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…)
Recently we made a short survey regarding GO Transit service available through our social media networks. It was described as being about the service extension, and we avoided describing its purpose. That purpose was two-fold: to get a sense of the demand for the upcoming GO train service from Kitchener to downtown Toronto and – more importantly – to see how much demand there is for weekend service, which GO Transit is not currently planning.
We had 84 respondents to the questionnaire – 48 from Kitchener, 32 from Waterloo, 2 from Cambridge, and one each from Elmira and Guelph. Some conclusions from these data follow. More details are at the bottom of the post.
While current bus service seems to meet weekend travel needs as well as weekday travel needs, people don’t use VIA Rail service on weekends for travel from Kitchener to Toronto. This is not surprising, given that a return trip costs over $50 and that there is only one available round-trip – which leaves Toronto rather early for a weekend (5:40pm). This suggests a high latent demand for train service suitable for weekend trips.
There is a sizable weekday travel demand from Kitchener-Waterloo to downtown Toronto, and GO trains are poised to capture a substantial portion of it. However, the weekend demand from K-W to downtown Toronto is about twice as high as the weekday one, and survey responses indicate that weekend GO train service from Kitchener is more than justified.
Though GO Transit has historically been a commuter service, its extension to Kitchener has reached beyond the GTA to what is a self-contained urban area. Few people commute daily to Toronto from Kitchener-Waterloo. However Toronto is close enough to be a destination for non-commuter travel. It’s about time for GO Transit to acknowledge and embrace the intercity travel market, and not pigeonhole Kitchener-Waterloo into an ill-fitting role as a suburb.
Last year, GRT began installing cameras on buses for security purposes. Due to privacy and other concerns about the lack of a policy about storage and usage of recorded material, turning them on was postponed until a policy was written. In February, Regional staff brought forward a report and a draft policy on “Onboard Mobile Surveillance Systems”. Planning & Works Committee had concerns, but approved the policy in principle, with the stipulation that the public be consulted. (See that meeting’s minutes.)
There was some material on surveillance at last week’s consultation centres on GRT service improvements, but no material was on the website and no prior notice was given that this information would be presented.
We have recently found out that GRT is holding public consultations this week, about which there has again been little notice. There will be one tomorrow at Ainslie Street Terminal in Cambridge, and one Thursday at 150 Frederick Street in Kitchener. If you cannot make one of those, please review the details of the draft policy and submit comments this week on your thoughts or concerns.
Later this week we will post our thoughts on the surveillance, but at this point we are very concerned that audio/video surveillance is moving forward with insufficient attention to privacy concerns and inadequate public consultation.
Thanks to Kate Daley for keeping us in the loop about this.
Today the Region of Waterloo’s Planning and Works Committee is meeting at 9:00am in Council Chambers at 150 Frederick St., Kitchener. Here’s a run-down on important projects and reports that are being brought forward. (more…)