We don’t need a referendum on Rapid Transit

There are many reasons why starting a referendum process so close to the final vote on what system we would use for transit is not a good idea.

I am going to speak about the public process for Rapid Transit so far. This process has been going on since 2003 with many, many meetings and a decision in 2009 that generated a lot of public response. There have been two elections (2006 and 2010) of municipal councillors as this process continued. I’m not counting the 2003 election as the process had just begun.

 People have had a say and are continuing to have a say. I have had over 100 emails on this topic since January and that’s not including all the mails I had before that time. I have had the most emails ever on any topic. And these are from separate individuals (I counted each person once). 80 percent at least not the “usual suspects” or advocates for one side or the other. My mail has been running 50/50 pro and con. I send all of the emails to staff to put into the count. I also record pro and con of the telephone calls.  This doesn’t even cover the many, many people whose main topic of conversation with me when I meet them is Rapid Transit. Everyone from the owner of the manicure shop to my book club to dogwalkers to people at various events.

There have also been various groups like the realtors and the tech industry running their own surveys of members. The Record Metroline survey should be very influential as no one can say they are biased because they are the Region. A friend of mine also told me that she answered an Angus Reid poll recently (Not the Region, I asked) I wait for that one.

I also listen to the Jeff Allan show, Rogers 20 talk local, CTV and read The Record and The Chronicle. The Region has a clipping service, so I have also read all the regional articles about Rapid Transit. Not to mention blogs, twitter and Facebook.

Finally there are all the public meetings the Region has held, not to mention the on-line comment form. http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/comment.html

Councillors get numbers and summaries of all.

Here is the list of the public meetings the Region has had with the public.It is in pdf format because there were and are so many. By the way, I have personally attended a number of these meetings, right back to 2006. And not all the meetings are even listed. I attended the Leadership Waterloo cafe recently and that’s not on the official list. Neither are the Probus and Rotary meetings staff presented at, to mention a few.


If you have not managed to phone me, or send an email , you can still do so. My information is at the side of this blog.

The final public meetings are May 31 and June 1st at council chambers. If you can’t make them, the decision day is June 15th in the evening at council chambers.

Here is what I am hearing from many of the public, most of them before this referendum question came up.  “Get ‘er done. We are tired of it. Make a decision.”

I hear you and I am going to.


7 responses to “We don’t need a referendum on Rapid Transit

  1. I always point out to the anti side who want a referendum that you could lose. The people who wanted a vote on KW amalgamation lost. I should point out that many people both pro and anti are emailing me and each mail is forwarded to staff to count.

    Once again I refer people to the Region’s Rapid Transit faq page. http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/faq.html
    I met with the Uptown Vison committee and the BIA and at that time the problem was the route going through Waterloo Town Square along the rails and the stop in the square. That was changed to the present one route down King (wanted by the merchants, yes they did) and one down Caroline. You and your group do not like this because you are against Rail and Bus Rapid Transit too. You are for the aBRT, the glorified Ixpress that will be in Cambridge as a temporary technology until the rails are built for them ( or if the BRT is passed, the BRT with its dedicated lane all the way to Cambridge)

  2. 2011/05/29 at 10:40 am
    Hi Jane,

    As to this being late in the process, it isn’t really. The preferred option was just announced a few weeks ago. Before that there was nothing specific we could have had a referendum on.

    As to whether local citizens want a referendum, the Ipsos Reid poll, which was unbiased and scientific (unlike many recent polls, which used skewed samples and slanted questions) was absolutely clear that people want a referendum. 83% said they wanted one. A majority of all demographics and all views on the issue want a referendum.

    I’m not usually a fan of direct democracy, but this is an extraordinary situation for several reasons.

    First, the subset of council that will vote. Four councillors have recused themselves. Three of the remaining represent areas that will not see a tax increase for this project. And one is in the hospital and may not be able to vote (leaving Cambridge in that case with only one vote). Given the strong feelings in the community about this project, a yes vote will not seem fair when it is made by this subset of our representatives.

    Second, the strong division in the community about LRT. As you say, this is the biggest, most controversial project we have had and people have very strong feelings about it. (Check out the published letters to the editor here: http://www.t4st.com/index.php?title=LocalFeedback) In addition, Cambridge has voted against LRT; Kitchener city council has voted for a referendum; and Waterloo’s mayor has championed the cause of a referendum. People like to say that the city councils don’t have a say because this is a regional matter, but the city councils would be irresponsible not to take some sort of position, as LRT will hugely affect their budgets, their plans, and their cities.

