RELEASE: TriTAG Campaign Urges Ottawa to Match Provincial Light Rail Funding

KITCHENER – The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) has launched a public campaign aimed at encouraging citizens of Waterloo Region to ask the Federal Government to match the Province of Ontario’s $300 million commitment for the Region’s Rapid Transit Project.

“The Province’s commitment has, unfortunately, fallen short of the Region’s request made last year and the repeated hints at two-thirds funding,” said Tim Mollison, a TriTAG founding member. “In falling short of the two-thirds funding convention provided to similar projects in the City of Toronto, the McGuinty Government has added much fuel to local controversy about whether this project has enough funding to move forward.”

TriTAG is inviting citizens of Waterloo Region to use its website to contact their representatives in Ottawa in support of the Region’s initiative. “We believe it is important to facilitate communication between people and their government, especially on issues of such importance,” said TriTAG founding member Taylor Byrnes.

“Despite the gap left by the province, we hope that the Federal Government can step up to bat and match the Province‘s contribution, as was done in the City of Ottawa,” said Mollison. “The Federal Minister of Transport’s office has said the Region will get its ‘fair share’ — it’s time to find out what that means to the Government of Canada.”

The Tri-Cities Transport Action Group is a citizens’ group dedicated to making Waterloo Region a more livable place through better transit and active transportation. For more information, please visit their website at http://tritag.ca

For media inquiries, please contact Tim Mollison at (226) 476-1313 x 801.

Read More »

King Street West: An Incomplete Street

Pedestrian friendliness isn’t always something that can be measured. Many streets in Kitchener-Waterloo lack sidewalks, but other streets, even those with sidewalks on both sides, remain hostile to pedestrians in more subtle ways. To see whether or not a street truly welcomes and respects its pedestrians, you need to get out and walk.

This post serves as a photo-document of a pedestrian trip from the northwest end of downtown Kitchener along King Street West to the Waterloo border. I live near this route and walk it frequently. This stretch of King Street is the first of Kitchener’s mixed-use corridor zoning areas, which aim to shape development to support higher-density, pedestrian friendly streets with a mix of complementary uses. Over the long term, Kitchener’s planners hope that the mixed-use zoning will help bring vitality to the street. In the short term, what is holding King Street West back? Let’s go for a walk and find out. (more…)

Read More »

Open Letter: A Win-Win-Win Solution for the Lang Tannery

This is an open letter that was sent today to Cadan, Inc., the developer of the Lang Tannery project; Ken Seiling, Regional Chair; Carl Zehr, Mayor of Kitchener; and Rob Horne, Regional Commissioner of Planning, Housing, and Community Services. It was also copied to other interested parties.

Dear community and business leaders,

I am writing to you regarding Cadan, Inc.’s Lang Tannery project in Kitchener, specifically the planned demolition of four old industrial buildings in the block bounded by Victoria, Oak, and Joseph Streets to allow for a gravel parking lot and a future parking structure. This plan has been recently written about in The Record.

It seems to me that no one wants to see these reusable heritage buildings demolished to add another parking lot to downtown Kitchener. In an earlier Record article, Roland Rom Colthoff, the architect of the redevelopment, said that the parking requirements of the Tannery could be reduced if public transit improves. But at the same time that the Region of Waterloo is planning major transit improvements to attract people out of their cars, the Tannery plans to add new surface parking to the downtown.

I believe there is a better way, one that is better for Cadan, Inc., better for the community, and better for the environment. (more…)

Read More »

TriTAG Public Meeting

If you are interested in what we are doing in Waterloo Region and would like to share your suggestions in person, or better yet to figure out how you can contribute to TriTAG’s activities, please come out to our public meeting next Wednesday. We will discuss transit and active transportation issues we expect to be dealing with, and chart a course for ongoing action.

The meeting will be at the main Kitchener Public Library in Meeting Room B, on Wednesday, January 27, at 7:00pm. (Details are also on Facebook.) We hope you will join us.

(This time has changed from the initial posting.)

Read More »

Numbers Definitely Add Up for Light Rail Transit

He’s said it before, and he’ll say it again: John Shortreed likes buses. You might say he even wrote the book on the subject! Mr. Shortreed is a retired civil engineering professor, who worked for decades within the context of the post-war transportation planning mindset. During the tenure of Mr. Shortreed and other transit planners of the same era, streetcars were replaced with buses, transit use plummeted, highways got built through downtowns, and sprawl became ubiquitous. And actually, it’s not really true that he likes buses, since he’s publicly admitted that he doesn’t “have time to take transit” (though he lives next to the Route 7 mainline). Is this really someone who is fit to give transportation advice for the 21st century?

