about the loss of one-way service on the west side of Ring Road, where some of the University Colleges will fall just outside of a 450m walk to a bus stop. While this is on the surface undesirable, there are a number of conditions and possibilities to consider:
On a University campus, the overwhelming majority of riders are young, healthy students who will be able to handle the walk. The Colleges will still be within 600m of all three iXpress stops on campus, which are the cities’ fastest, most frequent and most reliable services, which are all features that support longer walking distances. The University also runs an on-campus shuttle, making a circuit of the campus, stopping at all bus stops on ring road. The on-campus shuttle however lacks a lot of information about frequency or schedules, and the University should work to improve that. Should this not be enough, there are possibilities to still cover West Campus:
UW runs a regular shuttle service around Ring Road and to the remote campuses

UW runs a regular shuttle service around Ring Road and to the remote campuses

  • Bus service on Westmount would connect north Waterloo to frequent buses on University, and provide bus service to the Colleges.
  • A modified 92 University Loop route could serve West Ring Road, much like we proposed in 2011.
  • Routes 9/13 could be moved to the west of Ring Road, which would provide a similar direct campus to University Ave route as the existing route 7.

Route 204 – Highland/Victoria iXpress

As we mentioned in the last post, we’re like to see a few additional stops on the proposed route, and from talking to GRT at the public consultations, they have been receptive to this feedback, and have stressed that it’s preliminary stop placement at the moment.

204 Downtown Routing

Proposed routing of the 204 iXpress through downtown

Not visible on their website materials, there was a display board where you can see the proposed downtown routing of the 204: Queen, Courtland, Benton-Frederick, and then Duke up to King/Victoria. This is a first for Downtown Kitchener; a route that does not stop at Charles St Terminal. This marks the beginning of a major shift for Downtown Kitchener transit. When ION starts running in 2017, transfers between buses and ION will be made at on-street stops, most notably at King/Frederick and King/Victoria. Similarly, bus transfers will also, in time, be moving to these locations, allowing buses to make trips across downtown without 5 minute layovers in the middle. Even now, most bus routes downtown pass either King/Victoria or King/Frederick, allowing transfers to the 204.

While Duke St may seem odd at first glance for the 204, it is a future-proofed routing, designed to meet the future ION stations.

Route 205 – Ottawa St iXpress

We’re very excited to see an early rollout of the 205 Ottawa St iXpress. Since the north-east Kitchener routes are all part of this year’s realignments, GRT has rightfully looked at introducing part of the 205 Ottawa St iXpress this year, to avoid restructuring routes a second time in 2017. This will be the first time a bus route has a connection to the Ottawa/Charles 200 iXpress stop, which will start to see more use with this new service.

Perhaps the only disappointing part of the proposed 205 Ottawa St iXpress is that only half of it is being proposed. We’re already looking forward to GRT extending it to the south-west as soon as possible.

Route 20 – Victoria/Frederick

The 20 now joins the 5, which was realigned in 2013, in becoming a full east-west cross-town route, running from Victoria St S, to Frederick and on to Victoria St N. It has maintained a detour to Chopin Dr, but is otherwise becoming a very direct route across the city. The pairing of Victoria St S with Frederick, while the 204 has Highland/Queen with Victoria St N, is curious at first, creating an X through the downtown. It matches similar lands on either side, allowing for faster, more frequent 204 service along employment and retail roads, and having a local route 20 service along residential streets. This could be revisited in the future, as these streets continue to densify, and similar service is needed on both routes.

Route 15 – Bingemans/Shirley Dr

Much requested, Bingemans finally gets bus service. While just a rush hour service to start, this route is the first step, at the very least allowing trips for all-day getaways or conferences. The employment lands at the east end of Shirley Dr will see a drastic improvement, as the new route will run for both rush hours, instead of the current single run in the morning, and two runs late at night, making transit a possibility for hundreds of employees.

And more!

Like route 20, we’re pleased to see other crosstown routes come into being such as the 25 on Queen, the 1 on Krug/River and the 2 on Greenbrook. We look forward to future streamlining that will come to the network in the future.

Final Thoughts

We could go on forever about the these changes, alternate possibilities, and the other routes not touched on in this post, but overall, the proposals, particularly those presented in GRT’s Map 2, are are strong step forward. Many routes are being reconfigured to support a grid system, at least as much as Kitchener-Waterloo’s twisty roads can be a grid. With continued frequency improvements on all lines to support a high frequency network, it will make travel between all points in the cities possible and simple.

GRT still has one more consultation session for the 2015 Service Improvements, this Wednesday, 4-8pm at Emmanuel Village, Bistro Room, 1250 Weber Street E, Kitchener. We encourage you to make your voice heard there, or to fill out your comments on their online form.

