Tag Archives: rtmp

Transit and the 2015 budget: a letter to Regional Council

Dear members of Regional Council,

Over the past several years, transit has been squeezed to meet arbitrary cost-recovery targets. Now that GRT has achieved those targets, TriTAG is pleased to see that the proposed 2015 Regional budget does not include any more painful cuts to transit, but instead focuses on continuing to prepare for integration with ION light rail and adapted bus rapid transit service.

We hope that 2015 also marks an end to the sharp fare hikes of the last few years. As the Region develops its new Strategic and GRT Business Plans, it has the opportunity to set fare and cost-recovery policies to satisfy concrete goals for transportation, ridership, social equity, and the environment.  We encourage council to be proactive in considering these goals when deciding on fare and service changes. (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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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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East-west Mobility in South Kitchener

Last night I presented to Regional Council on behalf of TriTAG regarding the plans for extending River Road across Highway 8 and Hidden Valley in south Kitchener. See the agenda (PDF) for the staff report and recommendation. Below is the text of my written submission. Other presentations focused on the environmental impacts, the cost, and alternative alignments. In a 13:2 vote Council went ahead with this step of the planning process, but several indicated reservations and there seemed to be some interest in the suggestions in my presentation and those of others.

I would like to express TriTAG’s disagreement with the direction being taken on the River Road extension project.

We do not believe that there has been serious consideration of alternatives for increasing capacity for east-west movement of people in that part of Kitchener. We do not believe that expanding capacity for the movement of vehicles in this corridor at great cost is appropriate – not to mention the environmental costs, both local and Region-wide. However, if capacity for vehicle movement has to be increased, we believe there are better alternatives which have not been considered. (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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Major Transit Increases Begin

This year will be the first year of a new program of major transit improvements in Waterloo Region.

Last night Regional Council passed its 2011 budget, with a 0.75% increase for Police Services and a 0.72% increase for everything else. Thanks to some uploading to the province, the service improvements this year still leave the overall increase (1.43%) well below the 2.2% or so current level of inflation.

The most notable aspect of this year’s budget is its inclusion of an increase to fund the first year of the 20-year Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP), which calls for a major shift in focus to transit. The plan calls for an increase of 1.15-1.2% to fund transit over the first five years, and then ramping up to 1.3-1.5% in the subsequent fifteen years. This year staff had asked for 1.25% in order to avoid that ramp-up later, which would have seeded the newly-created RTMP Reserve Fund with $4.05 million. (more…)

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TriTAG Asks Regional Council for Overnight iXpress in 2011

(Below is the statement I made at yesterday’s Regional budget input meeting. Please call and write your regional councillors expressing your support for these initiatives. Their contact information is at the following link: http://bit.ly/hvkN5t)

Hi, I’m Tim Mollison, I live in Kitchener, and I’m here to represent the The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group, or TriTAG. TriTAG was founded in May 2009 with the idea that people should be able to walk, cycle, and take transit to everywhere they need to go, with dignity. These modes should be accessible to as many people as possible, and made as useful as possible, because transit and active transportation are better for the environment, public health, and the form of our cities.

I’m here this evening to speak about the Regional Transportation Master Plan. (more…)

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Proposed GRT Expansion in the 2011 Regional Budget

There’s exciting news for people who have entered the recent rapid transit debates asking for improved bus service: the proposed 2011 Waterloo Region budget delivers the first in a series of major expansions of bus service as part of the Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP).


According to the Region’s major issue paper on the RTMP (PDF currently unavailable), the plan “places a greater emphasis on transit to maximize the use of the limited road space and to plan for a sustainable future.” It does this “to achieve the compact urban form as prescribed by Ontario’s Places to Grow Growth Plan and the Regional Official Plan,” and to do this it incorporates into the transit system some form of Rapid Transit along the urban corridor that connects Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge.

There are many reasons that the RTMP was adopted, but the three driving factors are: first, the Region is obligated by provincial law to channel 40% of growth into existing urban areas (through the Places to Grow Act); second, the Region will see a population increase the size of another Kitchener over the next 20 years; and third, roads are more costly to build and maintain and less effective at channeling growth than investments in public transit, cycling, and walking.

The RTMP includes but is not limited to Rapid Transit. It also includes plans for expanding existing bus service, adding as many as 11 new iXpress-like routes servicing the east and west parts of Kitchener and Waterloo and linking the suburbs to the urban corridor. For maps showing short and long-term changes to Grand River Transit routes, see the last two pages of the major issue paper.

The 2011 Budget: bus route expansion begins

The Region has proposed a number of increases to service on existing routes, in particular on the iXpress, on the 7 around the universities, and on the 52 in Cambridge. If approved, it will add a new iXpress-like route along Fischer-Hallman, realign the 12 to follow Westmount and extend Route 29 to Ira Needles.

To achieve this expansion, the region will have to purchase “19 new buses and provide 75,550 additional service hours annually (a 13.2% increase in service hours).” The changes will take place in two parts, iXpress improvements in June 2011, and the rest in September.

This year’s changes will also include changes to the transit technology, with “increased access to accurate travel information in real-time, more reliable service with less delays and a more convenient fare payment system.”

Costs and where the money is coming from

Expanding the transit system is not cheap, but then, none of the options for accommodating at least 40% of 200,000 new people and 80,000 new jobs within the existing urban areas are cheap.

The budget proposes increasing transit fares by 5% per year, with an increase going into effect in July 2011.

But what about the impact on property taxes we keep hearing about? If you add together all the increases based on inflation, approved commitments, funding for the RTMP (1.25%) and New Issues and Critical Service Enhancements, then subtract budget adjustments and the 2011 Upload Savings (from the province taking back the responsibility for funding some programs), the net increase is 1.23%. For an average home that pays $1,500 in Regional taxes annually (out of $3,000 total in property taxes), this would be an increase of $18.50 per year, or about $1.50 per month. Note that this does not factor in changes to the police, city, or school board budgets.

To get involved or learn more

Update: The 2011 budget has been finalized, and in addition to the issues discussed here, there are many programs of interest, including arts funding, poverty reduction, and health programs. You can find out more about the budget here.

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