Tag Archives: Light Rapid Transit

What’s Up with the Corduroy Road?

First of all, Mayor Sue Foxton of North Dumfries Township wants you to know that North Dumfries still has a lot of corduroy roads. A million snappy jokes jumped into my head, but I like North Dumfries and Mayor Sue is doing a good job!

The one pictured above is, of course, the corduroy road found under King St. in Uptown Waterloo on March 11 when the asphalt road was dug up to put in utilities and set up the new Ion light rail line. An archeologist had to come and examine it and his findings are going to the provincial heritage ministry for approval before work can begin again on the Ion construction. The road is the original Mennonite road built before 1800 by cutting down the standing trees to make the road. You can see large stumps also that became part of the road.

Uptown Waterloo and indeed much of the surrounding housing on Euclid, Alexandra, up to where I used to live on Beverley St, are on the site of the Beverley Swamp. Even today, many houses in this area have sump pumps due to the high ground water levels.

The logs of the road were put over the swamp so horses and carts and people could traverse the swamp ( or as we say today, wetland). Over time, the road was buried and the ground built up. The basement at the Waterloo Hotel where you can descend to a store or bar (depending on who is renting)  is what remains of the original ground floor of the hotel, as told to me by a local resident.

While everyone is concerned what the delay in studying the road will mean for the stores and businesses on King St., it turns out the road has become quite the tourist attraction.

At the Mayor’s Breakfast this morning, Mike Murrary, CAO, mentioned that the Region is working on letting people take a piece of the road if they wish. Tom Galloway presented this idea to me yesterday.

In a previous update memo, Kim Moser said:

The Region will be offering residents a chance to secure their own piece of the corduroy road after it’s been removed
 100, two-foot sections of the corduroy road will be available to the public for free on a first-come, first-service basis, while supplies last in May
 Details on this giveaway will be provided by the Region once the corduroy road has been removed from the area by GrandLinq
 The remainder of the corduroy road and the surrounding soil will be disposed of according to environmental standards and regulations

Here is some information from staff about the process so far.

From Lucille Bish, Director of Cultural Services concerning preserving the road.

The process to preserve wet wood artifacts from archaeological sites is to keep them wet in the field and then in the lab.  Water is slowly removed and replaced with PEG – polyethylene glycol – a process which can take several years.  This cannot be done easily if the wood has been allowed to dry out in the field or the lab.

In the case of the corduroy road section found under King Street, it has been uncovered and fully documented under the direction of an archaeologist.  However, there was no intent to keep it wet and covered, so the cell structure of the wood will have already begun to collapse.  We don’t know how long the wood will stay intact, but any display or use would be short term at best. Without some form of preservation, now that the wood has been exposed to the elements, it will become dust in a matter of a couple years. The resources to preserve the wood are likely limited to federal conservation labs in Ottawa.

The City of Waterloo Museum is planning to take a section, with the knowledge and support of the Region of Waterloo Museum.  There is no need to keep more than one section of the road in the community.  As the actual preservation of the wood is beyond the physical and financial resources of either museum, it would be a temporary exhibit.

Neither can the road be left intact and re-covered with soil, as there are adjacent underground services which must be replaced.

The real value of the find has already been accomplished.  The formal documentation has included photographs, detailed drawings and construction notes, and 3D imaging.  The City of Waterloo Museum plans a temporary exhibit of images at the construction site.  Many people have been attracted to Uptown Waterloo to take a look, which has been good for business.

Here is even more detail about the corduroy road, for those obsessed (like me).

· On March 11, GrandLinq crews performing light rail transit (LRT) construction at the King/Willis Way intersection, discovered a change in conditions and the presence of wood
o In keeping with requirements of both the Project Agreement and the Ontario Heritage Act, work was immediately stopped and GrandLinq’s Environmental Department was informed
· The investigation, which is nearing completion, has been led by an independent licensed archaeologist, with support from historical experts at both the Region and the City of Waterloo
· On March 18, the lead archaeologist confirmed that the finding was a corduroy road
· Following the confirmation, the lead archaeologist and his team were required to:
o Determine the extent of the corduroy road on King, between William and Erb
o Carefully and completely expose the intact sections of the corduroy road in order to document the findings (i.e. map and photograph the corduroy road)
o Submit a report, for review and approval, to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Sport (Ministry)

