Tag Archives: Bus Rapid Transit. Regon of Waterloo

Transportation: Transit, part 4 of my Fourth of Five Priorities

My Pledges: I will work with staff to keep the buses coming on time and frequently. I will continue listening to and responding to GRT customer concerns. I will keep working on improving bus routes.

I ride the bus. My husband rides the bus. My older daughter rides the bus. My younger daughter and her family ride the bus. My three-year old grandson loves the bus and the song, The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round, is his favourite . On a personal level and a political level, transit is an important file for me.

In the 1990s when I was a school trustee, transit was run by the cities. I had a devil of a time trying to get a school special put on for Bluevale Collegiate. Not much interest from Kitchener Transit which also ran the buses in Waterloo. There was no municipal bus between Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge, let alone Ixpress or Bus Rapid Transit. Frankly, transit was not a priority for the city councillors of that time.

In 2000, transit was taken over by the Region of Waterloo and the new system was named Grand River Transit. Over the last 14 years, since I have been on Regional Council, transit has grown by leaps and bounds.

Specialized Transit

According to the Mobility Plus business plan, the service includes:

services provided by MobilityPLUS in the urban areas and North Dumfries and by contract to Kiwanis Transit for services in Wilmot, Wellesley and Woolwich townships. Since assuming this responsibility the total number of accessible trips provided by the Region increased by 116% from 190,936 in 2001 to 411,964 trips in 2010. This includes approximately 106,000 annual trips taken on conventional low floor transit buses on scheduled GRT bus routes.

All GRT buses are now accessible and the LRT will also be fully accessible, the first Light  Rail to do so in North America.

Regular Buses

Ridership has increased from 9.4 million rides in 1999 when GRT was established to 22 million in 2013. Ixpress and the Route 7 is packed with riders. Here is a link to the GRT business plan giving details of fares and route expansions, some of which have already happened.  It has a nice graph showing the growth of GRT.


There is still a long way to go with the buses, though things are extremely improved. There still needs to be work on more routes, frequency and timeliness. Open Data and has been released which, along with GPS in the buses,  is leading to good apps to tell when the bus will arrive. Though the other day when my daughter’s bus was 10 minutes late, it was because the bus had been in an accident. Something that we would hope to avoid, but can’t always.

Transportation Part 1

Transportation Part 2

Transportation Part 3


Transportation: The LRT/ION. Part 1 of The Fourth of my Five Priorities for the Next Term of Council

 My Pledge: I will continue to make sure that the LRT/ION is on budget and on time.

Why did I vote for the LRT?

I have a Master Library and Information Science. Before I made my decision on the LRT, I did my research. I looked at information for light rail and information for bus rapid transit, both pro and con.

In 2010, I said I wouldn’t accept LRT in its present form with respect to cost. The province had said they would give 500 million to the light rail project. They came in with 300 million. So changes needed to be made to the financing of LRT before I could find it acceptable.

Staff found efficiencies and savings and we went to a Public Private Partnership which brought the burden on the taxpayer down to 11 dollars per year per household. If the estimated cost of fares is included, the amount is .5  increase per year until 2018. When weighing the increase against the 20,900 jobs LRT will create, the benefits to intensification and reduced gridlock, the benefits outweighed the costs.

Also Grandlinq is very experienced in building and running light rail. The Region still owns the ION and will control fares.

During the last election, I promised to support looking again at rapid buses. Once again I did my research. I found BRT wanting.

For my research, I studied the light rail of a number of cities, both southern and northern cities like Edmonton and Calgary. The city I looked at in particular was Portland Oregon.

This is what a traveller had to say about Portland in 1970,

Scattered bomb-site look of downtown parking lots.

Compare this to today where the downtown is according to the Lonely Planet,

Portland positively rocks. It’s a city with a vibrant downtown, pretty residential neighborhoods

Why? Portland turned away from parking lots to intensification, light rail and transit. Waterloo Region is doing the same to save our farmland, stop sprawl, cut gridlock and create great vibrant downtowns. Downtowns that a few years before the hope of this project were dying.

The provincial and federal governments supported Waterloo Region’s light rail because it is a job generator. 16,900 jobs will be created around the ION stations. This does not include direct jobs such as ION drivers, construction workers and engineers building the line.

Waterloo is the city that will benefit most from the ION. 70,000 university students already jam the Ixpress and crowding is one of the issues the Feds talked to me about when we met. Imagine the gridlock if students got off the buses and drove again. The Universities and their high tech spinoffs are Waterloo’s bread and butter.

Traffic congestion can be solved by transit or by expanding roads. If we do not have the ION, we will have to build 300 to 400 new and expanded roads at a cost similar to the ION. Westmount at Glasgow will have to be 6 lanes as will Fischer Hallman and Victoria St.

