Tuesday Morning Links

Planning for Car-free Sundays: Planning is well underway for making portions of King Street in Kitchener-Waterloo free of cars for four hours on four Sundays this summer — the first of which is June 19. The Record and Open File have coverage of the plans in general. If you want to help out, today there will be an meeting on planning events, organizing volunteers, sponsors, and so on. It will be from 4pm to 6pm at Council Chambers, 3rd floor of Waterloo City Hall, 100 Regina Street. There will also be a volunteer orientation and sign-up session on Tuesday, June 14. There is also a Facebook page for the Car-free Sundays events, which have been branded square2square.

K-W Chamber supports LRT…: The Greater K-W Chamber of Commerce offers conditional support for LRT. There is coverage from 570 News, CTV, and The Record, but there doesn’t appear to be a press release available. Basically, the K-W Chamber supports moving forward with LRT, but wants there to be due diligence in the design, construction, and phasing.

…but Cambridge Chamber doesn’t: The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce wants Waterloo Region to adopt a full Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system, which they say would be “fair and equitable”. It isn’t, however, an option that has any whole-hearted support in any of the cities.

Cambridge Council isn’t happy, wants gadgetbahn: Cambridge Council doesn’t want to pay for an LRT-based system if Cambridge doesn’t get LRT in the first phase, and it wants a referendum on the plans. (The Record) Cambridge Council also wants the Region to postpone making any decisions in order to study a gadgetbahn technology that has been getting local hype. The full Cambridge-for-Aerorail motion (page 5 of the meeting agenda) is, frankly, embarrassing. In The Record piece, Councillor Nicholas Ermeta claims a referendum question could be on the provincial election ballot in October, which is false; by law, the vote could come no earlier than 6 months after the question is set. Councillor Frank Monteiro says a referendum would cost only a million dollars, which is misleading since the inflation cost of waiting translates into at least a $10-15 million impact on the cost of the project.

Regional Councillors’ election quotes: Jeff Outhit of The Record tries to demonstrate or create conflict between politicians’ campaign promises and current stances on LRT. The piece features quotes from our own candidate questionnaire. Councillor Jane Mitchell responds on her blog.

And…: Why LRT makes sense to City of Waterloo Councillor Karen Scian. The Dearlove on the connection between transit and equality of opportunity. The Record wants long-term thinking about roads. A column by Kevin Thomas of GREN – Rapid growth requires rapid transit. Letters: Corner-lot resident thinks the city should be cleaning its own sidewalks; Mayor Halloran should do her job and make an LRT decision instead of asking voters to do it; A referendum is a recipe for gridlock; Don’t cheap out, build LRT all the way; Before supporting a referendum, Regional Councillors should ask themselves two questions.

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Saturday Morning Links

Poll shows support for LRT: The results of another public opinion poll were released on Friday. The poll was commissioned by Machteld Faas Xander and carried out by Angus Reid Public Opinion. It shows broad support for rapid transit and LRT (with concern for cost), but perhaps most importantly it shows that a large majority is more willing to support candidates that vote for LRT. Detailed results are available and worth reading, and both CTV and The Record have coverage. 570 News also has a story, as well as discussion on the Gary Doyle Show with Alison De Muy of Machteld Faas Xander.

LRT public meetings popular: Over 100 people have signed up (The Record) already to speak at the Rapid Transit public meetings at Regional Council on Tuesday and Wednesday. A memo from the Regional Clerk in the June 1st Council meeting agenda suggests that Council restrict delegations at the June 15th meeting to those who have not spoken at the public meetings, to allow Council time to engage in debate prior to the final vote.

Weak support for referendum at Regional Council: While Waterloo’s Mayor Halloran has continued talking about her referendum motion (570 News), at this point more Regional Councillors are against holding a referendum on LRT than are for it. (The Record) The Globe and Mail discusses the idea and referendums in general. CTV explains the process, timeline, and costs of a referendum (second video).

