Tag Archives: frequent service networks

Let’s make the connection: how can you help?

Last week, we talked about the gap in transit planning around ION and the 202 University Avenue iXpress. Click here to read the details. The Waterloo Region Record has also published a story, and we’ll be on CBC radio Tuesday morning at 7:40 to discuss it.

How can you help ensure that connections are in place for ION and GRT iXpress buses on University Avenue in time for 2018?

  • Give GRT your feedback! Follow that link to learn about the UW transit plaza and find a link to submit your feedback. Tell GRT you want them to live up to their key priority of building seamless connections to ION light rail.
  • Tell the University of Waterloo what you think. Contact the president’s office and explain that UW needs to step up and help our community get maximum value for our transit money, rather than obstructing good transit access to ION. Let the 202 pass!
  • Student or alumnus of UW? Contact the UW Feds and tell them you want the University to work with GRT, not against them, in order to make your own transit experience along University Avenue better.

With your help, we can make the connection.




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Missing the connection: Will the University iXpress bypass ION?

Grand River Transit is investing in a new transit plaza next to the University of Waterloo’s ION station. But they have no stated plan to connect the 202 University iXpress with this location. In fact, they propose to have the 202 drive over the tracks and not stop near ION at all. How could this be? See the plans yourself, and then tell GRT you want the 202 to connect with ION.

Imagine that it’s early 2018, and ION has begun service. A young woman leaves her home in the Beechwood neighbourhood bound for work. Instead of getting in the car as she normally would, she walks towards the closest bus stop. Today she will find out if ION works for her.

It’s a short walk to the bus shelter, and a short wait for her bus to arrive: a 202 University iXpress. It quickly carries her along Erb to University Avenue, then through campus and she steps off the bus just metres away from the ION platform. It’s a quick and convenient transfer as the train glides smoothly into the station as she walks up and just like that, she’s on her way downtown.

Now imagine instead, her bus drives right past the University of Waterloo. There’s the unmistakable thump-thump of crossing railway tracks: surely, this must be the place to transfer. But no, the bus keeps going.

She gets out at the very next stop, beyond Phillip St. She doesn’t know the area, and she can’t see the station anywhere around here. She asks a passing student, who points back towards the tracks. She starts walking.

Despite crossing each other, the 202 and ION stops are a long way apart.

Despite crossing each other, the 202 and ION stops are a long way apart.

It’s almost 10 minutes before she has found her way to the ION station. By now, she’s cold and annoyed. These iXpress buses were supposed to connect seamlessly with the train, she thinks. Do they actually expect her to walk all this way every time to catch her train downtown, and then find her way back to this bus stop in the evening? Why does her bus completely bypass the light rail line whose tracks it drives over? She can’t understand why anyone would think this was a good idea. She resolves to go back to driving tomorrow.


Of all these routes, the 202 is the most vital to connect with ION.

Sadly, it is this latter scenario that we are being set up for. GRT revealed its plans for the new UW transit plaza and route adjustments in the area to connect here, and those plans specifically exclude the 202 University iXpress. Despite the creation of this plaza and the placement of the UW ION station, the University of Waterloo wants to block bus access to sections of Ring Road. The 202, serving our region’s second largest transit corridor, is a casualty of this decision, currently relegated to bypass ION and stop a long distance away.

The 202 is Waterloo's best cross-town route, extending to Erb West and University East.

The 202 is Waterloo’s best cross-town route, extending to Erb West and University East.

But there are alternatives. There are ways to make this work. Unfortunately, Grand River Transit appears to be proposing inaction when they presented to the public last week. The vision of iXpress cross-town lines feeding the ION transit spine may well be abandoned where it is most critical.

We must ensure that this connection happens. GRT needs to step up, and deliver a solution. And if GRT can’t bring the 202 to the UW transit plaza, then it should instead be routed to connect with ION at the Laurier-Waterloo Park station on Seagram drive.

Why not connect 202 with ION on Seagram, and also provide Laurier with an ION shuttle at the same time?

Why not connect 202 with ION on Seagram, and also provide Laurier with an ION shuttle at the same time?

Making these connections between ION and iXpress is of paramount importance to ensuring that our investment in LRT benefits more than those who live and work immediately adjacent to the line, because they connect ION riders to many more destinations outside the central transit corridor.

It’s not too late to tell GRT directly that you want to see the 202 iXpress bring you to ION’s doorstep. You can see GRT’s plans yourself, and submit your comments online. Let’s help our transit planners make the connection.

Find out other ways you can help to make the connection.

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How long should you have to wait for the bus?

Imagine a gate at the end of your driveway that opens only once every 30 minutes. How would that affect you?

We tend to think of trips by car in terms of how much time they will take. So it’s natural to compare transit by the same yardstick. How long will this trip take by bus compared to car? Is a train that takes 44 minutes to travel 18km fast enough? No question: fast transit is good.

But frequent transit is better. Frequent transit means being able to travel when we want. But this is often overlooked. It may even be overlooked in the next GRT business plan. But more on that in a moment. (more…)

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2015 GRT preferred service improvement plan

Beginning tomorrow, Grand River Transit will be hosting a series of public consultations on its preferred 2015 service improvement plan.  These new route designs, mostly centred around Kitchener wards 1, 2, 7, 8, 9, and 10, continue the trend of a more direct, grid-like frequent service network we saw for Waterloo in 2013. We encourage you to attend a session or submit your feedback online.

Notable changes include a new Victoria/Highland iXpress route, more continuos cross-corridor (east-west-ish) routes, limited service to Bingeman’s Centre Drive, and gradual shifts away from Highland Hills and Charles Street Terminal towards The Boardwalk and the future transit hub for certain routes. Many of these changes are in preparation for ION light rail. Certain route changes have also spurred investigation of a new highway crossing for people on foot and bike.

