Tag Archives: Costs of roads

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

Adding Sidewalks Not a "Walk in the Park".

Unfortunately, a woman in a wheelchair was killed on Victoria Street in Kitchener. People are concerned that there are no sidewalks on the stretch of Victoria Street near her motel home. This is a serious problem but I do want to bring up some points about this issue.

First of all, the Region of Waterloo only took over the building of sidewalks on Regional roads a year ago. Before that it was the city responsibility. Yup, a sneaky upload of responsibility to the Region took place without the Mayor of Cambridge noticing.

The cost of building sidewalks on all the regional roads in the region would be $15 million dollars. To add this to the budget in one year would be an increase of 5% on the regional tax base, an increase of $71.15 added to the average tax bill on top of the 37 dollars of this year’s tax bill. That of course wouldn’t fly.

That being said, lack of sidewalks is a serious problem. How could we solve it?

First of all, many Regional roads are rural roads that don’t generally have sidewalks. This leaves the sections where the cities have grown out into rural areas and no sidewalks are available.

One thing the Region is now doing is adding sidewalks to new projects. This of course is the same idea as for cycling (which is a giant step forward from when I was first on council and no bike lanes were being built at all or very few on regional roads)

But I believe that we need a plan to fill in the missing sections of sidewalk just as we now have a plan to fill in the missing sections of bike lanes. The missing sections must be found and a multi-year plan put in place. A multi-year plan that may take some funds from the sacred gas tax funds is something we must look at seriously. We must have a comprehensive plan, not one that looks only at roads. Compared to 2000 when I came on council, a huge amount has been put into road repair, as it should. I voted for more money for road repairs and building roads. But when is enough  enough?

I suggest that we start with the locations where we know people in wheelchairs or other disabled like the blind live then move to other urban locations missing sidewalks.

Snowplowing is a continuing problem for clearing cycling lanes. I should point out that motorized wheelchairs are considered a vehicle and must ride on the road, so clearing major roads to the edge of the road is a must.

And drivers! Watch out for reflective vests and pedestrians and bikes when you are driving. A pedestrian was recently killed at King and Conestoga Mall while crossing the street and there are sidewalks there.

Regional Budget passes at 2.6 percent

Well the budget didn’t go to as low a percent as I would have wished, but the Regional budget came in at 1.78 % and the police budget at .88%.  (Approx 38 dollars per YEAR on the tax bill) Remember, the police board not Regional council sets the police budget, we just pay the bill.

Police halved their request and ended up with 10 new officers and 10 new civilians. 5 of those civilians will be prison guards for the courts and stations, and that will free up 5 officers to get back on the street. Not only will the new officers be working on crime prevention as they patrol but the Region is growing and no matter how low crime, we still have a lot and need more officers for growth.

I won some and lost some on the budget.

I wanted some of the 8 million in infrastructure funds that come from the federal government to be used to offset the increase for the system that calls out stops and has a gps for the buses and for solving the bus overcrowding problem on the mainline, number 9 Lakeshore and 12 and Iexpress. That didn’t fly and neither did my suggestion that the one million we took out of roads last year that was put back in (This is extra money that increases the roads budget each year, so it gets higher and higher) be taken out again this year.

On the plus side, I asked the head of finance about the gaping provision where if someone leaves the region and a person is hired for less money, that the budget be adjusted to the new rate instead of staying at the old one (hope that is clear). Jim Wideman  made sure that extra money was taken out for this gap when he and the other committee heads got together with staff to find some more cuts.

There were also rumblings that we should have no improvements but delegations and myself argued for the callouts of stops on the buses as required by the Human Rights tribunal and money to stop the overcrowding on buses. If we want to have a full LRT, we can’t have people stopping using the buses due to overcrowding. Also, all councillors agreed that daycare will be maintained at the present rate and we will see how the new all day jk and sk goes.

Roads versus Transit.

Quote from the Record’s editorial on Saturday, www.therecord.com

“Critics also charge that the $790-million price tag to build a light-rail line in Waterloo and Kitchener and a rapid bus system in Cambridge is too steep. But they should consider the stunning ongoing costs of the car. The regional government alone will spend $850 million on road construction and reconstruction in the next decade. The province, cities and townships will together spend hundreds of millions more on local roads and highways in the same 10 years.This week, governments agreed to spend $70 million to widen a four-kilometre stretch of Highway 8 in Kitchener.

Meanwhile, building a new Highway 7 between Kitchener and Guelph will cost hundreds of millions when it finally proceeds. Add up all the millions we spend on roads year after year in this region and, far from being exorbitant, light rail is an economical option. It should, in time help us control the road bills and give us all a more efficient, cost-effective way of transporting people.”

And don’t forget my previous comments that doing nothing will lead to 100 more lanes of road in the region, 12 lane Fischer Hallman, etc. Unbuildable.