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Friday Morning Links

Public workshop on a K-W Spur Line Trail: Waterloo Region is beginning planning for a multi-use path alongside the railway tracks from uptown Waterloo to near the VIA Rail station in Kitchener. There will be a workshop on Thursday, June 9, in Kitchener. (The Record)

The cost of road maintenance: Terry Pender reports on the poor state of repair of the road system, and that $590 million would be required to get them all into shape. Maintenance costs are driving municipal staff to provide for other transport modes, but elected officials don’t carry all of that through. The local costs of roads far outweigh the cost to build LRT. (The Record)

Official launch for Breithaupt Block: Yesterday there was an official launch (The Record) of the redevelopment of the former industrial buildings composing the Breithaupt Block in downtown Kitchener. This will be an office complex not unlike the Lang Tannery, and will be directly adjacent to the planned intermodal transit terminal at King & Victoria.

Press for Rally for Rails II: There is some print media attention (The Record) to Rally for Rails II, which will be on June 11. Over 140 people are already listed as attending on the Facebook event.

School board and active transport: Take the Lane reports that the Waterloo Region District School Board has adopted an Active Transportation Charter.

Township mayors and the LRT vote: Terry Pender reports on where the 12 remaining Regional Council members likely stand on LRT. Five are likely in favour, three or four are likely against, and the three township mayors may prove decisive. Councillor Jane Mitchell says that if Mayor Brenda Halloran’s LRT referendum motion passes, that she will call for a referendum on the $1.5 billion in road expansion that are deemed to be required without rapid transit. That compares, of course, to the $253 million that is currently Waterloo Region’s portion of the light rail project capital costs. (The Record)

Kitchener council’s public meeting: Last night the City of Kitchener held a public meeting on LRT for people who live or do business in the city – even though Waterloo Regional Council is the body making the decision, and not the city. Five of the 11 members declared conflicts of interest. After hearing Regional and City staff presentations, Kitchener City Council heard many delegations in support of LRT (The Record), including the CEO of Desire2Learn, a developer of the above-mentioned Breithaupt Block, as well as Tim Mollison on our behalf. Perplexingly, 570 News writes that “the reaction was fairly mixed” despite reports being that of the 22 delegations, 15 were in favour of LRT, and only 5 were against. After hearing delegations, the council voted 4 to 1 in favour of a referendum on LRT – a nearly meaningless gesture from a minority of a council which is not responsible for Regional transportation decisions.

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LRT Referendum Round-up

As everyone knows by now, Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran tabled a motion for the June 1 meeting of Regional Council that calls for an eleventh hour referendum on the Rapid Transit project. This post collects links to some opinion and coverage of the subject. We think it is a terrible idea for a number of reasons, many of which have been lucidly explained in the first three links below.

570 News’ Mike Farwell explains why Council should not allow itself the distraction of a referendum.

The Record forcefully argues against a referendum.

Blog post by Cameron Dearlove against a referendum – Leaders Lead While Politicians Dither.

Here is the rest of the referendum round-up, not including letters to the editor:

The $27,000 Ipsos-Reid poll commissioned by Taxpayers for Sensible Transit asked people about support for the Region’s plans, then re-asked after providing cost estimates without context or explanation. After those questions, people were in support of a referendum – without being given any information about the costs thereof. [The Record]

CTV also has coverage of the poll.

Ipsos-Reid has a press release as well as the more interesting detailed questions and results (PDF).

The Waterloo Chronicle does want a referendum.

Brian Bourke’s column in the Waterloo Chronicle argues against a referendum.

Paul Bedford, the retired Chief City Planner for Toronto, says Waterloo Region should stop the years of talking about LRT and just build it.

David Gibson, CEO of a company doing urban development, argues for leadership, decision-making, and for Regional Council to go through with light rail.

Regional Councillor Jane Mitchell explains why she is against the referendum.

The Cambridge Times has quotes from several Councillors about the referendum idea – Claudette Millar is in favour of one, while Sean Strickland and Jane Mitchell are against. Elsewhere, Jim Wideman and Carl Zehr have voiced opposition to this referendum idea.

