All posts by Tim Mollison

The Return Of Douglas Craig

We at the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group would like to welcome Mayor Doug Craig of Cambridge back to the rapid transit planning process. It is unfortunate that Mayor Craig was, along with Councillors Galloway/Deutschmann and Regional Chair Ken Seiling, left out of the discussion and vote in 2011 after legal advice that there may be a conflict of interest.

Now that Mayor Craig has been given the all-clear to speak again, he is calling for regional council to order a staff report on how much it would cost to cancel the rapid transit project – which was approved by a strong majority of what remained of council in 2011. Mayor Zehr of Kitchener has called this “wrong-headed”. We would agree with him.

The fundamentals supporting LRT are the same (or better) than they were in 2011. In fact, regional growth projections have recently been raised to 742,000 in 2031, and 835,000 in 2041, as the Greater Golden Horseshoe’s population has expanded faster than projected. The need for Waterloo region to develop a meaningful and competitive transit network is greater than ever, and this goal depends on a fast, frequent, high-capacity rail service along our central corridor to both focus development, and to serve the demand created by it. The alternative nightmare hardly bears imagination: growing, unfocused traffic congestion across the entire region that will make intensification unmanageable, leading to continued sprawl, the destruction of our precious farmland, and massive infrastructure costs to support all those extra new neighbours, who, for lack of an attractive alternative, will not be on transit – but rather, in their cars.

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More LRT Meetings, and Why It’s Important To Go

It’s that time again: the Rapid Transit team has sent out notices of the Transit Project Assessment meetings to be held on January 24, 25, and 26:

24th Jan, 3-8pm: First United Church, King and William, Waterloo
25th Jan, 3-8pm: Region of Waterloo Headquarters, 150 Frederick, Kitchener
26th Jan, 3-8pm: United Kingdom Club, 35 International Village Drive, Cambridge

Speculation aside about whether or not there will be cookies, these meetings are important because they discuss what impacts LRT construction/operation will have on the environment. With parts of the LRT route being near floodplains, being next to or on top of the Laurel Creek tunnel through Uptown Waterloo, and running through some parkland, it will be very important for the Region to explain to the public how environmental impacts of the project are to be mitigated and how an incident of provincial significance can be avoided (the Laurel Creek runs into the Grand River, and that’s where Brantford gets its drinking water from), and how any contract for construction and/or operation will ensure high quality transport for the citizens of Waterloo Region while taking the health and well-being of our neighbours downstream into account.

So with so much on the line, an informed public, and the feedback it provides, are very important here. Please take an hour out of your busy schedule to attend one of these information meetings above, and continue to be an active participant in the affairs of your local government.

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RELEASE: TriTAG cannot support 30-year private monopoly on LRT

WATERLOO REGION – In light of the release of preliminary Waterloo Region plans for LRT procurement, the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) made clear today that it cannot support a 30-year private operating contract for Waterloo Region’s LRT system. While TriTAG has been one of the key supporters for Light Rail Transit (LRT) for Waterloo Region, it believes that such a contract could lock our community into terms and performance metrics not relevant 30 years from today.

The Region’s report indicates a “preliminary preferred procurement option” of a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) Public-Private Partnership (P3), procured through the Infrastructure Ontario crown corporation. Waterloo Region has never completed public infrastructure using a P3 model, and Infrastructure Ontario has no complete implementations of a DBFOM urban transit project. Having just released the preliminary option, Waterloo Region nevertheless intends to finalize procurement plans by January, with no apparent plans to engage the community on this subject.

“Whether or not to hand over the Region’s single most important, and single most expensive, piece of municipal infrastructure to a private business for 30 years should be a major community conversation”, said Michael Druker, a founding member of TriTAG. “however, how this is being handled suggests that this crucial issue is meant to fly under the radar, and we do not believe this is appropriate.”

In expressing its view on private operation, TriTAG hopes to launch the community conversation that the Region appears intent on avoiding. The community can engage their regional councillors in this conversation by visiting

“We understand the need to incentivize the private sector to deliver high-quality infrastructure in a timely manner,” said Tim Mollison, a founding member of TriTAG, “but granting a 30-year operating monopoly to corporate interests who have no political accountability to the community is not the kind of solution that benefits Waterloo Region in the long term.”

TriTAG does not object to design-build-finance-maintain P3’s with public consultation, as bids are driven down by private sector competition and maintenance requirements ensure quality control standards are met. This, however, does not extend to a 30-year operations contract. After such a contract is awarded, there is no longer any competition for the private operator.

“Awarding a so-called ‘Operating P3’ to the private sector would endow this private company $818 million to build this LRT line and then reward the same company a monopoly to profit from its operation,” said Duncan Clemens, a founding member of TriTAG. “The focus of the private sector is usually on maximizing profit, and not public benefit. The community support that LRT has received over the past several years will be right out the window, as a privately-operated LRT line would be less a public good and more a publically-funded private cookie jar.”

Privatization of this kind often results in poor private sector performance, with later public demands for expensive buy-backs by the municipality. Examples can be found in Auckland, New Zealand, and the London Underground P3 disaster. In Melbourne, as was strikingly explained in Toronto, privatization let to enormous increases in costs. Closer to home, Highway 407 is a familiar example – what should be a public good is instead used to gouge the public to maximize profits for private shareholders.

