LRT Myths Debunked

Numerous myths have been spread by those opposed to Light Rail Transit (LRT), and this page is dedicated to setting the facts straight. If you hear something fishy about LRT that isn’t addressed here, please contact TriTAG.

Follow our Mythbusting the Election series from October 20-27.


Myth: Light Rail will only run from one mall to another mall

Fact: ION will link two downtowns, four university campuses, Grand River Hospital, inter-city transit, countless shopping, employment, and cultural destinations, and more than 20 neighbourhoods. Watch our video of the route:

Myth: Light Rail is not as good as buses

Fact: Multiple transportation methods were examined in the first phase of the Rapid Transit study, including buses. However, it was determined that buses would fail to stimulate a comparable level of development and urban intensification. More importantly, it was determined that a bus rapid transit system would reach capacity less than 20 years after being constructed.

Fact: The only bus rapid transit system in Canada which has been operating for more than 10 years (Ottawa BRT), is now planned to be replaced with a Light Rail system.

Myth: Light Rail is too big for the region

Fact: The current iXpress (express bus) service, which Light Rail will replace, has had its ridership double twice in four years. If ridership continues to grow at even two-thirds of this rate, it will surpass the ridership target at which Light Rail becomes advantageous by the time the system is built.

Fact: The populations of Calgary and Edmonton were approximately 500,000 and 445,000 when they began building their successful Light Rail systems. The Region’s population is currently 559,000. Additionally, our region has developed a linear urban corridor which would be ideal for a Light Rail system.

Fact: An independent panel of North American transportation, transit, and land-use experts reviewed the Rapid Transit plan and stated: “The significant investment in an RT transit system was seen as a critical decision that would strongly position the Region. […] Such an investment was seen as a key element in creating liveable, walkable and economically competitive communities over the long term.”

Myth: Light Rail is too expensive to build

Fact: Without rapid transit, Waterloo Region would need 66 more new lanes of arterial road in the next 20 years (Regional Transportation Master Plan report, p. 15). Those 66 lanes of road would be paid for entirely by local taxpayers, while over two-thirds of Light Rail capital costs will be paid for by provincial and federal governments. The additional road lanes would also require substantial property expropriations from those who live or do business along arterial roads.

Fact: Building the first stage of the rapid transit project will cost $818 million. For 66 new lanes of arterial road and increased vehicular traffic, the land expropriation and health care costs alone would be billions of dollars.

Myth: Light Rail is too expensive to operate

Fact: Per rider, light rail is less expensive to operate than our current bus system (MAE, p. 23). Expanding our conventional bus network would almost certainly cost more, per new rider, than operating light rail.

Myth: Light Rail will make congestion worse

Fact: Light Rail can have the same capacity as 16 lanes of free-flowing traffic (Calgary Transit report, p. 7), yet it requires the space of just two lanes of road. Light Rail will provide enough capacity to substantially reduce congestion that already exists, and prevent its future occurrence.

Myth: Light Rail will interfere with emergency vehicles

“How is it expected, a fire truck or ambulance to move down one lane of traffic and get by a bus or a car sitting in that traffic lane on King Street, Charles or Ottawa?”

-Peter Gay, Taxpayers for Sensible Transit Co-Chair, Region of Waterloo Council Meeting, June 10, 2009

Fact: The method of separating Light Rail from road traffic has not yet been decided, but a raised curb is a likely option. Emergency vehicles would easily be able to mount the curb and use the Light Rail right-of-way. Instead of fighting congestion that already clogs our roads today, emergency vehicles could bypass this traffic, potentially saving more lives.

Myth: Light Rail will not serve important destinations

Fact: Light Rail is mandated to serve the Central Transit Corridor. With stops in downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo, and at Fairview Mall, Conestoga Mall, and the University of Waterloo, Light Rail serves many destinations in the Region. By opening day, over 36,000 people will live within 600m of a light rail station, and 64,000 people will work within the same area (Environmental Assessment Phase 2 Summary Report, p. 56). Improved transit in the Central Transit Corridor will allow the creation of express bus services throughout the rest of the Region, and improved bus service to the suburbs and other destinations.

Myth: Light Rail will not be fast enough

“Waterloo Region’s LRT will be two minutes slower than the existing bus service.”

-Peter Shawn Taylor, National Post, January 29, 2010

Fact: Light rail will be significantly faster than the existing iXpress service. Despite having two more stops than the iXpress, light rail will save 12 minutes of travel time from end to end on opening day in 2017.

