Updated: February 28, 12:45 p.m.

Buses? Trains? Buses and trains? Just build more roads?

A recent report by the Region of Waterloo presents 11 options related to rapid transit. We now have a much clearer picture of the alternatives and their financial implications so that we can determine which one best contributes to a better future for Waterloo Region. We can make a choice that is responsible and affordable.

In general, I am pleased with the comprehensive information now available that we did not have in the fall election due the announcement of the federal government commitment coming  just before it began. I only wish that we had been presented with some alternate financing options rather than assuming that the Region’s portion would be funded through a property tax increase. I expect though that would have unnecessarily complicated the picture and trust that alternate financing options will be considered as a part of the process.

My objective with this post is to help to share the information we have been given about the options being considered and help you connect with opportunities to make your voice heard.

Rapid transit options

Here are the options and analysis of them as presented to Regional Council. The information is broken into several sections. The chart below takes this information and presents it in a way that allows you to easily compare the information as it relates to all the options. It is from a Waterloo Region Record article from February 15. While I like the user-friendly format of the chart, it does not replace the more detailed information in the report itself.

Maps of the route options being considered can be found here.

The best source of information is the Region of Waterloo’s Rapid Transit website. You can also stay informed through the official rapid transit Facebook page and Twitter account.

Join the conversation and make  your voice heard

Interactive Webcast

Wednesday, March 2, 7 – 8 p.m. Live and interactive webcast. Details here.

Public Consultations

The Region of Waterloo is holding a series of public consultation sessions so that you can learn more about what is being considered and why. These consultations are a  part of a conversation that the Region is holding with residents to assist Regional Council in making its decision. I encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities to learn about rapid transit. They are also an opportunity for you to make your voice heard about which option contributes to a higher quality of life for everyone living in Waterloo Region. The choice made will affect our future as we continue to grow.

Each session runs from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Tuesday, March 1:
Calvary United Church, 48 Hawkesville Rd., St. Jacobs

Thursday, March 3

Albert McCormick Community Centre, 500 Parkside Dr., Waterloo    OR
Region of Waterloo, 150 Frederick St., Kitchener

Wednesday, March 9:
First United Church, 16 William St. W., Waterloo   OR
Region of Waterloo, 150 Main St., Cambridge

Thursday, March 10:
United Kingdom Club, 35 International Village Dr., Cambridge   OR
Faith Lutheran Church, 247 Westmount Rd. E., Kitchener

Public Information Booth Dates and Locations

Saturday, March 5

Fairview Park Mall – 2960 Kingsway Dr., Kitchener – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Kitchener Farmer’s Market – 300 King St. E., Kitchener – 7 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Saturday, March 12

Conestoga Mall – 550 King St. N., Waterloo – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday, March 19

Cambridge Centre – 355 Hespeler Rd., Cambridge – 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

There are also online discussion boards where you can discuss this proposed project.

What is my perspective?

I think that my perspective on my preferred technology is pretty clear. It’s just a question of which route will be most affordable and effective at managing growth. I’m still considering which option I prefer.

Please feel free to share here which option you prefer to assist me.

6 thoughts on “Get informed about rapid transit and make your voice heard

  1. James I was hoping to hear from you. Two items
    Mass transit – I’m on a task force with two groups; engineers, urban planners and real estate sales and developers. We will be able to put something forward soon.
    The other. I have not seen or heard any comments or opinions from our Councilperson, Ward 10, Daniel GG regarding the outrageous budget. Has anyone??

    1. Don’t worry Denis, I’ll be weighing in with specific recommendations later. For now, i just want to make sure people are informed and now how to get involved in the conversation.

      I’d prefer to avoid the Kitchener budget debate in the comments to this post.

  2. Thanks for getting this info into the public eye James. Just finished a great read by Jeff Rubin called Why Your World Is About To get A Whole Lot Smaller. It describes the end of cheap oil and the impact that $200/barrel oil and $2/litre gas by 2015 will have on our daily lives. I suspect these developments would increase ridership projections as people go from more vehicles to less or none at all. I favour LRT for the Region. Love the idea of it reaching the St Jacobs Farmers Market but will withhold support for that option until I have a chance to attend one of the public consultations.

    1. I suspect you’re right Jeff. We may not have any choice but to change our behaviours as the price of oil and gas rise. Rapid transit is definitely part of the solution. It’s just a question of what we can afford to do that also makes sense long term.