But he’s written his screed against light rail, and it deserves a response, so I will provide one by considering his points one at a time. (more…)

Read More »

Sardine Challenge and Overcrowding on GRT

In 2009, Regional Council did not support a recommended budget issue to address overcrowding, so Grand River Transit transferred 4000 annual service hours to its heaviest used routes from its lighter-used ones — yet overcrowding remains a serious problem. Regional Council is again being presented with a budget issue to address ongoing overcrowding, with a request for a meagre 2900 additional service hours in 2010.

When a bus leaves a would-be rider behind, that helps turn that rider off transit as a viable means of transportation. At a time when Waterloo Region is actively attempting to promote transit services and increase ridership this is not acceptable. By hindering the perception of transit, persistent overcrowding also has the potential to decrease support for transit funding, thereby exacerbating the problem. Particularly during a time of recession, it is critical that transit is available to those who need it. And considering the longer term, investment in transit is more cost-effective than is the road expansion that insufficient transit spurs. Hard economic times are an opportunity for the encouraged growth of transit, and there is a cost to failing to take advantage of that opportunity. Hopefully Council realizes this and approves the recommended budget issue.

This November, we asked people to send in photos for the Sardine Challenge, and we’d like to thank all who participated. The below photos should help illustrate the situation on a number of Grand River Transit’s routes.

Read More »

TriTAG Urges Region of Waterloo to Cut the Gas Tax Budget for Sprawl

Investigation by the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group (TriTAG) reveals that the planned 2010 budget for the Region of Waterloo is heavily skewed towards road expansion and makes minimal investments in transit, cycling, and pedestrian infrastructure.

“While the Region is budgeting $100 million for road infrastructure in 2010, little of that money is for sidewalks and bicycle lanes — and most of that expenditure is almost incidental”, said Tim Mollison, a TriTAG founding member. “Major Regional roads such as Franklin Boulevard, Ottawa Street, Fischer-Hallman Road, Coronation Boulevard, Westmount Road, King Street, and Hespeler Road are all still missing sidewalks. Of the Region’s proposed $100 million transportation budget, less than $1 million is planned for sidewalks, and out of a total expenditure of $2.2 million for sidewalks and bike lanes, only $300,000 is not part of an existing road project.”
(more…)

Read More »

Guelph Transit wants to scrap their U-Pass

Update, 2010-02-12: Guelph city council voted in December to retain the U-Pass program. Instead, reports the Guelph Tribune, students will be looking at a much more modest 33% increase in the price of their bus pass this year (around $20 per term) — assuming the increase is improved by a referendum. This proposal makes much more sense than the expensive opt-in pass that was originally proposed. Kudos to Guelph for recognizing the value of their U-Pass program.

The original post from December 7, 2009 follows.

TriTAG’s primary focus is transportation in Waterloo Region, but we are also interested in learning from other cities’ transportation issues.

Today I learned that Guelph Transit wants to scrap their popular universal bus pass program. The U-Pass is similar to the UW and Laurier bus pass programs. One of the first of its kind, it was introduced in 1994 and provides every University of Guelph student with unlimited transportation on Guelph Transit for $61.13 per term.

According to an article in The Cannon, students contribute a quarter of all Guelph Transit revenue — $2.2 million per year. Why, then, does Guelph Transit want to get rid of the U-Pass? Here is what Manager of Guelph Transit Michael Anders had to say:

Anders said he knew the change was “controversial” among students, and would result in an estimated 25 per cent drop in university student ridership. However, he said it was necessary because the current U of G rate is “way underpriced” and needs to be adjusted to reflect the costs of running transit.

Reading the article linked above, it seems that Guelph Transit hopes to raise $300,000 by scrapping the the U-Pass — at the cost of a quarter of the university’s transit ridership. Could there be a better way?

Given that students pay $61.13 per term and generate $2.2 million in revenue, it can be calculated that students account for around 36,000 pass-terms per year. At that figure, students could contribute an extra $300,000 to Guelph Transit if the price of the U-Pass were raised by $8.34 per term! I’m confident that an increase of under $10 per term would succeed easily if taken to referendum. And if the fee increase were not approved by students, Guelph Transit could still implement their current plan, which is to provide a more expensive optional student pass.

If the U-Pass were scrapped, student ridership would drop by 25%, and those students who continued to ride transit would pay many times what they pay now. Students would drive more, causing further congestion and parking headaches. Those who could not afford a car would be faced with the choice of an expensive bus pass or a loss of mobility. Guelph Transit would lose the guaranteed revenue provided by the U-Pass, replacing it with an uncertain revenue source that can’t be collected more than a month in advance.

It’s a pretty clear choice. I hope that Guelph councillors realize this and vote not to scrap the U-Pass.

Read More »