It’s Committee week at the Region, which means lots is happening. But first, two other things. Our almost-monthly pub night is tomorrow evening, and you should join us!
Today, the Ontario Coroner’s Office has released its Cycling Deaths Review (HTML / PDF). I have not read through it yet, but it is supposed to claim that all the cycling deaths it looked at were preventable. It also recommends a mandatory helmet law for everyone, which is deeply problematic if the goal is making cycling a safer and larger part of the transportation system. We’ll have more on this later.
Tomorrow is Committee day for the Region of Waterloo. Agendas are always posted here at around 4pm on the preceding Friday. Typically, most issues and reports go to initially to the appropriate Committee, where motions are made, to be finalized at the full Council meeting on Wednesday of the following week. (See Council agendas.) As the standing committees are currently composed of all the councillors, the decisions are effectively made at the committee level, with rare exceptions. Read the rest of this entry »
The Iron Horse Trail is under threat from development, as we’ve posted about before. We need you to tell city council that development should be designed around transportation, rather than vice versa. Mady Corporation is proposing to buy the Iron Horse Trail between Park and Caroline Streets in Waterloo in order to facilitate a second tower adjacent to the 144 Park development, rerouting the trail to what we believe is an inferior alignment. The idea does not respect the intention of the trail as an important transportation corridor, appearing instead to serve a goal of land consolidation. The issue and the details have been covered well by Chris Klein and Mike Boos, so please follow those links for more information.
From the comments to our previous post, a couple of practical suggestions for the site included developing instead a triangular shaped building that fronts the trail with balconies or having the existing corridor go through the building complex. It is possible to develop the site in a way that works around and with the Iron Horse Trail, instead of moving it out of sight. If this developer isn’t willing to do that, the location one block away from an LRT station will ensure that another developer will.
Do you want the Iron Horse Trail moved to make way for condo development, so it travels in a shaded alley between two parking garages? Or would you rather see it preserved and improved instead, with development respecting the trail? It’s Waterloo City Council’s choice to allow the land swap, and it’s up to you to let them know what you think.
A number of things are happening in the next two weeks, which you shouldn’t miss!
Next week is the Commuter Challenge, aimed at getting people to rethink their commutes. Check that link for details on all the constituent events. On Monday, June 4, is the launch event, which is also an open house and consultation for both the King/Victoria transit hub walking/cycling access plan and for the Region’s active transportation master plan. If that weren’t enough, there will be a presentation by Hans Moor on developing a cycling culture, including a discussion of the successful Dutch approach. The event is from 4:30pm to 8:00pm at the UW School of Pharmacy, with the presentation at 6pm. (It is not entirely clear whether the public consultation / open house continues through the presentation.) You should attend. More information is available from the Region and from Sustainable Waterloo; people are encouraged to register.
The following week is the final one of three week-long public forums on the Central Transit Corridor development strategy. The topic for the week is how the LRT can strengthen existing aspects of the community. It will include two open houses, one in Cambridge and one in Kitchener. The first open house will be followed by a keynote talk by Sue Zielinski; if it’s anything like the previous two, it is well worth attending. Details are in this document; you can also check the project website as well as the storefront office by Kitchener City hall. There is a Facebook event for the talk that can help you spread the word.
We need your help and creativity. There’s a development proposal in Waterloo right by a planned LRT station. It’s for a second tower on the block bounded by Caroline, Allen, Park, and John streets, in addition to the one currently under construction at the corner of Park and Allen. (Details of the submission are here, along with slides from a recent meeting.). Apart from the egregious planned amount of parking either required by the city or desired by the developer at what should be a transit-oriented development, there is a bigger issue. The developer wants to build on top of the current Iron Horse Trail and replace it off to the side, lengthening it and making it worse as a transportation corridor. Chris Klein has written about the need to think carefully before trading away a main transportation corridor for a developer’s benefit. But more on that later.
Here’s where you come in. We want to see what ideas people have for how to develop this parcel and make the Iron Horse Trail better at the same time — by bringing it back to the original rail corridor alignment and taking out the current 90-degree turn. This is what I mean:
View Iron Horse Trail and Allen/Caroline in a larger map
Let us know in the comments or email us your depictions (or examples from elsewhere) of what could be done with that area, perhaps with some creative use of the space above the Iron Horse Trail. We don’t have much time to get this out to the developer and Waterloo City Hall, so e-mail us your ideas or examples to email@example.com . We’ll put up the submissions in a follow-up.