  3. View the Report http://bit.ly/hfha3I

    This report has just been released by CREW regarding another look at Mass Transit. A press release also was sent as follows:
    March 10, 2011

    Reference: Smart Transit Options for the Region of Waterloo
    The municipal election has come and gone, but the discussion of our Region’s transit needs has continued to be top of mind for public and politicians alike. The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce is presently polling members on whether they prefer BRT, LRT, or think both are too expensive. It may come as no surprise that over 50% of respondents are saying they think both are too expensive. The four local newspapers have all had related commentary. And common concerns continue to surface: as a growing region, we need to plan for more transit, but the public doesn’t like the cost of the options being promoted, and the Region’s staff are struggling to find a solution that meets our needs for the right price.
    Community Renewable Energy Waterloo (CREW) is one of many regional non-profits that had an opinion on the transit discussion during the election. Taxpayers for Sensible Transit repeatedly expressed grounded concerns about costs. TriTAG (the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group) continues to strongly favour LRT as the only technology that can service our future needs adequately. During the election, only one of the candidates for any of the City or Region posts clearly supported LRT (and did not get elected), many questioned both BRT and LRT, and all four councils are still giving mixed signals.
    CREW consulted with experts on all sides, and is proud to release the attached summary report which re-assesses many of the key concerns about BRT (Bus Rapid Transit), LRT (Light Rail Transit), and a relatively new technology that seems to offer a blended solution: Aerorail, produced by a company called Aerobus. Studies released thus far by the Region’s staff have focused heavily on BRT and LRT, but were fairly quick to dismiss other options: too quick in CREW’s opinion. George Klemetsch of CREW says “After reviewing the Region’s report, we found that many of the items listed were at odds with what we had learned, so we contacted some of the technology providers for clarification.” Derek Satnik adds, “Aerorail in particular seemed to be surprisingly competitive: versatile, cost effective, and well suited to our Region’s needs for something that starts modestly, but includes Cambridge right from the start, and then grows with ridership over time.”

    The CREW report offers a different perspective on the Region’s previous assessment of the various technology options, and calls upon the Region to explore a pilot Aerorail system: an overhead LRT that avoids all the infrastructure costs of dedicated lanes and tracks for either BRT or LRT, and which could offer three installed stations from Wilfrid Laurier University to the University of Waterloo to the Research and Technology Park for the same cost as the roadwork currently being done at the Weber rail crossing. This mini transit system, to prove it’s worth, would offer all the benefits of LRT for less than a fraction of the cost of either BRT or LRT. And once successful, the system could be expanded across the region much more quickly than either BRT or LRT, and still at a fraction of the cost of either.
    “The transit solutions we’ve been discussing require so much change in infrastructure, dedicated lanes and such, that we need to build them out substantially in order to build them at all,” says Satnik, “but an Aerorail system is something we could start at a modest scale first, with as few as three stations: it’s a very responsible and much less risky first step that deserves to be considered, and the growth potential thereafter is really attractive.”
    Denis Pellerin is a local Real Estate agent who campaigned in Kitchener’s Ward 10 and says, “when I went door to door during the election, people were telling me they didn’t care about trains or more busses: they wouldn’t use them any more than GRT. Aerorail was exciting to them: especially to Seniors, who particularly saw Aerorail as exciting, new, and even as a tourist attraction.” Dan Glen-Graham, who beat Denis in the Ward 10 race, adds “whatever we do with transit, it needs to get people out of their cars. Busses and trains will be slower than what we already have with GRT: Aerorail will work, and be fast, and be fun. It deserves to be taken as a serious option.”
    Less than the cost of BRT, but all the value of LRT, and more. CREW’s report emphasizes that Aerorail could be built mostly with local labour, from mostly local suppliers, and the manufacturer (Aerobus) is so interested in our region that they’d consider relocating their headquarters here and exporting to all the other regions around the Province and the world that are watching and asking questions about this technology. And if CREW’s proposed 3-station pilot Aerorail didn’t end up being worth expanding, then it could easily be integrated into a BRT or LRT system, and for the modest investment, would still have been very worthwhile. Satnik quips, “indeed, as far as Aerorail is concerned, the opportunity is so good that it seems the sky is the limit.”
    For more information, contact:
    Derek Satnik
    Policy Leader, Past President
    Community Renewable Energy Waterloo (CREW)
    cell: 519-897-6463
    Glen Woolner
    Transportation Research Lead
    Community Renewable Energy Waterloo (CREW)
    ph: 519-743-5934

    1. Thanks for contributing this information Denis.

      I don’t think that we have the luxury of going back to square one and looking at alternate technologies. I’m sure that the federal and/or provincial funds that have been committed would disappear and we can’t be sure that we could get a similar commitment again once we’ve come up with a new plan. I also expect that the experts at the Region are fully aware of this option and if they aren’t pursuing it, I suspect there are good reasons why.

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