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CALL NOW – 14 Hours Left To Speak Up For LRT

If you haven’t registered to speak at Regional Council on Tuesday or Wednesday evening next week, now is the time – the Regional Clerk’s voicemail is open 24 hours a day at 519-575-4420, and the deadline for registration is in less than 24 hours – 12 noon on Thursday, May 26.

Even if you just get up, introduce yourself, say that you want your Regional Councillor to vote in favour of LRT and sit right back down, every delegation counts.

Please call 519-575-4420 now and leave your name, number, and your wish to delegate to Council about Rapid Transit.

The meetings available for delegation are:

Tuesday, 31 May at 6pm
Wednesday, 1 June at 4pm

If neither of those dates and times work for you, please let the clerk know and they may arrange another time for you to delegate.

Both meetings are in Regional Chambers, which are easy to find inside 150 Frederick Street, Kitchener. Please call 519-575-4420 now (yes, even at 2am) to register.

See you there!

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Be Heard on Rapid Transit!

The Rapid Transit vote is only three weeks away. Make sure you have your opinion heard!

If you haven’t done so, add your comments online to the final round of public consultations by May 27.

This Thursday, May 26, Kitchener City Council (which is not voting on Rapid Transit) will hold a public meeting about the subject. If you live or do business in Kitchener, please consider speaking there.

On May 31 and June 1, Regional Council (which is the body making the decision) will hold public meetings about Rapid Transit. The registration deadline to be added to the agenda is May 26 at noon. More information is at the project website.

And at the risk of repetition: Write a letter to the editor in any (or every!) local paper about LRT. Write to your Regional Councillors. And on June 11, plan to attend Rally for Rails II!

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We Have 4 Weeks to Bring LRT to Waterloo Region

Friends and Neighbours,

On June 15, 2011, four weeks from today, Waterloo Regional Council will make a pivotal choice that stands to alter our community for better or for worse.

The decision to build Light Rail Transit will create vibrant, walkable, LRT-supported growth that will help our community wean itself off the gas pump.

The decision not to build Light Rail Transit will mean painful, sprawling alternatives; traffic conditions like the GTA, and the likely clawback of over half a billion dollars by the federal and provincial governments for more “shovel-ready” projects such as LRT in Hamilton.

Friends, neighbours – we are running out of time, and Waterloo Region’s LRT needs your help.

LRT is under serious attack by anti-transit “No to Everything” NIMBYs.

They’re hijacking community meetings, they’re spreading misinformation – anything to keep Waterloo Region from investing more money into transit and better quality of life. They took out an ad in the Waterloo Chronicle last week (http://bit.ly/iB6jrf) that misrepresents the local cost of the project and lies about its tax impact.

Regional Council will not vote for LRT without hearing your support.

Please help support Light Rail Transit one last time – Regional Council votes on LRT on June 15, 2011. You can help out by e-mailing your Regional Councillor, speaking up at a public meeting, composing a letter to the editor, donating money to help TriTAG print posters and run newspaper ads, and showing up to our Rally for Rails II so people watching at home can see just how much of our community supports Light Rail.

Taking one or all of these five steps today can help sway undecided council votes:

1. Tell your Regional Councillor to support LRT. We have a mobile-friendly form where you can send an email to your representatives on Regional Council here: http://tritag.ca/m/LRT

2. Register to speak at the LRT public meetings, even if you only speak for 1 minute. Call 519-575-4420 now (yes, even after business hours) to register with the Regional clerk for meetings on May 31 (Tuesday) at 6pm or June 1 (Wednesday) at 4pm.

Both meetings will take place in Regional Council chambers at 150 Frederick Street in Kitchener. Registration deadline is the May 26 at 4pm – don’t wait until the last minute, call now!

3. Please donate money to help us print posters and put our ads in newspapers.
The opposition is buying advertising space to whip up fear about LRT with the hopes that tax-weary citizens won’t ask if the “No to Everything” crowd has a better plan.