Current Situation:
· Today (April 19), the lead archaeologist and his team are expected to complete their documentation of the corduroy road on King, between William and Erb. They will also prepare the report for the Ministry
· Understanding the concerns a prolonged delay will have on ION LRT construction and businesses in UpTown Waterloo, the lead archaeologist has worked closely with the Ministry throughout the investigation and will remove the corduroy road once the documentation process is complete and authorization from the Ministry has been granted. This work will require two steps:
o Step 1: Removal of unsuitable soil that surrounded the corduroy road. Some of the soil in this area cannot be reused due to poor conditions
o Step 2: The corduroy road (i.e. the logs) will be removed
· Once the unsuitable soil and corduroy road materials have been removed, LRT construction in this area will resume

Next Steps:
· At this point, it’s too early to know what impact the corduroy road delay will have on the ION construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo
· Once LRT construction resumes, GrandLinq and the Region will need some time to assess the situation and determine what (if any) schedule time can be gained through other construction methods (i.e. double-shifting and/or a noise by-law exemption, etc.)
· The Region and GrandLinq understand the importance of the Christmas shopping season for UpTown Waterloo businesses. We expect to have an update on the ION construction schedule and the impacts of the corduroy road delay by the end of June
· It’s important to note that during the archaeological investigation of the corduroy road, GrandLinq crews were re-assigned to accelerate the completion of LRT work in other areas of UpTown Waterloo. This will help with the overall LRT construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo. For example, on Allen, and in the Caroline/Allen intersection:
o The Caroline/Allen intersection did not open, as previously planned, on March 24. Instead, the intersection remains closed until mid-June
o When the intersection re-opens, all required work in the intersection will be complete, including installation of the track and related infrastructure
· On-going work in UpTown also continues, as scheduled, including:
o King/Union – construction at this intersection is progressing well and it is expected to re-open May 15 prior to the Caroline/Erb intersection closing
o King/William – construction at this intersection began March 29 and it is expected to re-open May 15. The Caroline/Erb intersection will not close until King/William re-opens

What will happen to the corduroy road?
· As required by the Ontario Heritage Act, the corduroy road has been carefully and completely exposed and documented. A report on the findings, as required, will be submitted to the Ministry for review and approval
o The final report will be shared with both the Waterloo Region Museum and the City of Waterloo’s Museum
· The City of Waterloo’s Museum has requested, and will receive, a piece of the corduroy road for its archives
· The Region has extensive drone footage of the corduroy road
· The City of Waterloo has documented the corduroy road through 3D-imaging. This information will be shared with the Region
· The Region and the City of Waterloo will be creating several banners to document the history of the corduroy road and what was found in UpTown Waterloo
o These banners, once completed, will be displayed along the construction fencing in UpTown Waterloo
· The Region will be offering residents a chance to secure their own piece of the corduroy road after it’s been removed
o 100, two-foot sections of the corduroy road will be available to the public for free on a first-come, first-service basis, while supplies last in May
o Details on this giveaway will be provided by the Region once the corduroy road has been removed from the area by GrandLinq
· The remainder of the corduroy road and the surrounding soil will be disposed of according to environmental standards and regulations

Will GrandLinq be able to complete their work in time for the 2016 Holiday shopping season?
· At this point, it’s too early to know what impact the corduroy road delay will have on the ION construction schedule for UpTown Waterloo
· Once LRT construction resumes, GrandLinq and the Region will need some time to assess the situation and determine what (if any) schedule time can be gained through other construction methods (i.e. double-shifting and/or a noise by-law exemption, etc.)
· The Region and GrandLinq understand the importance of the Christmas shopping season for UpTown Waterloo businesses. We expect to have an update on the ION construction schedule and the impacts of the corduroy road delay by the end of June

What is a Corduroy road?
· A corduroy road (or log road) is a type of road made by placing logs perpendicular to the direction of the road over a low or swampy area
o In some cases, these road sections were sand or earth covered. The result is an improvement over impassable mud/dirt roads
· Corduroy roads are the first instances of roads in Ontario. The corduroy road in UpTown Waterloo predates the 1800’s

