Tag Archives: iron horse trail


Week in review: October 15, 2016

Consultations and feedback deadlines


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Iron Horse Trail move, and going forward

Monday’s Waterloo City Council meeting had many delegations (as well as written correspondence) speaking passionately against moving the Iron Horse Trail between Park and Caroline Streets to give Mady Corp. an easier parcel of land for development. Overwhelmingly, citizens lucidly explained the issues in the new trail alignment — two walls, poor sightlines at the 90-degree turn, a crossing of a parking garage entrance, and others — as well as in the development itself. Nevertheless, all opposed delegations made it clear that they support intensification in this area — but that they expect better, especially if major concessions are granted.

In our presentation, Mike Boos explained that aspects of the new alignment — the proposed 2.0m width for biking (separate from the walking section), the path crossing a driveway, and the 90-degree turn — are at odds with the City’s own Transportation Master Plan and the draft of the Ontario Traffic Manual Book 18 on cycling facilities (PDF). A representative from Mady actually responded that they would certainly increase the cycling width to 3.0m, adding that they were not aware of the needs of cyclists.

After a meeting with some heated questions and discussion, Waterloo City Council approved the development re-zoning application and the trade of the Iron Horse Trail, in a 4:2 vote, with Councillors Melissa Durrell, Mark Whaley, Scott Witmer, and Mayor Brenda Halloran in favour, and Councillors Karen Scian and Diane Freeman opposed.

Roger Suffling, a professor of planning who presented on behalf of the Easy Riders Bicycle Club, has since weighed in with an excellent column on the bigger picture of the planning process. The editorial board of the Waterloo Chronicle has criticized the precedent the decision sets, and that of the Waterloo Region Record has pointed out that creative alternatives for that site should have been given due consideration much earlier.

In our experience and that of others who chose to present, the general trail-using public became aware of this proposal either through the last minute media coverage, or only after the decision was made. The only outreach to general users of the trail was a standard development application sign on the site. Neither were alternatives for development or routing at any point presented for public or Council consideration. Given that, it’s hardly surprising that there is a protest planned (see also).

Going forward, it’s clear there will be and needs to be substantial public involvement in the design of the corridor between Park and Caroline Streets in the new alignment. But with staff and Council saying that part of their interest was in addressing issues with the current trail alignment, there is also still the possibility for the City of Waterloo to consult with the trail-using public on creating additional alignments for cyclists through that general area that would avoid the issues we and others have pointed out in the new section.

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What you need to know about 155 Uptown and the Iron Horse Trail

We’ve written before about the 155 Uptown development proposal, which is a 19-storey condo tower plan predicated on the City of Waterloo agreeing to a land swap to move a portion of the Iron Horse Trail. Worryingly, the staff report indicates that the City of Waterloo considers the Iron Horse Trail to be a purely recreational facility. And while there have been a couple of neighbourhood meetings and committee consultation, the general trail-using public has not been consulted about this plan, and most are probably not even aware.

Now is the time to speak up (or send in your written comments), as the proposal is coming up for formal approvals at two meetings on Monday, June 10. Here’s what you need to know:

Planning documents for the development, as well as the staff report and recommendation.

Disposition of the Iron Horse Trail property – formal meeting for the land swap decision on June 10.

Zoning by-law amendment – formal public meeting for development approval, on June 10.

Contact for City Council. Call or email councillors with your thoughts, in addition to providing comments through the formal meetings linked above.

We believe that land in close proximity to LRT stations should indeed be intensified, but with less parking, more active streetscapes, and more sensitivity to the surrounding transportation context than the current 155 Uptown plan. The City of Waterloo should not be making exceptions (and trading off public assets) to facilitate merely “transit-adjacent development”, and instead should focus on making actually transit-oriented development.

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Preserving the Integrity of the Iron Horse Trail

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.

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Designing to Improve the Iron Horse Trail

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 protectthetrail@tritag.ca . We’ll put up the submissions in a follow-up.

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Pave Laurel Trail Already

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.

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Safety on the Iron Horse Trail

How many streets do you know that close at night?

The recent murder on the Iron Horse Trail has sparked public discussion of trail safety and how to improve it. While suspects have been apprehended, the safety of the trail remains an important issue, particularly as the attack appears not to have been targeted. Whether or not the trail is actually as dangerous as often portrayed, there is a strong feeling in the community that one shouldn’t use the trail when it’s dark, and that’s unacceptable for such a major transportation link.

Many people have suggested that the trail should be lit at night, which is an obvious thing to do and which should have been done long ago. Most know that the Iron Horse Trail used to be a former railway, but it also used to an electric railway. So if you look carefully along the entire length of the IHT, you’ll actually find hydro poles going all the way along. Adding lighting should not be a difficult proposition.

Why is lighting important? The obvious answer is it lets people actually see the path at night. It also makes people feel safer using the trail, as it is thought and felt that would-be criminals avoid well-lit areas. The latter may well be true, but if people feel safer and thus use the path more, that is already important. Moreover, many people likely avoid using the trail during the day because they are afraid of returning when it’s dark. Well-travelled areas are safer, due to the possibility of someone walking by or biking by. And this possibility of witnesses both discourages crime and increases the chance of assistance.

Another suggestion has been to put more eyes on the street, which is a concept from the work of Jane Jacobs on cities. It’s about having housing and shops facing the street in such a way that people there are able to respond to incidents on the street. I’m not sure how possible this is on the Iron Horse Trail, but it’s worth looking into having more housing facing the trail. And there are a number of connections that should be made and improved between the Iron Horse Trail and the neighbourhoods it passes through.

But I would argue that the biggest danger and deterrent to trail users is motor vehicles. As I showed previously, the Iron Horse Trail essentially doesn’t have any road crossings. The trail just stops and resumes on the other side; in between you’re on your own to navigate the often fast-moving traffic. It’s worse at the two places where the trail crosses near an intersection, as trail users (including cyclists) are supposed to go out of their way on the sidewalk to cross both streets at the signal. Making the Iron Horse Trail as continuous as possible, with really good road crossings, would cut down on the hassle and time for using it and substantially improve the experience.

If we’re serious about safety on the Iron Horse Trail, we should add lighting to the trail, but we should also improve the path so more people are using it at all times of day.

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