Some of the preferred improvements, especially around the central transit corridor, are scaled back from what had originally been proposed in the fall, in part due to the challenges and resource constraints during ION construction.

We’ve tried to summarize these changes in the post below. While not part of the plan under consultation, we’ve also included changes to Cambridge service and the announcement of funding for transit in Wilmot in our discussion.


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What are your priorities for Waterloo Region?

The Region is collecting public input for its 2015-18 Strategic Plan and conducting a service review. The choices made over the next few years regarding transit, active transportation, and land use planning will be important to the success of ION light rail and the livability of your community. This is your opportunity to weigh in and help shape the Region’s direction and investments.

The Region has set up a website called Strat Chat to collect input. On it, you can comment on or rate ideas, or suggest your own for topics such as transportation, your vision for the Regionservices that you feel merit greater investment, and many more.

One idea shared on the site that we’d hope you’d consider supporting is greater investment in frequent transit. This would make transit a more reliable transportation choice and increase ridership ahead of ION service. On snowy days like today, you may also want to consider whether having municipally cleared sidewalks is a good idea.

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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.

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GRT 2015 Service Changes

Today, Grand River Transit began public consultations on its 2015 service changes. They include the next phase of grid-based network restructuring with a new cross-town iXpress route, as well as the rationalization of Route 7 mainline service that we have long advocated for. We will have more analysis of these changes later, but we’ll start with a brief overview and encourage you to attend the consultations.

Some of the notable Kitchener network changes include a new Highland-Victoria iXpress route, modifying Route 20 to be a continuous crosstown route on Victoria and Frederick, and one option for launching part of the Ottawa iXpress several years earlier than planned.

GRT had planned to reconsider Route 7 after the launch of ION, but they are moving this change up earlier. One of the challenges of the current design is that each of the Route 7 branches is scheduled independently, making consistent headways very challenging, especially if there are delays. With the construction of ION on King Street starting in 2015, a move to a single, headway-scheduled service would allow GRT to provide more reliable and predictable service.

We do have some ideas for what might be worth considering for the 2015 plans:

  • Adding stops at Queen/Courtland and Victoria/Frederick to the 204 iXpress
  • Better serving St. Mary’s Hospital with the 204 iXpress
  • Adding a stop of the iXpress 202 at King/University to allow transfers with the consolidated Route 7

And while the Route 7 restructuring is badly needed, GRT must be clearer about what service levels the consolidated Route 7, the upgraded iXpress 200, and University Loop will have to compensate for the removal of the branches.

That said, we are thrilled to see GRT continue to add cross-town iXpress service and to straighten out route networks.

Have your say! Attend the public consultation sessions or fill out GRT’s online comment form available on the consultation page alongside the detailed information and maps. Location and schedule are also in our public meeting calendar in the sidebar.

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Screen shot 2014-03-14 at 10.37.30 PM

Stop design and network legibility

Recently, we looked at transit stop design for ION through the lens of branding. Today, we’d like to explore the impact stop design has on way-finding, legibility, and providing information to transit users about when to expect the next bus or tram.

Finding our way

Good way-finding cues will be critical for the integration of ION with iXpress buses and neighbourhood routes. Aside from the stop on Caroline, ION trains will have their own platforms distinct from bus stop platforms. (The aBRT stops however will be accessible by both ION and regular buses.) The Victoria Street multi-modal hub will need to allow connections between ION, iXpress, local routes, taxis, GO and VIA trains, and intercity buses. On top of all this is the fact that north- and south-bound direction stops are split by one or two blocks in both the Kitchener and Waterloo downtowns. Planners will need to be proactive in ensuring that the experience of the Grand River Transit network is a seamless one. (more…)

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The 7 branches of route 7

Rationalizing Route 7 – Efficiency Over Cuts

Load on a 7E bus from UW to King via Columbia

In our last post, we advocate that cost savings for GRT can be found through further rationalization of GRT routes instead of cuts to existing services. By reducing duplicated efforts, better service can be provided at reduced cost. There are many places we believe this is possible, and chief among them is the Region’s mainline route, the 7.
We’ve been advocating for a rationalization of the Route 7, for several years now, and in light of this year’s service improvements, it’s time to look at how the case for Route 7 rationalization is stronger than ever. In brief, a problem of high-volume local east-west demand around the universities leads to service reliability problems, requiring duplicated service to make up for late buses. Duplicated service (i.e. empty buses following full ones) inflates the operating cost while increasing wait times. Rationalization of Route 7 represents an easy win to separate different demand patterns, providing better service for everyone at the same cost, while also minimizing “Bus Roulette” when the next bus cannot be easily predicted. Route 7 in the university area is a case where Human Transit might say that “‘transferring’ can be good for you and good for your city”. (more…)

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Pulses, Headways, and Hubs

I live on Queen Street, about a 10 minute walk from Charles Street terminal. It’s a 3 minute bus ride though, and the stop outside my building is served by four different routes coming in and out of the terminal. In theory, based on the number of buses passing through each hour, you would expect an average wait of 3.5 minutes (up to 7 minutes) making the bus competitive with walking if I’m in a hurry or the weather is poor.

However, this is not the case. You can often see two or three buses coming one after another down Queen, which means there are up to 16 minutes of no scheduled service at times. We should expect 6.5 minutes of delay based on the number of buses, making taking the bus marginally faster on average. But because of the variations in bus headways, it takes almost twice as long as walking at worst. I can’t simply step out my door and know whether walking or taking the bus at any given time would be faster. Clearly, the bus schedule is not very optimal for wait times near my home. If the departure times between buses travelling to Charles Street were equally spaced, rather than all arriving at once, the bus network could be made more efficient and predictable, for the same amount of service and expense. (more…)

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