    Third, while there have been lots of public forums, there hasn’t been any honest gathering of public input. I am not the only one who feels that way; just about everyone I know was independently frustrated by the public forums and sees them as PR machines where highly slanted, and even incorrect, information was given out. The comment sheets were a joke. The only option other than LRT/BRT was described as “not considered feasible”. aBRT was not included, or other sorts of enhancement to our transit system.

    I’ll give you another example of the lack of genuine interest by regional staff in public input. I was on the Uptown Vision Committee (UVC) when the current proposed route was first announced, a couple of years ago. We analysed the impact on Waterloo very carefully. I walked the route through uptown, measured the size of the station, counted parking spaces, etc etc. UVC asked regional transportation staff to come talk to us about the proposal. After their presentation we provided them with our concerns. UVC members at that time included a former mayor and two former councillors, and we really knew what we were talking about. But at one point while we were providing our concerns, we noticed that the regional staff weren’t taking notes – they didn’t even have pens or paper out. One of the UVC members mentioned this, but even after that they didn’t take notes. And to this date, not one of our concerns about traffic congestion caused by the route, lost parking spaces, destruction of streetscape, etc have been addressed.

    My main opposition to LRT is due to the terrible damage it will do to uptown Waterloo. See pages 10-16 in this report: http://www.t4st.com/images/c/cf/LRT_impact_on_Waterloo.pdf

    Finally, I think we need a referendum because we need accurate facts about this project, and we’re not getting them. For example:
    -The region’s ridership projections for LRT are ridiculously high (see page 7 in the report referenced above). With more realistic ridership projections, the projected operating subsidy that will be required by LRT goes way up: it may be less than a third what an independent analysis would show.
    -Also, if ridership projections were more realistic, the entire argument for LRT reducing road expansion would change dramatically. And in particular, the need for road expansion is not reduced if we induce more students to live further from campus; it is only reduced if we get more commuters out of their cars. Will this route do that? As I argue in my report, it will not.
    -The capital costs to municipalities for their part of the building of LRT have not been exposed, and those are high enough that they will affect municipal spending for a long time.
    – and so on.

    How will we get some truth about LRT? If current regional staff stay in place, then the only way I can see for us to get it is if other tiers of government do their own studies. That should be part of the referendum process. We don’t need more biased junk studies such as the Communitech one. (See my analysis of the Communitech study here: http://www.t4st.com/index.php?title=Communitech_survey ) We need truth. T4ST tried to lead the way on that with the Ipsos Reid survey, which was absolutely unbiased and which we released in full.

    I want better transit in Waterloo Region. I think LRT will cost so much for one route (that has insufficient ridership to justify such a system) that we will end up with worse transit. I think it will do irreparable damage to parts of our cores, in particular uptown Waterloo and the stretch of King between William and Victoria, both of which are booming now but will become traffic nightmares with LRT.

    The subset of council that will vote on this should not be approving this project.


  3. Pingback: LRT Referendum Round-up « TriTAG

  4. Mary Ann Christie

    Jane, I just came from the article in the Cambridge times about the referendum and I’m very glad to see that you oppose it. I attended 2 public meetings in Cambridge several years ago and have had the opportunity to attend many more. They were well advertised and extremely informative.

    I’m surprised by Paul Stickney’s confrontational attitude in the comment above. Particularly when the reason many of us who support the LRT support it precisely because of the number of JOBS it will bring to this region and the amount of money being contributed by the province and federal levels of gov’t that will be lost to us if we cancel this project.

    As the parent of a U of W student who was able to live at home during his first term and take the IExpress from Cambridge each day, I was very pleasantly surprised by the amazing strides which have been made between our cities. Bus service was abysmal when I moved to Cambridge 22 years ago and service to KW was non-existent. Today, my husband takes the bus to Conestoga college and my son buses to Waterloo. The service is convenient and regular and I look forward to either LRT or BRT (although I prefer LRT)

  5. Thank you for this excellent and clear explanation of where we are now.

    It’s disappointed me how poorly our local media – including newspapers, radio, and television – have represented the amount of work and scrutiny has gone into the LRT proposal to date. I think this post should be required reading for anyone writing or speaking publicly about the proposal from now on. 😉

    I’m with you 100% – we’ve elected our representatives because we trust them to study the issues and make the tough decisions on our behalf. You’ve done the studies and it’s time to decide, before the federal and provincial dollars offered to us are snapped-up by another municipality.

    For what it’s worth, I hope that you vote in favour of the proposal. As someone who hopes to remain a resident of the region for many years to come, I want my city to be prepared for the challenges the future will bring.

  6. Scared your change in position isn’t what Waterloo middle income families can’t afford? I’d appreciate if you’d express your preferred option so you can explain why before the vote.

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