“These are untested waters for Waterloo Region, and the risk is absolutely huge,” said Mollison. “The point of private operation is usually to shift risk to the private company, but that’s only on paper. In practice, this can backfire – the company can walk away, and leave the public on the hook for much more than it bargained for. This kind of P3 would be a ticking time-bomb for the taxpayers of Waterloo Region.”

York Region’s bus system may be cited as an example of effective private delivery of transit, but Veolia Transport, the multinational corporation with 60% of York’s service contract, has such a focus on its profits over the public interest that it has refused to negotiate with the drivers’ union, leaving many York Region commuters without service for over 6 weeks and counting. Another example of private-sector transit service delivery in Canada is Vancouver’s Canada line, but that line operates without drivers and thus without front-line labour concerns, and corners were cut on the project that have limited opportunities for future expansion.

“Under a private operating contract, we can kiss LRT in Cambridge goodbye,” said Mollison. “Waterloo Region will not have gained any in-house experience to apply to extend the existing line or building new ones. There will simply be no mechanism to improve rapid transit beyond this phase within the next 30 years.”

Practice in other municipalities suggests that GRT will likely have an adversarial relationship with the LRT operator and could include contractual requirements for GRT to operate the same transit service as it does today, however unsuited to the future those routes could be.

“The public believed that a successful first phase would mean LRT extension to Cambridge could start immediately afterwards,” said Clemens. “But with private operation of LRT, leaving Cambridge with buses could be part of the contract.”

Regional Council has been described as supporting LRT as a legacy project. TriTAG believes that this is a good thing, that planning for the future is proper and leaving a legacy to be proud of should be every politician’s goal.

“It’s not enough for Regional Council to build LRT – it needs to build LRT right,” said Mollison. “If it goes down the path of an operating P3, Regional Council will have a rude awakening to a legacy of squandering the Region’s most forward-thinking project in favour of short-term thinking, and corporate profits at public expense.”

“Regional Council should take a step back and really consider whether or not a DBFM approach is all that bad a deal.”

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 more information on this issue and other transportation issues in Waterloo Region, please visit

For media inquiries, please contact Tim Mollison at (226) 476-1313, x 801.

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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. (more…)

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Brochure Distribution

We have about 7,000 brochures that need to get out the community before next Monday. Here is a map of what volunteers have covered so far: . Can you put 100 in mailboxes around your neighbourhood? Do you live in a 200 unit apartment building? Please be in touch with us *now* at ; brochures are available for pickup downtown near KPL main branch, or we can deliver to you between 8pm and 10pm on weeknights.

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CALL NOW – 14 Hours Left To Speak Up For LRT

If you haven’t registered to speak at Regional Council on Tuesday or Wednesday evening next week, now is the time – the Regional Clerk’s voicemail is open 24 hours a day at 519-575-4420, and the deadline for registration is in less than 24 hours – 12 noon on Thursday, May 26.

Even if you just get up, introduce yourself, say that you want your Regional Councillor to vote in favour of LRT and sit right back down, every delegation counts.

Please call 519-575-4420 now and leave your name, number, and your wish to delegate to Council about Rapid Transit.

The meetings available for delegation are:

Tuesday, 31 May at 6pm
Wednesday, 1 June at 4pm

If neither of those dates and times work for you, please let the clerk know and they may arrange another time for you to delegate.

Both meetings are in Regional Chambers, which are easy to find inside 150 Frederick Street, Kitchener. Please call 519-575-4420 now (yes, even at 2am) to register.

See you there!

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Campaign Update: LRT Builds Our Future

We now have 4 different posters you can help us put up around our community. All posters are sized for Ledger/Tabloid (11″ x 17″) paper, but can be printed on other sizes with trimmable margins.

We encourage you to print as many of these as you can, and put them up wherever you can, in colour or otherwise. Also, please consider donating to TriTAG so we can print as many of these as possible in full size and full colour for distribution to local businesses and community centres.

Download and print the PDFs here:

Spine (Colour)
Spine (B/W)
Students (Colour or B/W)
Not Your Grandma’s Streetcar (B/W)
Let Someone Else Drive (Colour or B/W)

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TriTAG doesn’t think GRT should eavesdrop on your conversations

WATERLOO REGION – Today, Grand River Transit (GRT) is poised to conclude less than a week of information sessions and a comment period, which had not been publically announced prior to Monday. The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) is concerned about details of the plan and the haste with which privacy concerns are being pushed to the wayside.

“Grand River Transit is moving too quickly to implement surveillance on buses,” said Tim Mollison, a TriTAG founding member. “GRT staff first intended to begin surveillance on buses without a policy in place, which Regional Council required be drawn up. After a policy was thrown together, Regional Council required public consultation to be carried out, but the time allotted by staff for comment has not been adequate.”

“If this isn’t stopped, before most regional taxpayers realize, GRT will be listening in on every conversation they have on the bus.“

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TriTAG Asks Regional Council for Overnight iXpress in 2011

(Below is the statement I made at yesterday’s Regional budget input meeting. Please call and write your regional councillors expressing your support for these initiatives. Their contact information is at the following link:

Hi, I’m Tim Mollison, I live in Kitchener, and I’m here to represent the The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group, or TriTAG. TriTAG was founded in May 2009 with the idea that people should be able to walk, cycle, and take transit to everywhere they need to go, with dignity. These modes should be accessible to as many people as possible, and made as useful as possible, because transit and active transportation are better for the environment, public health, and the form of our cities.

I’m here this evening to speak about the Regional Transportation Master Plan. (more…)

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