Tag Archives: public input


Big Changes for Bridgeport, Erb, Caroline, and Albert

There’s going to be another major road project coming to Uptown Waterloo.

Reconstruction of Bridgeport, Erb, Caroline, and Albert.

That’s right. After LRT construction wraps up in 2017, and after the King St improvements bring protected bike lanes to King St in 2018/2019, the city and region will be replacing aging services underneath Bridgeport, Erb, Caroline, and Albert, and are taking the opportunity to revisit the design of these streets as they cut through central Waterloo.

Here’s a look at what’s proposed, (page 46, 12MB PDF) and below we’ll talk about what works, what doesn’t, and what needs serious improvement.

Concept plan for the reconstruction of Erb/Bridgeport/Caroline/Albert

Concept plan for the reconstruction of Erb/Bridgeport/Caroline/Albert

Major changes include:

  • A multi-use trail along the north side of Bridgeport/Caroline linking the King St bike lanes to the Laurel Trail at Erb
  • Narrowing Caroline north of Erb St to two lanes, and adding a new sidewalk on the East side
  • Narrowing Albert from two lanes to one, with a northbound bike lane and parallel parking
  • Changing Albert/Erb to a T-intersection
  • Sharrows on Erb St from Caroline to King

What Works

Adding a multi-use trail along Caroline provides a great bicycle link between King St and multiple trail entrances for Waterloo Park, and finally allows northbound cycle traffic up Caroline.

Crossing Albert on the north side of Erb will be made much easier. The current multi-lane off-ramp nature of Albert St is dangerous, making walking around the old Police Station unpleasant. The new T-intersection design reduces crossing distance, turning speeds, and even introduces new green space.

Reducing Caroline to two lanes helps solve the problem of traffic backing up in the right hand lane of Bridgeport east of King. Now traffic intending to go beyond King will use the centre lane, while those turning onto King and Regina Streets will be on the left and right hand lanes, distributing traffic better across the three lanes.

Potential Improvements

Albert St still needs a legal way to cycle southbound. By moving the parking to the east side of the road, there could be a contra-flow southbound bikelane on the west side, with the northbound lane shared between cars and bicycles, with a more appropriate use of sharrows. This also puts the parking on the traditional right-hand side, which will be easier for drivers to use. Parallel parking is tricky enough, and even more so when it’s on the opposite side of the car.

If the bicycle route along Bridgeport/Caroline is a multi-use trail, then why is there a southbound on-street bike lane and bike box approaching Erb? There is no way for bicycles to access the on-road bike lane from the trail, and if they could, it would be unsafe to merge cross the constant stream of right turning traffic. The intersection design assumes that cyclists are on the road instead of the multi-use trail, when the reverse should be true. We can’t keep ending trails at crosswalks, asking cyclists to dismount to continue. With the first cross-ride in Waterloo now in service at Erb/Peppler, there is now precedent for a two-way crossing on the west side of Caroline, which will finally allow the connection of the Laurel and Iron Horse trails.

What Doesn’t Work

Erb St, unfortunately, has a long way to go.

Erb, as proposed, with many lanes and large excessive shoulders.

Erb, as proposed, with many lanes and large excessive shoulders.

The sharrows proposed for Erb St are inappropriate. Sharrows work on low speed roads, not major high-speed multi-lane arteries. Sharrows are not a replacement for dedicated cycling infrastructure, and 2016 should be the year we stop pretending they are.

The width of Erb St is drastically wider than the planned use. There is no need for 3 through lanes and a painted shoulder lane. Staff mention a potential possibility for on-road cycle tracks, “without the need for additional construction,” but it would require waiting for “a separate, broader study to consider implementation of a two-way cycle track on Erb Street from Caroline Street to Margaret Avenue [which] will be completed by the Region of Waterloo in the future.” In the meantime, Erb will remain gratuitously wide.
A pedestrian crossing at Erb/Albert is dismissed, because there are fewer than 250 people crossing day, a number that is unlikely to change if Erb remains wide and hostile. Bridges are not built by counting the number of people swimming across a river; crosswalks should not be dismissed because few are willing to unsafely cross a high-speed 4-lane arterial.

An alternate concept for a right-sized Erb St featuring a shared bike and turning lane.