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: Read the rest of this entry »
Earlier this week, Terry Stewart wrote in with the below comments on Laurel Trail.
(In terms of labels for these paths, my understanding is that the path between the University of Waterloo and uptown Waterloo is part of the Laurel Trail, while the Iron Horse Trail begins on Caroline Street.)
The Iron Horse Trail is an invaluable transportation corridor linking communities in Waterloo Region. Most of the Trail is a comfortably wide asphalt strip that follows the former railroad corridor. Hundreds (if not thousands) of commuters, walkers, cyclists, rollerbladers, and skateboarders use the Trail each day.
However, at various times during the year, the Iron Horse Trail from Perimeter Institute past the Waterloo Zoo is a wet, dirty, almost impenetrable mud fest. It is one of the few sections of the trail that is not paved. Yes, this year has been unseasonably wet and mild but it doesn’t take much rain or wet snow to make that part of the trail sloppy.
Today when I got home, my boots were soaked and muddy. The rain pants that I wore were splattered with dried muck. As much as I want to walk every day, at this time of the year it makes me want to drive to work just so my socks will be dry the rest of the day.
But it’s not really just about me. There are many other reasons for paving that section of the Trail:
- People in wheel chairs, rollerbladers, mothers with baby carriages could use the Trail all year long – they could not have navigated that section of the Trail today.
- It would be safer. The inevitable potholes and puddles that form are dangerous to walkers and bikers. The snow and ice that accumulate also melts more quickly on the black asphalt.
- It could end up being cheaper. The cost of grading and filling in pot holes could be avoided.
So, please, Waterloo, your section of the Iron Horse Trail is embarrassing! Please pave it in the interest of health, safety and environment.
We whole-heartedly agree, given how important a corridor Laurel Trail is for walking and cycling in Waterloo.
Recent media coverage has been particularly critical of Waterloo’s Car Free Sundays, despite being hailed as a huge success when they were held last year. To counter this negativity, I want to cast a bigger, better vision of what Car Free Sundays could be. Based on my personal experiences from last year, here is what I’d like to see:
- Increased hours. A 4 hour time slot (which includes set-up and tear-down) is far too brief to enjoy the diversity of events offered as part of Car Free Sunday. Last year, my wife and I found ourselves rushed to leave church, eat lunch (more on this later), and then find our way to Uptown by bike and participate in many of the activities before things were packed up and put away. Increasing the hours would allow more people to find time to enjoy these events.
- Greater frequency. My wife and I tried to invite several friends to join us last year, and many had made other plans on these weekends. Kitchener’s single participation was spoiled by sweltering heat. Making Car Free Sunday more frequent and regular, to say, every one or two weeks, would give more opportunities for success. It would foster a greater sense of community to be able to see each other face to face out on the street more often, and hopefully inspire more cultural change. And nobody would be caught off guard or late for church if they could regularly expect King Street to be closed and plan their commutes accordingly.
- Food! You can’t host an event that covers lunch hour and not have something to eat! It was a major oversight last year that there weren’t many food vendors brought in. Where were the chuck wagons that surround Columbia Lake every Canada Day? I would like to enjoy food from all cultures, not just from Uptown’s one hot dog cart. (Arguably a culture all unto itself!) Selling food permits would also be a great way for the cities to recoup some of the costs.
- More participation from community groups and businesses. Clubs, churches, and other organizations often relish opportunities for exposure to their community. Many churches today are coming to grips with the fact that they sometimes need to sacrifice a few of their Sunday morning services to interact with those who’d never pass through the church’s doors on their own. It’s a good opportunity to connect with the community in a visible way.
Businesses in Uptown could take greater advantage of the event with sidewalk sales and sponsorships. Care would need to be taken so that this isn’t overdone – it would harm the ‘do-it-yourself’ spirit of the event if it were to become overly commercialized. We should continue to invite local artisans to set up tables to promote their work.
- Reduced police presence. One of the most expensive aspects of last year’s Car Free Sundays was the presence of a police officer at every intersection. We don’t post an officer on guard every time we close a street for construction. I’m sure motorists can figure out on their own not to drive down a barricaded street.
- Promotion. A lot of friends we talked to had never heard about Car Free Sunday, but might have been inclined to go had they heard about it ahead of time. Perhaps put up road closure signs like they do for days or even weeks in advance of construction. This would also have the added benefit of alerting Sunday drivers to plan an alternate route or choose to bike instead.
