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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TriTAG statement to Regional Council, 19 January 2011

Chair Seiling, Members of Council,

Light Rail Transit was never chosen because it had a lower capital cost than a bus-based solution. The project was chosen because it requires fewer wages to operate than buses, and because the rails it runs on attract private-sector investment. Why would Council, which voted in favour of this project on its merits alone in 2009, vote to reconsider? Has Council not done its due diligence? Or, was the value of the project, and its sister project, the Regional Transportation Master Plan, not properly explained to citizens?


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Safety on the Iron Horse Trail

How many streets do you know that close at night?

The recent murder on the Iron Horse Trail has sparked public discussion of trail safety and how to improve it. While suspects have been apprehended, the safety of the trail remains an important issue, particularly as the attack appears not to have been targeted. Whether or not the trail is actually as dangerous as often portrayed, there is a strong feeling in the community that one shouldn’t use the trail when it’s dark, and that’s unacceptable for such a major transportation link.

Many people have suggested that the trail should be lit at night, which is an obvious thing to do and which should have been done long ago. Most know that the Iron Horse Trail used to be a former railway, but it also used to an electric railway. So if you look carefully along the entire length of the IHT, you’ll actually find hydro poles going all the way along. Adding lighting should not be a difficult proposition.

Why is lighting important? The obvious answer is it lets people actually see the path at night. It also makes people feel safer using the trail, as it is thought and felt that would-be criminals avoid well-lit areas. The latter may well be true, but if people feel safer and thus use the path more, that is already important. Moreover, many people likely avoid using the trail during the day because they are afraid of returning when it’s dark. Well-travelled areas are safer, due to the possibility of someone walking by or biking by. And this possibility of witnesses both discourages crime and increases the chance of assistance.

Another suggestion has been to put more eyes on the street, which is a concept from the work of Jane Jacobs on cities. It’s about having housing and shops facing the street in such a way that people there are able to respond to incidents on the street. I’m not sure how possible this is on the Iron Horse Trail, but it’s worth looking into having more housing facing the trail. And there are a number of connections that should be made and improved between the Iron Horse Trail and the neighbourhoods it passes through.

But I would argue that the biggest danger and deterrent to trail users is motor vehicles. As I showed previously, the Iron Horse Trail essentially doesn’t have any road crossings. The trail just stops and resumes on the other side; in between you’re on your own to navigate the often fast-moving traffic. It’s worse at the two places where the trail crosses near an intersection, as trail users (including cyclists) are supposed to go out of their way on the sidewalk to cross both streets at the signal. Making the Iron Horse Trail as continuous as possible, with really good road crossings, would cut down on the hassle and time for using it and substantially improve the experience.

If we’re serious about safety on the Iron Horse Trail, we should add lighting to the trail, but we should also improve the path so more people are using it at all times of day.

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January Volunteer Meeting

This entry has been updated for a 7:00pm start. We will also be joined by UW planning professor Jeff Casello.

If you’re interested in helping out with what TriTAG is doing, come out to our first regular volunteer meeting. We’ll bring you up to speed on the issues and what needs to be done. Main issue will be light rail, but there are others as well.

The meeting will be at Whole Lot-A Gelata in Waterloo on Tuesday, January 18, from 7:00pm to 9:00pm. (Facebook event is here.) You are welcome to come earlier to have time to get some coffee or gelato.

We plan to hold volunteer meetings monthly.

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Uptown Waterloo streetscape input

As covered in local media, the City of Waterloo and the Region of Waterloo are currently working on redesigning King Street between Erb and Central Streets in uptown Waterloo. This is a street that is arguably working poorly for all users — on foot, on bicycle, and in motor vehicles.

Last week there was a public information centre to solicit feedback on the several alternative street cross-sections that are being considered. All the information and panels presented there are now available. Please check them out and fill out the city’s survey by January 5, 2011.

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Toronto doesn’t want LRT? We’ll take it!

The Honourable Kathleen Wynne, Minister of Transportation
77 Wellesley St. W.
Toronto, ON M7A 1Z8

Re: Possible Toronto LRT project cancellations

Minister Wynne,

While it is with concern that I read of possible LRT project cancellations in Toronto with the inauguration of Mayor Rob Ford, I would like to take the opportunity to identify a very deserving recipient of the Province of Ontario’s infrastructure funding should Transit City indeed be cancelled.

As your government has already graciously funded Phase 1 of the Region of Waterloo’s Rapid Transit project, as well as the expansion of GO Transit rail service to Kitchener, I humbly submit to you that Phase 2 of the Region of Waterloo’s Light Rail Transit project, as well as GO expansion to the city of Cambridge, should be the first recipient of any moneys rejected by Mayor Ford.


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Rally for Rails Roundup

Resounding success at Rally for Rails! At least 200 of you braved the freezing cold for an hour to support the Region of Waterloo’s LRT project. The Rally was covered on CTV, and in The Record.

Remember, the train doesn’t stop here – your friends, neighbours, relatives and local businesses need to know the truth about LRT, and we need your help. If you have run out of double-sided information pamphlets, you can download more for printing at the (PDF) links below:

LRT Info Pamphlet – Greyscale

LRT Info Pamphlet – Colour

Finally, thank you all for coming out today. Each and every one of you who attended helped make this a resounding success!

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Rally for Rails Resources

On December 5th TriTAG will be hosting the Rally for Rails in partnership with Wonderful Waterloo and Waterloo Students Planning Advisory. It runs from 12pm to 1pm in Waterloo Public Square, at the corner of King St S and Willis Way. You can take a look at the Rally for Rails event on Facebook.

For those of you that want to help us advertise the rally we have created “ticket” leaflets that you can distribute and posters than you can put up. All of these are PDFs which should be printed with Page Scaling set to None on the Print Options dialog. The posters will look best if trimmed to size, as they are shorter than standard letter paper.

  Colour Version Greyscale Version
Rally Tickets
These print 4 to a page. Cut them up and distribute them to friends and family, or set them out at work, school, or anywhere else people will see them.
Download Rally Tickets (colour) Download Rally Tickets (greyscale)
Rally Posters
These print 1 per page. Trim them after printing for best results. Put them up at work, school, or anywhere else people will see them.
Download Rally Poster (colour) Download Rally Poster (greyscale)

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