Fact: A trip that takes 44 to 48 minutes on the iXpress today would take 56 minutes by 2031 due to traffic congestion and higher passenger load; whereas light rail, which operates in a separate right of way and is largely unaffected by congestion, would take under 39 minutes to complete the same trip. For more information, refer to tables 12 and 14 of the Region of Waterloo’s transportation modelling report.

Myth: Light Rail will not have frequent enough stops

“[The iXpress], between Victoria and Uptown Waterloo, has ten stops. The LRT has one stop. So… access for people to the LRT is drastically reduced… there’s only ten stops between the two malls.”

-Peter Gay, Taxpayers for Sensible Transit Co-Chair, 570 News interview, October 2, 2009

Fact: The frequency of stops for Light Rail will, in fact, be greater than the iXpress. For the Kitchener-Waterloo portion of the routes, the iXpress has ten stops, while the proposed Light Rail route will have thirteen stops. Local bus service will continue to be offered on the central transit corridor, in parallel with the Light Rail system.

Myth: Light Rail will prevent parades and events on King Street

“Toronto has street cars and it has parades, but they don’t run on the same streets […] They will make it impossible for Waterloo to have its busker festival or other events in the street.”

-Ruth Haworth, Taxpayers for Sensible Transit, The Record, October 19, 2009

Fact: Events and parades currently run down sections of King Street which are two lanes wide. The Light Rail system would only run on four lane sections of King Street, which would not reduce the number of lanes below what already exists for much of King Street. For safety, the overhead wires can be shut down during events, and trains in Uptown Waterloo can be routed along Caroline Street to avoid festivals and other street closures.

Fact: During the operation of an electric trolleybus system in Kitchener-Waterloo, the Oktoberfest parade was still able to run.

Myth: Light Rail will prevent left turns, hurting businesses

“It’s going to run along the boulevard (on Fairway Road). They’re not going to disturb those four lanes of traffic. […] It’s going to be on a six inch high curb, and you can not make a left turn across that at any point, unless you are in an intersection that has traffic signals. So if you’re outside of that, I don’t know how they’re going to help these businesses keep access to keep their customers coming in.”

-Peter Gay, Taxpayers for Sensible Transit, T4ST Information Session, October 20, 2009

Fact: U-turns will be allowed at strategic traffic lights to improve access to businesses where no left turn is allowed.

Fact: A median currently exists on Fairway Road in many parts, without hurting businesses.

Businesses with no left turn access from Fairway Road include:

  • Shoppers Drug Mart
  • Pizza Pizza
  • Golf Town
  • Canadian Tire
  • Urban Planet Outfit
  • The Beat Goes On
  • Pak Mail
  • Rogers Wireless
  • Lashbrook’s Footwear
  • Bank of Montreal
  • Crabby Joe’s
  • Leon’s

Fact: Belmont Village, one of the region’s most successful shopping areas, has a median preventing left turns. Medians exist on numerous Regional roads preventing left turns, without hurting businesses. Indeed, Light Rail will carry many new customers into the transit corridor. Prices for real estate near transit stations almost always increase due to the convenience and visibility of being located near a rapid transit route.

Myth: Light Rail and Rapid Transit are not favoured by the public

Fact: In 2007, an Ipsos-Reid poll found that 82% of residents indicated that Rapid Transit in the region was fairly important, very important, or essential — higher than the level of support for construction of new roads or road widening (Ipsos-Reid transportation survey, p. 25).

Fact: Four months after Regional Council approved the plan for Light Rail, over 1600 people and numerous organizations have stated their support of Light Rail.

Myth: Regional staff have not done an adequate job informing residents and businesses about Light Rail

“There has not been an adequate job done to disseminate the proper information to the tax payers of this Region”

-Peter Gay, Taxpayers for Sensible Transit Co-Chair, Region of Waterloo Council Meeting, June 10, 2009

Fact: Over the entire study, the Region has held 30 public meetings with over 4,000 attendees. There have been 63 additional public outreach events at community stakeholder meetings, public events, presentations to groups, and educational displays.

Fact: A flyer regarding the Light Rail plan has been mailed to more than 250,000 residents and businesses.

Fact: Most recently in May 2009, the Region launched a new and comprehensive website regarding the Rapid Transit proposal. This site includes details of the plan, all reports from the Environmental Assessment, and features a forum for members of the Region to get involved.

Fact: In addition to the extensive action to inform residents, Regional staff have also visited every business along the corridor.

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