TriTAG reminds local Councils of the bigger cost picture on LRT

WATERLOO REGION – Throughout the recent media conversation on light rail transit (LRT), the bigger picture of transit in the Region of Waterloo seems to have fallen by the wayside. In June 2010, Regional Council approved a game-changing new Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP). However, it has not received the attention warranted by its importance to the transportation network in Waterloo, Kitchener, Cambridge and the surrounding townships.

“Incoming councils at both levels of municipal government need to remember that Light Rail Transit is part of a comprehensive Grand River Transit network upgrade”, said TriTAG executive member Tim Mollison. “Many politicians are suggesting replacing LRT with Bus Rapid Transit, but this isn’t a cheaper option – its $600 million price tag is for a system that will be over capacity within ten years of opening day, requiring expensive in-operation replacement with rail. Furthermore, cost per passenger would be higher with buses than the proposed rail plan, because you need to hire more union drivers.”

(more…)

Read More »

Candidates Unsure About LRT But Support Transportation Change

Our website features the responses to our transportation survey of nearly 90 candidates for City Councils and Regional Council in the Region of Waterloo (including Mayors). The election will be next Monday, October 25. We asked candidates for their stances on dealing with growth-related traffic, light rail transit, sidewalks, segregated bicycle infrastructure, parking, and mixed-use zoning. In a “why we’re asking” section, we explained TriTAG’s stance and provided links for further information.

A number of themes were shared in many responses, including views on parking and cycling. There is near consensus that it is inappropriate for municipal staff to be provided with transportation subsidies exclusively in the form of parking. There was support for a bike-sharing system like Montreal’s BIXI, and there was widespread enthusiasm for segregated cycling infrastructure. To make cycling feel safer and be a more viable transportation choice, we believe on-street bicycle infrastructure must be physically separated from motor vehicle traffic and prioritized at intersections.

Candidates expressed support for mixed-use zoning along arterial roads, and many candidates agreed that minimum parking requirements in municipal zoning should be reduced or eliminated.

Regional Council candidates expressed a wide range of views on the light rail transit (LRT) project, with some suggesting it should be scrapped, others suggesting that they prefer bus rapid transit (BRT), and many indicating that they would support it if modifications take into account the funding situation. Overwhelmingly, candidates believe that transit should be improved to be a choice for everyone and not only a social service, and that transit should be a primary means of dealing with continued growth.

The responses are posted at our 2010 election page. Candidates who have not responded may still contact us to do so.

Read More »

LRT Investment is the Right Choice

(Photo: William Murphy / Flickr)

As most people have heard, two weeks ago Prime Minister Harper announced Federal funding for Waterloo Region’s Rapid Transit project. The amount is 1/3 of project costs, up to $265 million, for the first phase of light rail (LRT) and express bus line. But the conversation in local media and by many municipal candidates has shifted to the so-called shortfall. That, horror of horrors, the lower-tier municipality would have to contribute a portion (around $235 million, or less than 1/3) of the capital costs of a long-term transit and growth management project. This post addresses several common themes in objections to funding light rail.

From seeing some discussion of the LRT, you would think this is something that would be built for today’s needs. Infrastructure, however, can’t be built overnight, and can’t influence much until it is built. But while the project would be a well-used part of a transit system on opening day, the larger purpose is to manage future growth of the Region. The area continues to grow rapidly, and is to add 200,000 to its existing half-million population. LRT is about building the transportation infrastructure that will attract development to the urban core areas and that will be able to handle the resulting travel demand. Failing to do this would result in major development occurring on greenfield sites and pressure to push out the urban boundary to accommodate more sprawl. The costs of the road widening and other infrastructure needed to support that sprawl are far higher than the costs of the LRT system. Avoiding building any new transportation infrastructure will result in serious traffic congestion and lost economic productivity in the Region. (more…)

Read More »

GO Trains to Toronto Will Be Competitive

GO train in Hamilton. (Photo by Tom Flemming, via Flickr.)

About a year ago GO Transit completed its Environmental Assessment (EA) for a rail extension to Kitchener, and half a year ago the extension was approved. It still awaits funding for the necessary track improvements, though GO Transit has already been laying the groundwork for the planned Guelph station. Service at the start of operations (planned for 2011) would include four morning trains from Kitchener to Guelph and Toronto, and four afternoon and evening trains in the reverse direction. It would be able to add reverse-peak commuter trains if there is sufficient demand. However, it has been claimed that “GO trains will be slow trains”, and so it is important to give some context for the planned GO train travel time between Kitchener and Toronto. (more…)

Read More »

Grand River Transit on Google Maps

As of the beginning of July, Google Maps now offers directions for travel in Waterloo Region by Grand River Transit. GRT joins agencies like GO Transit, Guelph Transit, and Hamilton Street Railway in allowing trip planning just by typing an origin and destination into Google Maps and clicking the “by public transit” train icon.

If you’ve wanted something that works better on your mobile phone than EasyGO, that has a better user interface, and that provides more options for your trip — well, this may give you what you’re looking for. Below is a sample trip from east Kitchener to Preston.


View Larger Map

We believe Grand River Transit will be publishing their transit schedule data in a standard format within a matter of weeks, which will open up some exciting possibilities for app development.

Thanks to Kourtney Short for the post idea.

Read More »

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 »