The LRT is being built as you read this. Caroline St. is already dug up, the rail cars are ordered, contacts are signed. To stop it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars for nothing. Look to Ottawa where the LRT was cancelled then restarted when the buses ended up in a gridlock conga line at rush hour. If Bus Rapid Transit, with its slightly lesser cost upfront but more costs later to replace buses, were put in, it would end up costing more than the LRT because the millions wasted by the cancellation would still be on your tax bill.

That being said,  I will continue to make sure that the LRT/ION is on budget (Inflation has been built into the 818 million cost) and on time.

Transportation, Roads  Part 2

Transportation, Cycling and Walking Part 3

Transportation, Transit, Part 4

Cambridge is Playing Catchup on Transit.

Last Tuesday during the debate on accepting the LRT consortium, Councillor (and retired mayor) Jane Brewer said the following in response to remarks that transit in Cambridge is not as good as in the rest of the Region.

She stated that in the 1990s,when Greg Durocher (present head of Cambridge Chamber of Commerce), Doug Craig (present Mayor) and herself were on a Cambridge city council that ran transit, the council always dipped into the funding for Cambridge transit to fund other city needs. I thank her for saying that. It was very brave to admit the truth.

I knew this because I know people who live in Cambridge. My best friend has said many times how much better transit is now in Cambridge since the Region has taken it over. The bus that went by near her house used to only go one way. To get downtown, she would have to go all the way around the the route,even though she could walk to downtown Galt in a half-hour.

Recently her son attended the University of Waterloo. In his first year, he was able to live at home. He took the bus that now went both ways to the Ainslie terminal and took the Ixpress to the University. He loves his Upass and will be sad to give it up when he graduates.

Here are the statistics from when the Region took over transit in Cambridge:

1.      Annual ridership in Cambridge has increased from 1.11 million in 1999 (GRT was established in January 2000) to 3.66 million in 2013, a 229% increase. During the same time period, total GRT ridership increased from 9.47 million to 22 million, a 132% increase.
Correspondingly, the amount of service provided in Cambridge increased from 59,300  to 143,900 annual service hours, a 141% increase. In comparison, annual service hours on GRT increased from 336,100 to 631,800, an 88% increase.
2.      Also, please find attached a table that details the 2014 service reductions in Cambridge and the new Maple Grove iXpress. In total, we are adding more service (4,458 annual service hours) and project an increase of 17,659 rides annually in Cambridge.
There is also a million dollars a year going to Cambridge to improve transit. The aBRT will be starting in late 2014 or 2015. It is an Ixpress with priority signals and priority lanes during busy times. It is laying the groundwork for the LRT extension to Cambridge.
The cost to build the LRT from Fairway Kitchener to Ainslie Terminal in Cambridge is the same as building phase one from King St. Conestoga Mall to Fairway Mall. As noted above, Kitchener and Waterloo have more ridership than Cambridge due to the catchup Cambridge  transit has had to make since the Region took it over.
Staff are presently meeting with residents from two seniors’ homes who are having problems with the Cambridge route cuts. The Region always does this. Hopefully we can do some rejigging for the seniors.
The route changes in Cambridge (There are also cuts in Kitchener) are listed below:


Day Type

Effective Date

Service Change Description

Annual Service Hours Change

Forecasted Annual Ridership Change

57 Blair Road


Apr 28 2014

From 30 minute to no midday service



58 Elmwood


May 3 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service



61 Conestoga College


Apr 28 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service during midday in spring only




Jun 23 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service during midday in summer only



62 Woodside


May 3 2014

From 30 to 60 minute service



66 Winston


Apr 28 2014

Route discontinued and replaced with modified Route 71 Melran



203 Maple Grove iXpress



Apr 28 2014

Introduce new route from the Cambridge Centre to Sportsworld via Franklin Boulevard and Maple Grove Road, operating every 30 minutes from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily




Sep 2 2014

Extend service during peak periods to Conestoga College Doon and Cambridge Campuses




Travelling the Light Rail in Vancouver

Skytrain Vancouver

Skytrain Vancouver

wheelchair, transit

Riding the Rails

Seats that flip up

Seats that flip up

Seat flipped up

Seat flipped up

If you watch the Amazing Race Canada, you would have seen the contestants riding the Skytrain in Vancouver. Like them, we travelled from the airport to our hotel in downtown Vancouver. The cost? 9 dollars. On the train, we noticed places for bicycles. A man in a wheelchair sat across from us. John Coplan told us that he travels all

over the lower mainland by bus and train for 52 dollars a month. He finds Vancouver transit easy to get on.

The cost for us from the airport to downtown Vancouver, stopping below our hotel was 9 dollars. A bargain compared to the chartered bus after our cruise of 43 dollars each.

