As soon as I read Peter Shawn Taylor’s most recent column in The Record as part of his ongoing campaign against light rail transit (LRT), I knew I needed to respond. What follows is the first of a two part response where I directly rebut some of his points and lay out why our future depends upon light rail transit.
Failure to understand Waterloo Region
In his column, Taylor displays a failure to understand the innovative, barn-raising spirit of the community where he lives. If we had followed like-minded thinkers in the past, where would we be today?
- Build a University in a farmer’s field? Aren’t Western, Queen’s and the University of Toronto, good enough?
- Build an expressway? We don’t have enough cars or people to need an expressway and it’ll be years before we do.
- Build a hand held device that receives e-mail? Who needs to receive email wherever they go? No one!
- Build a mall downtown. Who needs the old Kitchener City Hall anymore? (Well, we’re not perfect.)
You get the idea.
Harper government buying votes? Not here.
Taylor accuses the Harper government of buying votes by supporting rapid transit with federal money. But there’s no comparison to paying 45% of a rink to house a professional hockey team as was proposed and paying 1/3 of the costs of our rapid transit plan. Taylor suggests that the perception is different depending upon where one lives but I’d suggest it depends upon the rapid transit project being funded. I don’t expect Taylor to say no to federal money to fund his preferred bus rapid transit (BRT) option.
He seems shocked that other large urban centres like Hamilton, Winnipeg and Quebec City may also then want federal funds for rapid transit. If it has been identified as a local priority and there is a case to be made for it as there has been in Waterloo Region, why shouldn’t they be supported especially if they also have contributions from both the provincial and local levels? Sure, the federal government is cash strapped but it still has billions of dollars and it’s a legitimate decision to spend it on rapid transit instead of on new fighter jets for example.
Putting words into the mouth of national affairs columnist Paul Wells
In his column, Taylor indicates that even an infrastructure empire-builder like (a noted national affairs columnist) considers our LRT plan to be questionable. When I looked into this comment, I found that is not what Wells said. What he says is that according to Peter Shawn Taylor the project is questionable. So in essence, Taylor is quoting himself! Wells’ comments are built entirely upon Taylor’s foundation. When contacted, Paul Wells indicated that he didn’t presume to be an expert on the transit needs of Waterloo Region. Wells does make good points though that we also need to improve our transit connections to other cities–but that’s a whole other debate.
Need for an improved public transit throughout Region of Waterloo
There’s one other common refrain that keeps coming up in the rapid transit debate that I’d like to address here: that our current state of public transit needs to be improved. While GRT has made great strides in improving its service, there is still plenty of room for improvement. The LRT plan addresses that need by including enhancements to our traditional public transit by better moving people around using buses. The LRT will be like the heart of the new system with new improved major veins connecting to it. I hold out hope that the full network of veins is improved so that even folks who live in underserviced suburban areas can get service and frequently enough to choose to use public transit. While money to the LRT may seem to make that less likely, I believe it increases the chances of those improvements because as demand to use public transit increases, pressure will build to meet it and increased use should translate into being able to afford a higher overall level of service.
Watch for the second part of my response soon!