Fischer-Hallman Express Stations Uncovered

Waterloo Region’s second iXpress route, along Fischer-Hallman Road, will begin service in September. It will start at 30 minute headways Monday through Sunday, and have 15 minute headways during peaks. We hear that the route branding will be something like “Route 201 iXpress”, though it would be more useful if it were simply iXpress Fischer-Hallman or iXpress [colour].

The stop locations have not been publicized, however it turns out that they appear in a Request for Proposals for transit shelters for the route, from several months back. The full proposal details (PDF) include a list of stations and drawings of exact shelter locations (Appendix 2).

View Fischer-Hallman Express in a larger map

From south to north, the stations are: Forest Glen Plaza, Block Line / Laurentian, Block Line / Westmount, Westmount (on Fischer-Hallman), Activa, Ottawa, McGarry, Highland, Victoria, Stoke / Hazelglen, University, Thorndale, Erb, Keats Way, Columbia, Columbia / Beechlawn, Columbia / Hagey, Columbia / Phillip, University / Phillip (one way), Hazel / University (one way). (Note: the list in the PDF has a mysterious “University / Conestoga College” stop, which all signs point to actually being Hazel / University.)

The list really is pretty boring – the route stops mostly at major intersections, stays on Fischer-Hallman instead of entering the Highland Hills terminal, and keeps a stop distance around the 600-1000m range. It doesn’t stop at Columbia and Westmount, instead stopping at Beechlawn just west of it. That location allows for better access from both sides of Columbia Street but it requires a terrible pedestrian crossing (link to Street View), which is going to be dangerous without at least a pedestrian island.

The main thing the line is missing is an anchor at the south end to help make it a line with demand in both directions all day. Currently the route will mostly serve to connect residential lands in the south with employment and the universities in the north. But it’s a long and quick route on a major corridor, so there will likely be many other kinds of trips as well.

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Car-Free Sunday and Cycling in Style

Cycling in style. (Photo: Flickr / Amsterdamize)

This Sunday the city of Waterloo will be closing King Street to cars between Erb and Union Streets from 11am to 3pm, opening it up for people to enjoy and hosting a number of events in that space as well. There will be four such Sundays this year, and Kitchener plans to join the party — making it really “square2square” — only on July 17th. The event has a website and an organizational/informational Facebook page. If you can help out, the organizers are still looking for volunteers.

Please come out to Waterloo’s first Car-free Sunday and tell everyone you know to come! Success of the first one will help increase momentum and business support for the upcoming ones – perhaps we could eventually see businesses pushing for car-free spaces here. The event is important symbolically as a conscious step towards reclaiming the streets as a place first and foremost for people and not just for cars.

We also invite you to join some of TriTAG and others on a stylish ride down King Street to celebrate the first Car-free Sunday. We’ll meet around 11:30am on Sunday, June 19th at the north end of the car-free area in Waterloo (King & Erb), and ride south/east to downtown Kitchener. Around noon we’ll head out from the Kitchener City Hall plaza for a tour of several of Kitchener’s cafes. Attire: nice street clothes – not spandex! If you’ve got an old 3-speed in the back of the garage, now’s the time to haul it out. There is a Facebook event as well.

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The Future of Transit in Waterloo Region [Update]

Map designed by Duncan Clemens.

On June 15, 2011, Regional Council will be voting on whether to approve Light Rail as the preferred option for rapid transit in the Region of Waterloo. As we find ourselves on the eve of one of the most important votes in the region’s history, it is important to remember that our Councillors are not only voting to fund a light rail transit line running from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, but also on a funding strategy for the Regional Transportation Master Plan.

The RTMP provides a framework for transit funding improvements for the next 20 years, with steady annual increases in the per-capita level of funding for transit. By 2031 funding for transit operations will have tripled over current levels, and the modal share for transit is expected to triple to 17%. The document includes a guide for planned service increases and improvements, which will be reviewed as each year’s plans are put into action.

This plan approved by Council last year includes plans to implement a number of cross-corridor express routes which will supplement and feed passengers into the central rapid transit spine. In fact, the first of these new iXpress-style bus routes is due for implementation this September, and will run from the university district to Forest Glen Plaza along Ficher-Hallman Road. A number of other trunk express bus routes will soon follow on King-Coronation, University Ave, Ottawa Street, Maple Grove Road, Highland Road, and Victoria Street North.

Although not shown on this map, the RTMP also includes plans to restructure local bus routes in the suburbs so that they are more direct and reliable. Routes 7, 12, and 29 are all seeing routing changes this year that will improve on-time performance and create more direct routes between origins and destinations.

Also arriving this year is GO train service from Kitchener to Toronto at the existing Kitchener VIA station. The Region has also purchased lands at the corner of King and Victoria to construct a new inter-modal terminal for GO, VIA, LRT, GRT, and other intercity coach services all in one location.

Cambridge is also not being left out of tomorrow’s vote. Regional staff are recommending that the region put forward $1 million a year to implement transit-supportive strategies in Cambridge to increase ridership. In addition, staff are recommending that Phase 2 from Fairview to Ainslie begin its project assessment in 2014, that land be purchased for Phase 2 as soon as feasible, and that a location for an inter-modal terminal for GO rail service and GRT be explored.

The agenda for tomorrow’s council meeting, including the details of what is being voting on, can be found at this link. If you would like to attend, the public Council session will begin at 7pm at 150 Frederick Street in Kitchener (the building with the orange roof). If you want, you can RSVP to the Facebook event here.

If you can’t make it, we will be covering the event live on Twitter with #LRTvote, and it will be broadcast on Rogers Cable 20.

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Rally for Rails II a Success

(Photo by Andre Recnik.)

Rally for Rails II was fantastic! Thank you to the 250+ people who came out to Rally for Rails II and stayed despite the rain. And a special thanks to everyone who spoke, who helped us with organization, equipment, and setting up — and to those who have donated already. (It isn’t too late to help out!)

Andre Recnik has some excellent photos of the rally, and there is media coverage so far from The Record, CTV, and The Cord.

Make sure your Regional Councillors have heard why you support LRT, and consider sending a 200-word (maximum) letter to the editor to your favourite local papers.

This Wednesday, June 15, Regional Council is expected to finally vote on moving forward with rapid transit. The meeting will start at 7 pm at 150 Frederick St, Kitchener. Join us there to watch history in the making for Waterloo Region, and to show your support. (See also the Facebook event.) If you can’t make it, the meeting should be broadcast on Rogers TV and those in attendance will hopefully be livetweeting using the #LRTvote hashtag.

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Broad Support for Light Rail Plan

We’ve updated and expanded our page of supporters of Waterloo Region’s LRT proposal, with links to specific statements where we could find them.

Many businesses and organizations of all kinds have come out in support of the staff-recommended Rapid Transit plan. At the bottom of that page we’ve also added a section listing organizations that have come out against the plans – it turns out to be a very short list!

If we’ve missed any organizations or endorsements, please let us know.

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Brochure Distribution

We have about 7,000 brochures that need to get out the community before next Monday. Here is a map of what volunteers have covered so far: . Can you put 100 in mailboxes around your neighbourhood? Do you live in a 200 unit apartment building? Please be in touch with us *now* at ; brochures are available for pickup downtown near KPL main branch, or we can deliver to you between 8pm and 10pm on weeknights.

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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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