Tag Archives: summary

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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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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