The Skytrain was fast and efficient. I was also interested in the open places for bikes and wheelchairs, the seats that flipped up individually for strollers

Bike space

Bike space

and wheelchairs.

We got on the train on the “honour system” but I noticed that when we got on the Skytrain at other times, a notice at the entrance to the stations said that turnstiles were coming.  Something the region should think about eventually with the Ion.

Skytrain City Centers

As part of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference, I took a guided tour of the Skytrain system. Like my visit to Portland’s suburban stops, the Greater Vancouver area is building walkable and bikable towncentres along its stops outside the Vancouver city center. This is the same idea Waterloo Region has for Waterloo, Kitchener, and Cambridge.

New Westminster has built shops and condos around its Skytrain stop, other towns are building condos, commercial and office, and bike and pedestrian trails. The most interesting stop was in Surrey. A failing shopping mall was revived by building a campus of Simon Fraser University and an office tower as a new part of the mall. The mall now has thriving shops. An athletic club is also beside the Skytrain stop. It is very easy to ride the Skytrain and transit is heavily used.I should note that city officials told us they would have preferred ground level LRT for Vancouver but the province insisted on the Skytrain. Getting up to the platform required stairs or an elevator. The trains came quite often.  I also took a city bus to Granville Island for a dinner. No problem getting around Vancouver.



university mall

SFU built around a mall


SFU around a mall


Unsightly  car park by the riverwalk is soon to be torn down.


Shops and condos in New Westminster


Bike path and pedestrain walk by the Skytrain stop

IMG_00000118 IMG_00000115

My Light Rail Transit Speech and some Nifty LRT Pictures.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

My Speech

Thank you to staff who have worked and are working so hard on this project.

Thank you to everyone who emailed, mailed, met with me, twittered or phoned me.  And  the delegations and the people at the meetings. Well over 600 emails. If I haven’t gotten back to you yet, be assured I will. Regional councillors answer their own email.  I have never had anywhere near the response I have had on this issue.  Most of the people who have contacted me are for LRT.

also went door to door during the past municipal election. I personally visited thousands of doors, as I always do.  There were people against LRT. A lot were against because they needed transit in their area. Which is why I support increased regular transit and would like to see more in the future. I will deal with cost later. There were also people for LRT.

Most people just had a lot of questions which I was pleased to answer. This I believe is what happened at our public meetings. People came with a lot of questions and our staff answered them.

The public have spoken and we’ve listened. However, listening does not necessarily mean doing what people ask. For some here tonight, I have listened but I have said No.

Light Rail Transit runs quietly on electricity. It doesn’t spew smog into our air. I hope in the future we can run the system on renewable energy.

With less staff and more passengers, it is more economical in the long run.

As the Chair of the Grand River Conservation Authority, I have been travelling from Cambridge to Waterloo in the rush hour.  There is more congestion in Cambridge than there is in KW. Could this be because more people ride transit in KW?  I’m glad we’re ramping up transit in Cambridge but we need to start stage 2, LRT to Cambridge as soon as possible.

No one has talked about jobs and the LRT. The province and the federal government have given us a jaw dropping amount of money. Why? To help Waterloo Region through the recession. Jobs have disappeared in our Region and most of them were to do with the car industry, particularly the automobiles that eat gas. We need to reinvent our economy again and LRT helps with this.

LRT is estimated to create up to 23,000 new permanent jobs in the station areas. Everything from flower shops to tech start-ups. This isn’t even including the jobs created building and running the LRT.

During the election, I stated that I wanted Bus Rapid Transit back on the table. I voted for that and it was done.

The public and myself had the chance of another look. Unfortunately, almost everyone has found it wanting. Those against The LRT, such as Taxpayers for sensible transit  are for abrt which is a souped up Ixpress that will still be caught in traffic.  All the problems people think exist for LRT, like its dedicated lane, are also part of BRT. And experience elsewhere shows that BRT quickly creates its own congestion.

My second request during the election was that staff bring a report on keeping the costs down. The other concern at the door. They have put in some cuts. But I am most pleased with Councillor Wideman’s amendment that reduces the tax increase to  .7%.  I said during the election that I did not want property tax to increase on the capital portion left over after the province and feds had put in their money. These reductions do this.

The City of Waterloo will finally get its due. Light Rail Transit benefits Waterloo the most.  It will develop our industrial area on Northfield and our R and T park. Waterloo is up to its borders and must intensify. LRT helps do this. The trains will transport our young professionals and university students. The Ixpress, number 9 and mainline 7 are jammed with passengers.

Uptown will have huge benefits from light rail. I wish I could show some of the pictures I have from downtowns around the world that have light rail. People cycling and walking beside the train. Even a fountain between one of the tracks. I wish you all could have travelled to Edmonton, Calgary and Portland, even  Switzerland years ago, as I have.