Help counter this misinformation by sponsoring poster printing and ad buys in The Waterloo Chronicle, Imprint, The Cord, The Record, and The Cambridge Times. Whether you can help with $20, $50, $100 or even $200, every dollar helps and will go directly to the cost of advertising. You can view the kind of ads we’re going to run at http://bit.ly/lTqimG, and you can donate by visiting http://www.tritag.ca/about/donate/ or e-mailing donate@tritag.ca.

4. Write letters to the editor. Pick up your favourite local newspaper and write them 200 concise words about why LRT will be good for you and your community.

5. Attend the rally! The community needs to see your support right up to the vote on June 15, so what better way to support LRT than a party? Saturday, June 11 at noon, held at Speakers’ Corner (King and Frederick) in Kitchener – let’s show Waterloo Region what we’re made of!

Thank you for your time, and we hope to see you soon,

TriTAG (The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group)

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Campaign Update: LRT Builds Our Future

We now have 4 different posters you can help us put up around our community. All posters are sized for Ledger/Tabloid (11″ x 17″) paper, but can be printed on other sizes with trimmable margins.

We encourage you to print as many of these as you can, and put them up wherever you can, in colour or otherwise. Also, please consider donating to TriTAG so we can print as many of these as possible in full size and full colour for distribution to local businesses and community centres.

Download and print the PDFs here:

Spine (Colour)
Spine (B/W)
Students (Colour or B/W)
Not Your Grandma’s Streetcar (B/W)
Let Someone Else Drive (Colour or B/W)

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Bringing Bike-Sharing to Waterloo Region

Washington, D.C.'s Capital Bikeshare (Photo: James D. Schwartz / Flickr)

Yesterday was a momentous day for cycling in Ontario — not because of the election, but because Ontario’s first modern bike-sharing system has launched in Toronto. The Toronto BIXI system hopes to replicate the success of Montreal’s original BIXI installation. Waterloo Region should be getting in on bike-sharing too.

Bike-sharing is a way of using bicycles as public transit for short trips. A system of stations is densely distributed across a portion of a city, with secured self-serve access to bicycles on demand at stations. The system is designed not for long-term bike rental, but for bicycles to be taken for trips from a point A to a point B. Near point B, the bike is returned to another station and back into circulation.

It’s a remarkably efficient transportation infrastructure, and is reasonably inexpensive to operate — often made cheaper or even profitable through advertising. The bicycles are sensible upright city bicycles and require no special gear to ride. Like transit, bike-sharing extends the reach of a person on foot but without requiring one to use their own vehicle or the same vehicle for every leg of a series of trips.

One of the best reasons to invest in bike-sharing is that it is an easy way to increase the number of people cycling. Bike-sharing breaks down some of the barriers to cycling in the city, increasing the number of people getting around by both the public bikes and their own bikes. That, in turn, helps to bootstrap support for putting in place high-quality cycling infrastructure on city streets.

Last fall Washington, D.C. launched a bike-sharing system similar to Toronto’s, which has proven very popular and is already expanding. Many cities are now developing bike-sharing systems or looking to start them. Locally, Research in Motion has its own small BIXI system. How about bike-sharing for Waterloo Region?

Several months ago, a group at the University of Waterloo led by Josh Joseph began advocating for a bike-sharing system on campus. Just recently they have shifted their sights to a Region of Waterloo bike-sharing system, which is something we fully support. Check out their website and the impressive support they have received, both from politicians and on a nearly 1000-strong petition.

Even prior to the UW-based initiative, many individuals and organizations have expressed interest in getting a regional bike-sharing system going. During the last municipal elections, one of our questions for Regional Council candidates was specifically about a bike-sharing system for Waterloo Region. You can see their responses here. Most of Regional Council looks to be on board with the idea.

So it’s not a matter of whether to bring bike-sharing to Waterloo Region, but when, where, how big, who’s paying, and how much. Let’s get the Region rolling.

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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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