An alternate concept for a right-sized Erb St featuring a pedestrian crossing, and a shared bike and turning lane.

Here is a potential way to correct some of these issues. The right hand lane of Erb is used as a turn lane for the WTS entrance, and for King St. To prevent the speeding, cars cannot use it to drive from Caroline to King, only allowing cyclists to continue through, in what will now be a much lower-speed lane. The painted shoulder on the north of Erb is now removed, with the sidewalk moved south where it was. A pedestrian crossover is installed at Albert, allowing direct access from Albert to The Shops at Waterloo Town Square.

Send Your Feedback

These are just some of the suggestions that we have, but we’re sure you have more. Please send your own feedback, and be sure to attend the upcoming public information centre.

Feedback should be sent to:
Mr. Jim Ellerman, jellerman@regionofwaterloo.ca
Project Manager, Capital Projects
Regional Municipality of Waterloo

Mark Christensen, mchristensen@walterfedy.com
Project Manager

Public Consultation Centre #1
Wednesday, January 27th, 2016
5:00p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
The Canadian Clay and Glass Museum
25 Caroline Street North, Waterloo

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Stage 2 ION light rail public consultations Nov 18-19

Help the Region of Waterloo plan Stage 2 of ION light rail from Kitchener to Cambridge. The Region is conducting a Transit Project Assessment and needs your opinions and input at two upcoming public consultations:

  • Nov 18 – Cambridge City Hall, Bowman Room
  • Nov 19 – Kingsdale Community Centre

For more details, read the consultation handout or visit stage2ION.ca

Stage 2 ION light rail alternative routes

Stage 2 ION light rail alternative routes

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Kitchener’s Cycling Master Plan at risk: who owns the street?

Could a vocal opposition  prevent Kitchener’s cycling network from being connected and useful?

Kitchener City Council will be voting on whether to put bike lanes on Union Street (Margaret to Lancaster) on Monday, October 5 at 7pm. While Union has been approved as part of the bicycle priority network in Kitchener’s Cycling Master Plan since 2010, and a tentative design was approved last month at the Community and Infrastructure Services Committee, opposition from some residents threatens to overturn these plans, putting the priority network as a whole at risk.

Last month, in the face of vocal opposition, Kitchener City Council opted to shelve a staff-recommended design for buffered bike lanes on Westheights Drive in favour of a compromise design that preserves parking on both sides of the street. While the compromise design affords some improvement to the experience of cycling on the street and could contribute to safer traffic speeds, the decision has made those who advocate for a useful and safe cycling network concerned about future decisions.

The compromise decision was not made on technical merits, but rather on political considerations. Based on data collected systematically by City staff for on-street parking use, reducing parking to one side of the street would have been more than sufficient for resident needs. But to the residents who protested to Council, this wasn’t enough, so Council sought a solution that would satisfy them.

It may be easy to assume that Westheights was a good example of democracy at work: the people spoke, and Council listened. But scratch the surface a little, and you will find this interpretation problematic.

First, it assumes that the opponents who appeared at Council represent the actual majority view of the residents of the street. This is betrayed by the City’s own survey of Westheights residents which found greater numbers in support to the recommended changes than were opposed. (Dissenters claim to have conducted their own survey that showed the opposite, however it’s important to take this resident-led survey with a grain of salt. Given how some supportive voices were intimidated into silence by belligerent opponents during initial neighbourhood consultations, one can easily imagine many residents nodding along to an angry neighbour on their doorsteps for fear of that hostility being directed towards them. Additionally, given the charged rhetoric used to discredit the buffered bike lane design – the ‘super cycle lanes’ and the exaggerated ‘dangers’ of having to cross the street to park – it’s not surprising this survey solicited a more negative response.)

Second, even if the delegates were truly representative of the residents of the street, giving them final say over a street’s design privatizes the public realm and excludes many other important stakeholders. To be sure, those adjacent to a street are important stakeholders, and should be consulted. But a street does not exist merely for the benefit of the property owners along it, but for the public at large. In the case of Westheights and Union, traffic counts reveal that thousands more residents and visitors from surrounding streets and neighbourhoods use the roadway than just those from properties lining these streets. Unfortunately, the City’s own consultation processes, by engaging predominantly with residents from the street itself, feeds this perception that these collector roads are for their private benefit. It may be challenging, but future consultation efforts should attempt to reach out more to the broader cross-section of a street’s current and potential users to get a more representative view of public desires and needs.