 Cars don’t shop, people shop.  I ride the bus (yes I use my car and transit) and many times I have come from the region, gotten off at Waterloo Square and done some shopping then hopped back on the bus and gone home or onto Conestoga Mall. I can even go up to the Market and the Outlet Mall in the same trip. Think of 450 people getting off the bus at Waterloo Square.

Waterloo Park will be fine. I have seen a picture of a train with grass growing through the track. People will be able to easily cross the tracks and our report talks about the sensitivity to the heritage of the park.

When the LRT phase one is finished, my new grandson will be around six years old. We will get on my number 9 bus, then onto the train and get off at Waterloo Park where we will visit the zoo and the Wonder of Winter Lights. Then we will head home the same way. He and his generation are the future.

I support LRT.

Really, I do have Opinions!

Well, the election is over, and I am back into obscurity again. The Record articles on city inaugurals and the Rally for Rails quoted Sean and Brenda and several city of Waterloo councillors. At the Regional inaugural, Jeff O interviewed various councillors but not me. (Thanx to the Chronicle for quoting me)

So here is my imaginary interview, so you can know my opinions.

Reporter: You weren’t at the Rally?

Me: That’s right. I was at the Region Volunteer Appreciation.

Reporter: What did you find when you went door to door during the election. I heard you knocked on a lot of doors.

Me: Yes I did knock on a lot of doors.  Some people were very much against the LRT, some people were very much for it. Most people had questions.

Reporter: Will you vote yes or no on LRT?

Me: I am waiting for the staff report. As I said in the election, I want us to look again at BRT and at a reduced cost for LRT capital.  I am still in favour of LRT but because many constituents are concerned about it and there are also many misconceptions, I feel it is only fair to compare the two again.

Obama Replaces Costly Highspeed Rail Plan with Highspeed Buses.


Alert: This is humour. Thanks to ENBDavies who tweeted  this.

Great Women's Municipal Campaign School

Great WMCS! Learned so much about social media, my head felt like it would explode.  The speakers were great and many of the 84 women who attended are either running or thinking of it. Minister Wynne talked about her campaigns, particularly the provincial ones. Catharine Fife reminded her that our last provincial speaker Andrea Howarth became the leader of her party!

Great panel of women politicians, even if I do say so myself, being on it.  Eleanor MacMahon was moving on the legislation she got passsed after her husband was killed riding his bicycle.  Kris Fletcher practical once again about the legal side.  Some of the background materials will be up on www.learnhowtorun.com in the near future.

Great Women's Municipal Campaign School

Great WMCS! Learned so much about social media, my head felt like it would explode.  The speakers were great and many of the 84 women who attended are either running or thinking of it. Minister Wynne talked about her campaigns, particularly the provincial ones. Catharine Fife reminded her that our last provincial speaker Andrea Howarth became the leader of her party!

Great panel of women politicians, even if I do say so myself, being on it.  Eleanor MacMahon was moving on the legislation she got passsed after her husband was killed riding his bicycle.  Kris Fletcher practical once again about the legal side.  Some of the background materials will be up on www.learnhowtorun.com in the near future.

Enforcing no bikes on sidewalks reduces riders

I had a chat with one of our traffic planners who lives in Guelph.  Guelph police are inforcing the no bicycles on sidewalks by-law. The result. Less people riding bikes.

Instead of riding on the road, people are going back to cars.  Her question to me: Do I want less people riding bikes and more riding cars?

Darn. Well of course I want more people riding bikes. 

Apparently 60 percent of riders ride on sidewalks at some point. Having had  trucks blow by me, I understand that riders just feel safer.

In fact, bicyclists are no safer on the sidewalk than on the road. Why? Most collisions occur at driveways and at corners.

We next discussed whether the no bikes on sidewalks is a by-law that should be removed since it isn’t enforced.  I suspect though that it would be enforced on complaint.  I’m not prepared to remove the by-law as I worry that even more bicyclists would be on the sidewalks.

The region is presently looking at multi-use trails by the road (so cars can see cyclists at those corners, not have them pop out from nowhere) instead of sidewalks for some regional roads. Road warriors could still ride on the road and in bike lanes.

Since our planner is on a provincial committee on pedestrian safety, I pointed out that bridges going over the 401 and other highways often don’t have sidewalks or bike lanes as these are usually provincial bridges. Or should we build more pedestrian/cycling overpasses?  I like to point out that  you can cross a river with a boat but you can’t cross  a 401  or expressway when you are a pedestrian or cyclist. So how do you get across the highway?

Our planner would like trails to be 3 meters not 5 as proposed. I suggest everyone get out a meter stick and measure how wide that is. 5 meters is much wider than a traffic lane. I find from GRCA where people worry about a house 120 meters from a wet land (approx half a mile) that perhaps we don’t know the real distances with measures.