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on the GRT 2015 Improvement Plan”

  1. A few things overlooked:

    1. Present 7D not only serves west side of UW but also provides the only link betw King St N and the 201 (west of King) and the 202 (both ways). ALL of these must be replaced before 7D is removed.

    2. There needs to be express service to and from St Mary’s hospital. When leaving Emerg or visiting a patient, you can’t get a connection back downtown. 25 is way too infrequent (and stop too far away). A way must be found.

    3. A walkway is needed from Victoria (near 204 stop at Natchez) to Bingeman Centre Rd, so that shiftworkers and ppl going to Bingeman’s can connect during hours the new bus on Bing doesn’t run.

    4. The corner of Fourth/Wilson must not lose its stop, because it’s a complex for seniors and ppl with disabilities.

    5. ALL iXpresses need to run later at night (and 203 be more frequent – it isn’t part of this study).

    6. I do not agree that 600 metres is an acceptable nearest bus for the church colleges. When carrying heavy books and it’s icy, this would exclude ppl from attending.

  2. A lot of good points.
    1) You’ll be pleased to know that the 201 does stop at King/Columbia, which can serve to replace the 7E branch. You’re absolutely right that the 202 needs to stop at King/University.

    2) The St Mary’s stop is an interesting problem. They have one eastbound stop tucked in behind the loading docks, and another a block past the Hospital. There’s certainly room for improvement there.

    3) A walkway I’ve thought about too! A good point to bring up with the City, to make sure they secure rights-of-way along the properties in question to make such a connection. Being a rail crossing, it will take a lot of political will to get all the parties to cooperate.

    4) On map 2, it looks like you could swap the 8 and the 23’s routings through Kingsdale, and that would accomplish just what you’re asking for, while maintaining a simplified 7.

    5) Completely agree. It’s difficult to rely on these routes when they drop to 1/2 hour frequencies after 6pm, and often stop running entirely after 11:00.

    6) It’s definitely an interesting problem, and I detailed a lot of possible solutions that still allow disconnecting the east-west service so that north-south service can be greatly improved. I didn’t even mention mobilityPLUS, which explicitly serves to cover gaps in the system for those with limited mobility.

  3. As a frequent walker through the affiliate colleges to main campus, there still are the indoor options once you cross ring road.

    Biology 2 > Biology 1 > CEIT > Davis Centre
    Quantum Nano-Centre > Math and Computers > Davis Centre
    Modern Languages > Arts Lecture > South Campus Hall
    Environment 3 > Environment 2 > Environment 1 > Arts Lecture > South Campus Hall

    All of these are slightly round-about routes but they do assist in crossing campus when it’s cold / wet outside.

    For my transit purposes, the 7D isn’t very helpful at this point, but I have used those stops in the past to get from elsewhere in KW to near the affiliate colleges and can see how they would be missed should they disappear.

  4. I believe that 7 needs to be simplified, along with route 8. It is a common problem to not know where each bus goes, especially when certain schedules are impossible to read. if you remove 7D, to replace it, you could extend 31 service times to 15 min peak and 30 min hr.

  5. >> A walkway is needed from Victoria (near 204 stop at Natchez) to Bingeman Centre Rd, so that shiftworkers and ppl going to Bingeman’s can connect during hours the new bus on Bing doesn’t run.

    The biggest problem here is the railway tracks. The chances of getting a grade-level signalized pedestrian-only walkway constructed is quite low, especially with the potential for increased GO frequency and high-speed rail.

    Both Victoria and Bingeman Centre Rd have sidewalks, so safe pedestrian movements are possible today, but with the unfortunate downside of a 15-20 minute walk.

  6. Just thought I’d bring this up in the topic of service changes

    Ideally…there should be some sort of transit terminal at UW or WLU, there are 3 iXpress routes (200, 201, 202), 8 mainline routes (7, 7, 7A, 7B, 7C, 7D, 7E, 7F), a future LRT line (iON), and about regular routes (8, 9, 12, 13, 29, 31, 91, 92 (not including specials)) that service the block of the universities, run down King, Hazel, Columbia, Seagram and University Avenue. Bus-bunching is a huge problem in this area and it would make sense to build a terminal somewhere on this block. I’m surprised the city hasn’t looked at this area (probably because there is hardly any space for a new transit terminal).

    If we put the routes on a point system:
    ~6 points for the 200 iXpress (including future iON LRT)
    ~2 points for the other iXpress routes
    ~1 point for every normal route
    ~1/2 a point for every mainline route and special route

    The total bus score is about 23 (depending on the time of year). This is the approximate number of bus routes that serve this area.

    This corridor needs to be redesigned, which includes Bus/Bike Lanes on each side and possibly a new terminal…these actions may fix the delays caused by transit on all of these roads

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