In the case of Union Street, there simply isn’t enough space for a compromise like Westheights to accommodate parking on both sides and still have usable bike lanes. And reducing the parking supply to one side still leaves nearly four times as much parking as there is demand. But like Westheights, we anticipate opposition to this change to be fierce.

Fortunately, you can help to bring safe cycling facilities to Union and ensure that the priority network is not compromised. Probably the two most effective things you can do is show up in the Council chamber Monday night and be visible, and if you’re really keen, register to delegate. If you can’t make it, you can also write to your councillors and remind them that you too are a stakeholder in the form that Union Street will take.

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iXpress loves you and wants you to be happy

GRT 2014 Budget Opportunities

Last night there was a public input session for the Region of Waterloo 2014 budget, following the release of the first budget draft. This is what we presented there on the subject of transit funding:

The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group believes that it is very important for the Region of Waterloo to continue on its present path of transit improvement. This requires investment, but not making that investment will be costlier in the medium and long term. Still, we recognize the difficult budget decisions that must be made. Therefore we commend staff for the recommendations before you, which have avoided cuts to investment that could jeopardize the momentum of, and confidence in, iON or iXpress.

While it can be disappointing to see proposed cuts to hours of operation and frequency on certain routes, we are heartened that route rationalization is a major consideration. We feel there are a number of other opportunities for change, similar to the kinds of network changes that have been made recently when iXpress routes are introduced.


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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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LRT Corridor Building Strategy

This weekend was the official launch of the Central Transit Corridor Community Building Strategy (CBS). (The launch was webcast, as other Regional proceedings now are, and should be soon available in the archive.) This Tuesday the 27th, there will be a CBS open house from 3 to 6pm at Knox Presbyterian Church (at Erb & Caroline in Waterloo); there will be a presentation from 5:30 to 6:15 and a workshop from 6:15 to 8:15pm. (Details from here.) We encourage everyone to attend the presentation and workshop.

Though the name of the project is daunting, the idea is both simple and rather important. The Rapid Transit / LRT project is designed to function as a regional transit spine and to attract and handle a large amount of development as urban infill along Waterloo Region’s central corridor instead of as sprawl. The CBS will set out the vision for land-use planning and street networks around stations.

LRT is already attracting development near station areas, but with the zoning currently in place and without a coherent strategy for LRT corridor development, those buildings may not be creating transit-oriented and human-scale places. The “Northfield Station” development is a likely example of a missed opportunity. It isn’t a given that LRT changes its station areas much by itself. For example, outside of Calgary’s downtown, its LRT appears to have primarily influenced the land-use around its stations through the copious provision of parking.

So that the line can create dense, urban, transit-oriented places along the line, the zoning needs to change so that it allows for density, so that it does not require off-street parking, and so it allows and encourages a built form that makes for pedestrian-oriented neighbourhoods. The attraction of a new light rail line is going to result in much development interest of various kinds along the entire line. The CBS should be a guiding mechanism to turn that interest into city-building along the LRT line.

It’s important stuff, and crucial to the Region’s reurbanization and growth management priorities. Attend the Tuesday workshop if you can, and if not, send your comments online or stop by the storefront the project will be opening soon in downtown Kitchener.

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Regional Updates

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. (more…)

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Fare increase plans betray confused priorities

Few people attended Thursday’s consultations about the Grand River Transit 2011-2014 business plan. Which is unfortunate, because there’s a real zinger lurking in those plans, as I mentioned in our post on them. Over the next three years, GRT wants to raise fares by 16%, 23%, or 30%. Don’t think a fare increase is warranted? Tough luck, as GRT isn’t talking about any option of keeping fares matched to inflation. If you’re concerned about this, make sure to submit your comments on the business plan and contact your Regional Councillors.

Why fare increases? To reach 50% cost recovery from fares, apparently — from the current 37%. Why 50% cost recovery? Who knows. Chris Klein has some speculation over at Waterloons. I saw and heard nothing to indicate that this figure isn’t arbitrary.