- Encouragement for our representatives who are investing in healthy lifestyles, community, and civic pride. Our governments invest hundreds of millions of dollars locally on car-centric infrastructure that isolates us from each other. There should be no stigma for investing a comparably paltry couple thousand on promoting and celebrating a healthier lifestyle and future. As citizens, we should be open about supporting and thanking representatives who have the courage and vision to make these investments, and urge them to complement these events with more permanent active transportation infrastructure.
- Name changes if necessary, but only with good reasons. Arguing that “Car Free” isn’t inclusive is a bizarre twisting of reality. Clearing away the cars makes King Street a level playing field for everyone to enjoy equally. Contrast this with “Cruising on King,” where we exclude everyone from the street except those with pre-emissions standard automobiles. (Ironically, Cruising on King often gets held up as an example of how a successful event is run.) This isn’t to say that we might not want another name that promotes Car Free Sundays better. But we shouldn’t walk on eggshells, pretending that having King Street briefly free of cars is a bad thing.
I think last year’s Car Free Sundays were a fantastic start. But I want to see them be made better and become ingrained into our local social and cultural fabric. I want to be able to continue to enjoy Car Free Sunday for many years in the future, long after the canard of the “war on the car” has been put to rest.
A sign at the northwest corner of Kitchener’s King / Victoria intersection proclaims the future home of an inter-modal transit hub, with LRT, GO and Via trains, and local and intercity buses. Hidden away in Regional purchasing documents are some clues as to how the planning of this site is taking place.
Early last month, the Region of Waterloo issued a request for proposals (addendum) for a “Preliminary Design Study and Station Access Plan”. Bidding closed two weeks ago, and the project is to be awarded next Tuesday. Consultations with various advisory committees are required of the winning bidder; general public consultation is encouraged but not required.
These documents also indicate that the Region “has undertaken a design study for the City of Kitchener, which includes building envelopes, heights, and massing for this project.” The City of Kitchener’s vision for this part of the downtown is grand, and it appears likely that the transit hub will be a substantial presence physically.
Interesting aspects and quotes found in the RFP about the study: Read the rest of this entry »
Much of note was approved at last week’s Waterloo Regional Council meeting and at the one before that. Details for most items are available in the Planning & Works agendas and minutes for January 10 and 31.
Council decided to pursue a 30-year design-build-finance-operate-maintain (DBFOM) public-private partnership (P3) for the first phase of the LRT project. At the public meeting, many delegations spoke against such a decision and its basis, while only the Greater K-W Chamber of Commerce spoke in support. Staff will be bringing back a report to Council on options for the length of the operating contract.
Urban Strategies was selected as the consultant to develop a Central Transit Corridor Development Strategy. This kind of explicit connection between transit, land use / intensification, and place-making is crucial to the success of the LRT line and to the Region’s goals of guiding growth to urban core areas.
Final approval was given to the Grand River Transit 2011-2014 business plan. It includes a plan for small service increases and realignments which are not ambitious enough to substantially improve the quality of the GRT network. However, new express routes from the promised iXpress network are to be rolled out every other year, with the University Avenue line coming next year. Instead of focusing on improving GRT’s route efficiency or ridership, the business plan includes yearly fare increases of 5-9% to reach an arbitrary 50% farebox recovery figure. U-Pass fees are also to be increased. There is some talk of providing new service to the townships at their own cost.
The plan includes as a focus the implementation of a smart card fare system, very likely based on Presto — which was given approval in this year’s Regional Budget for implementation by 2013. Interestingly, the GRT Business Plan also includes direction to work with other agencies and municipalities to improve inter-city transit and perhaps initiate new links — see below as well. Read the rest of this entry »
Last night I presented to Regional Council on behalf of TriTAG regarding the plans for extending River Road across Highway 8 and Hidden Valley in south Kitchener. See the agenda (PDF) for the staff report and recommendation. Below is the text of my written submission. Other presentations focused on the environmental impacts, the cost, and alternative alignments. In a 13:2 vote Council went ahead with this step of the planning process, but several indicated reservations and there seemed to be some interest in the suggestions in my presentation and those of others.
I would like to express TriTAG’s disagreement with the direction being taken on the River Road extension project.
We do not believe that there has been serious consideration of alternatives for increasing capacity for east-west movement of people in that part of Kitchener. We do not believe that expanding capacity for the movement of vehicles in this corridor at great cost is appropriate – not to mention the environmental costs, both local and Region-wide. However, if capacity for vehicle movement has to be increased, we believe there are better alternatives which have not been considered. Read the rest of this entry »