Tag Archives: route 7


What’s in store for Grand River Transit?

What’s in store for GRT? As we prepare for the arrival of ION, the region’s Transit Services has given us a glimpse into the next few years of Grand River Transit. Here  at TriTAG, there’s nothing we like more than a thick PDF full of juicy planning details. We dive into the Interim Report on GRT’s 2017-2021 business plan so you don’t have to!

Obviously, ION’s launch in early 2018 represents a major change for our region. With ION light rail providing a fast, reliable backbone for transit trips across a single fare, integrated transit network, the bus system needs some changes to take advantage of this. In addition, plans are afoot to continue growing the iXpress bus network:

  • New 205 Ottawa iXpress (Sept 2017)
  • 10 minute peak frequency on 201 and 202 (Sept 2017)
  • Extension of 201 to Block Line ION (early 2018) and then on to Conestoga College (late 2018)

You should expect to see some major changes to other bus routes in the wake of ION, as well:

Also look for service frequency improvements a number of routes, as well as possible expansion to serve new suburbs and some townships.

Some of the changes proposed by GRT for 2017.

Some of the changes proposed by GRT for 2017.

Underlying all of this is a strong growth target being set. After over a decade of skyrocketing ridership, 2014 and 2015 saw a decrease in the number of riders. Planners blame this on a loss of school board funded high school trips, the disruption of ION construction, and also on years of unrelenting fare increases that GRT has been directed to undertake.

However, region staff expect ridership growth to bounce back and then some. Serving just under 20 million rides a year right now, the plan is to reach 28 million in just 5 years!

This will take some doing. For one, ION will need to live up to its expectations. But the real question is whether our regional council is ready to make the investment in transit that this requires. This means committing to funding the expanded service hours (29% over 5 years) and to stop driving away riders– in particular, the new riders GRT seeks– with continuous fare hikes well above inflation.

Regional government must commit to supporting ridership growth to hit these projections.

Regional government must commit to supporting ridership growth to hit these projections.

There’s more in this report that catches our eye, but only so much we can go into in one post. Do the proposed route restructures make sense? Is GRT being too cautious and incremental in its redesign to meet lofty ridership goals? And is there an overemphasis on peak service frequency at the expense of all day flexibility?

We’d like to delve deeper into these questions. Watch this space.

Upcoming consultations on the GRT business plan:

Thursday, September 22, 2016 
Drop in anytime between 5 – 8 p.m.
Lions Arena
20 Rittenhouse Road, Kitchener
GRT Routes 3, 12, 22 and 201 iXpress

Thursday, September 29, 2016
Drop in anytime between 5 – 8 p.m.
Waterloo Memorial Recreation Centre,
2nd Floor, Hauser Haus
101 Father David Bauer Drive, Waterloo
GRT Routes 5, 8, 12 and 200 iXpress

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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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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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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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Untangling the Route 7 Mainline: Understandable Transit

Current monster of a Route 7 schedule, and it's only for weekdays before 7pm. (There's a back.)

Our transit network’s most frequent service should be something we can take pride in. Unfortunately, the “mainline” Route 7 is an absolute mess. It has three branches in the north end, three branches in the south end, a long layover right in the middle, problems with bus bunching, and a schedule that can confound even the seasoned transit user — to say nothing of those who need convincing to take transit. On essentially the same corridor, we also have a rapid service, but which is not as frequent. A rethinking is in order.

We propose that iXpress frequencies be increased, that Route 7 be consolidated into a single trunk route on King Street, and that the north end branches be split off into a local circulator — a University Loop route. This would preserve current utility, while vastly simplifying the GRT network and making it far more appealing to existing and new riders. It’s one of those cases where transferring (at University or Columbia) is good for you and good for your city. According to our back-of-the-envelope calculations on the basis of available schedule information, the redesign could be accomplished through re-allocating existing resources available after this year’s GRT improvements.

More specifically, our proposal would mean: 8 minute headways (time between buses) on the iXpress, 10 minute headways on a consolidated Route 7 on King Street, and 8-10 minute headways on both directions of a University Loop route. Each one of those would be a simple, understandable, frequent-service route. Importantly, the iXpress would take its rightful place as the most frequent service, and thereby start building up the ridership patterns for Rapid Transit service that will replace it.

If you would like to see this happen, make sure to send your comments in to Grand River Transit planners along with your other thoughts on this year’s service changes. Staff have told us that they’ve received few complaints about the complexity of Route 7 — which is the elephant in the room. Let them know what you think.

The rest of this post describes the redesign and why it will work.


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