In 2009, Regional Council did not support a recommended budget issue to address overcrowding, so Grand River Transit transferred 4000 annual service hours to its heaviest used routes from its lighter-used ones — yet overcrowding remains a serious problem. Regional Council is again being presented with a budget issue to address ongoing overcrowding, with a request for a meagre 2900 additional service hours in 2010.
When a bus leaves a would-be rider behind, that helps turn that rider off transit as a viable means of transportation. At a time when Waterloo Region is actively attempting to promote transit services and increase ridership this is not acceptable. By hindering the perception of transit, persistent overcrowding also has the potential to decrease support for transit funding, thereby exacerbating the problem. Particularly during a time of recession, it is critical that transit is available to those who need it. And considering the longer term, investment in transit is more cost-effective than is the road expansion that insufficient transit spurs. Hard economic times are an opportunity for the encouraged growth of transit, and there is a cost to failing to take advantage of that opportunity. Hopefully Council realizes this and approves the recommended budget issue.
This November, we asked people to send in photos for the Sardine Challenge, and we’d like to thank all who participated. The below photos should help illustrate the situation on a number of Grand River Transit’s routes.
People Loading Onto the iXpress at Charles St Terminal – 7:00pm
An Overcrowded Route 7 bus travelling from Uptown to Downtown – 4:00pm
People Waiting at a Route 12 Bus Stop – 10:00pm
An Overcrowded Route 12 Conestoga Mall Bus – 11:30am
An Overcrowded Route 12 University and King Bus – 9:15am
Investigation by the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) reveals that the planned 2010 budget for the Region of Waterloo is heavily skewed towards road expansion and makes minimal investments in transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure.
“While the Region is budgeting $100 million for road infrastructure in 2010, little of that money is for sidewalks and bicycle lanes — and most of that expenditure is almost incidental”, said Tim Mollison, a TriTAG founding member. “Major Regional roads such as Franklin Boulevard, Ottawa Street, Fischer-Hallman Road, Coronation Boulevard, Westmount Road, King Street, and Hespeler Road are all still missing sidewalks. Of the Region’s proposed $100 million transportation budget, less than $1 million is planned for sidewalks, and out of a total expenditure of $2.2 million for sidewalks and bike lanes, only $300,000 is not part of an existing road project.”
At last night’s Regional budget committee public input meeting, TriTAG spoke in support of more funding for transit, pedestrian, and cycling infrastructure. The 2010 Regional transportation budget includes $71 million set aside for growth-related road expansion, but only $2.1 million for improved sidewalks and bike lanes. The entirety of the Federal Gas Tax Fund, intended to be used for environmentally sustainable municipal infrastructure projects, will be spent on roads. If even half of the Federal Gas Tax Fund were diverted from road spending, the budget for sidewalks and bike lanes could be increased threefold. TriTAG also advocated for transit funding to alleviate the overcrowding crisis on many routes.
The full text of TriTAG’s speech is included below.
Yesterday’s National Post carried coverage of a new poll which shows that 86% of Canadians support high-speed rail. More than enough studies have been done, and the Canadian public overwhelmingly supports the idea — it’s about time Canada got started on it. High-speed rail between Detroit and Quebec City would connect a corridor of nearly half the population of Canada, and extensions to Buffalo would allow interconnection with future HSR links in New York, Ohio, and New England. It doesn’t have to all be built at once, and Toronto to Montreal would make a great starter line.
We at TriTAG would certainly love to have high-speed rail go through Kitchener or Cambridge, but even if it doesn’t, good connections to the line will develop, and we would have an immense improvement in inter-city mobility. Fewer cars on the 401, less airport expansion, and the newfound ability to quickly and pleasantly travel between cities.
Several times a year I make the 11 hour drive to Washington, D.C. Not green or fun, but there are few reasonable alternatives. I would love to be able to take light rail to downtown Kitchener, a GO train to Hamilton, catch a high-speed train to New York via Buffalo, and another high-speed train to Washington, D.C. It would be better for the environment, not to mention safer and more pleasant for me.
Starting Saturday, October 31, GO Transit will launch its bus service in Waterloo Region. The service will create the region’s first direct transit connection between Waterloo Region and Mississauga, two areas that exchange many commuters (in both directions). The service will be more than just for commuters, however, as buses will operate throughout the day and on weekends. Most will be Route 25 buses, operating between UW, WLU, downtown Kitchener, Cambridge SmartCentres, park and ride stations at Aberfoyle and Milton, and Mississauga Square One. Two Route 25A buses will connect to trains at Milton instead. See our intercity transportation resources page for more details, including information on connections from Square One.
This news has generated a lot of buzz in the region and at the universities, so we may well see GO adding more service quickly to this route. Hopefully this will serve to push along the plans for GO train expansion to Kitchener and Cambridge.
With the arrival of colder weather, GRT is seeing a huge spike in ridership and some customers are being left behind as they are passed by full-to-capacity buses. However, without more money from Regional Council now, GRT can’t hire more drivers to put buses on the road or mechanics to keep them there. Write your Regional Councillor and ask for them to provide an emergency increase to the transit budget. The current state of underfunding is not good for the growth of public transit — one morning left out in the cold may well drive those new-to-transit right back to their private vehicles.
According to a report by the Real Estate Investment Group, Waterloo Region is the best place in Ontario to invest in real estate. In an interview with CBC News, Don Campbell, head of the Real Estate Investment Group, cited the region’s Light Rail rapid transit plan as one of the reasons to invest in the area.
“You’re seeing [BlackBerry maker] RIM and seeing the high-tech industries still continue to grow and hire,” he said. “And at the same time, they’re revitalizing the downtown of the old cities of Cambridge and Kitchener and now they’re talking about [light rapid transit].”
The report credits Light Rail as a method to significantly improve property values, even when established before higher-density development begins.
“Accessibility is a critical determinant of residential land values, and the improved access between urban centres and residential neighbourhoods greatly improves the value of homes. This is even evident when light rail precedes development”
After countless hours of work from numerous volunteers, the website has finally gone live! Some portions may take a few days to make it to the site, so be patient. Please let us know if something’s amiss.
In a historic decision on June 24, Waterloo Regional Council overwhelmingly approved the visionary staff recommendation for a rapid transit line for the region. Regional staff have been working on the project for three and a half years, and recommended a staged implementation of light rail, with the initial stretch from north Waterloo to east Kitchener, and an upgraded iXpress-style bus route between east Kitchener and south Cambridge.
At that meeting and the previous public meeting on June 10, numerous residents and delegations spoke in front of Council, the majority speaking in favour of the plan. TriTAG thanks its supporters who spoke at Council.
The vote will allow the Regional staff to proceed with funding negotiations with the provincial and federal governments, which are expected to cover the vast majority of the costs of launching our rapid transit system. Construction is expected to begin in 2011/2012, with the light rail line operational in 2014.