Let’s be clear, we’re not opposed to increasing GRT’s farebox recovery rates. And we’re not necessarily opposed to fare increases, particularly if their purpose is to substantially improve service. But these fare increases look like fare increases for the sake of fare increases. It’s fare increases because we can, because “people will ride anyway”, and because “see, other cities have higher fares!”.

Which, well, is not convincing. On the one hand, the Region claims to want to get far more people using transit. But considering transit demand as static and transit riders as expendable is counterproductive, to put it mildly. (more…)

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Three Years of Thinking Small at GRT

Tomorrow from 4:30pm to 7:30pm Grand River Transit is holding public consultation centres in Kitchener (150 Frederick St) and Cambridge (Cambridge Centre) on its 2011-2014 business plan. See the GRT site for details and for an outline of the current proposal and an online feedback survey. (Some more information, including maps, is in the report on page 19 of this month’s Planning & Works Committee agenda.) If you can, please attend a session in person — but in any case, please send your comments in.

To me, the outline strongly suggests that GRT (and by extension, Waterloo Region) is already giving up on the Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP). It’s giving up on making major changes to the bus network, and limiting itself to tweaks here and there, hoping for LRT to come along and make everything better. GRT leaves changes of substance to beyond a three-year horizon. The RTMP aims to increase the transit mode share from 4% of peak hour trips to 15% by 2031. If that happens, it will be no thanks to GRT’s current plans. (more…)

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Some Thoughts on the Final Rapid Transit Consultations

Today the last phase of public consultations for Waterloo Region’s Rapid Transit project begins, with one tonight in St. Jacobs. The other ones will be held this week and next at familiar locations – see the Region’s site for details on times and venues. The materials being presented at the meeting are available online, as is an online comment sheet if you cannot make a meeting in person. On May 31 and June 1, Regional Council will hold public input meetings to hear delegations on Rapid Transit. In June Council is expected to vote on the final plan. One of the reasons the consultations have been so drawn out is to streamline the required Transit Project Assessment, which would start in October and take six months, but which could be delayed by new information.

Staff are presenting an only slightly-revised recommendation for the first phase of Rapid Transit to be light rail from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Mall. The staff recommendation at this stage includes figures on how the project would be funded — which includes the use of some of the future increases that had been allocated to the transit improvements in the Regional Transportation Master Plan. Right now that stands at 1.5% tax increases for seven years for the combination of the two, tempered with tax decreases elsewhere and the possibility of lowering the tax impact through development charges. Importantly, this recommendation includes concrete provisions for a second phase of light rail to Cambridge, with recommendations to begin a project assessment in 2014, to start buying necessary property, and to begin planning for a second GO Transit / light rail intermodal terminal in Galt.

The plan is solid, but could be better. Now is really the last chance to push for major improvements to the proposal. We have written before about some improvements we would like to see, including altering the routing in uptown Waterloo and changing mid-block stations to ones at major streets.

The short-term plan for Cambridge should include bus lanes on Hespeler Road (the first in Waterloo Region), which would be a symbolic step but also a practical one. Particularly if the commitment to extending LRT is a serious one, two lanes of Hespeler will become transit-only at some point. The roadway is wide, and it only makes sense to make the curb lanes bus-only lanes as soon as possible. With growth of traffic, the earlier it is done the less painful it will be. It would signify a commitment to transit along that corridor and would help change the perception of Hespeler Road. With any luck, the city of Cambridge would encourage street-facing development and make it that much easier to extend the line.

One issue that hasn’t been brought up so far is crossings of the tracks. Where the proposed light rail route runs along King Street outside of the downtowns, motor vehicle traffic would not be allowed to cross except at signalized intersections. But there has not been any mention of islands or other infrastructure to allow pedestrians or cyclists to cross between those intersections, which can be far apart. It’s important that LRT be built in a way that does not divide up the street into two poorly-connected halves, and in a way that makes the area an attractive place to walk — and hence attractive to build dense transit-oriented development.

Make sure to attend the public consultations and to make your thoughts known about Rapid Transit. Whether or not you have provided comments before, it’s important that in this final stage you communicate your support and anything you feel can be done to improve the plan.

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