Why is it important to document information about historical finds?
· Archaeological features, like the corduroy road in UpTown Waterloo, tell us about our past
o This feature tells us about the earliest Euro-Canadian settlers in the area (pre-dating 1800) and provides an example of the first roads travelled in Ontario
· From discoveries like this one, that connect our present to the past, we can learn about the evolution of Waterloo Region
· It is important – and regulated – that historical specimens discovered during construction be treated in accordance with the steps outlined in both the Project Agreement and the Ontario Heritage Act

What are the costs of the corduroy road?
· It’s too soon to speculate on what the costs will be. However, it is expected that any costs associated with the corduroy road will be managed within the contingencies that are being carried for Stage 1 ION LRT
· As we have done to date, any impacts to the schedule or costs for ION will be included in the staff update to Regional Council. The next update will be later this fall/winter

And finally, an interesting article in the Waterloo Chronicle about a bridge, probably removed when Laurel Creek was buried, across the original street in Uptown.


Pictures of Uptown Waterloo and Corduroy Road, on April 22nd, 2016, Earth Day





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

Light Rail in Turkey: Ideas for Waterloo Region. by guest blogger, Kevin Thomason

 I want to

LRT in Istanbul

LRT in Istanbul, Turkey

continue with another of the ongoing series of e-mails I have sent from my travels of what we can learn from LRT systems around the world.

It is astounding the systems being built in rapidly developing countries and I would like to focus this time on the Istanbul, Turkey Light Rapid Transit network – an LRT that almost bridges two continents – Europe and Asia.  With one of the highest passenger loads in the world, the Istanbul LRT lines move hundreds of thousands of people every day as part of a larger integrated system of Bus, Bus Rapid Transit (BRT), Light Rail Transit (LRT), and Subways.
Istanbul has two older LRT lines built in the 1970’s very similar to Calgary’s C Train with high platform heights, dated rolling stock, and challenging stations.  They also have two newer LRT lines built just a few years ago using modern low-floor trains much more comparable to what we are planning for here in Waterloo Region.
The capacity of people moved daily on their LRT is astounding.  The new T1 route is 18km long with more than 100 Bombardier and Alstom LRT trains moving up to 320,000 people per day through a narrow, congested part of Istanbul that is over 2,000 years old.
Our construction challenges are nothing compared to the archaeological and engineering issues facing Istanbul.  This line travels within metres of the 1,600 year old Hagia Sofia – one of the grandest churches in the world and for almost 1,000 years the world’s largest cathedral, as well as within a few hundred meters of the famous 500 year old Blue Mosque (Sultan Ahmed Mosque).  Knox Presbyterian Church in Waterloo has nothing to worry about when one sees how the LRT in Istanbul navigates so close to these ancient world heritage sites.
The Istanbul LRT trains are often attached together in dual trains to double the length and capacity.  A peak times there is often as little as one or two minutes between trains as tens of thousands of people per hour move along this scenic line.  It is amazing to see how so many trains intermingle with thousands of tourists and pedestrians in the ancient core of the bustling city with few incidents or problems.
The system uses double-headed trains that can be driven from driver cabs at either end so there is no need to turn them around and similar to what is being planned for Waterloo they use fast, efficient paid station areas and proof of purchase ticketing so passengers can board at any door of the LRT.
The Istanbul system incorporates a lot of landscaping and greenery wherever possible – often creatively using trees, planters, and living fences to help guide traffic and pedestrians.  It reinforces the need for us to include as much greenery here in Waterloo as possible.
Below are a number of photos I took of their LRT system and ideas the Region should consider.
Istanbul LRT

Typical Istanbul LRT station

LRT side by side

LRT’s pass each other in a busy residential and shopping district of Istanbul.

Tickets for Istanbul LRT

The automatic ticketing machines used by the transit network that take a variety of currencies and utilize a variety of different languages.

Park LRT

LRT passes the entrance to a park

LRT kiosk

LRT passengers using their transit pass or token to go through the gates to gain access to the LRT station platform to catch the next train.

LRT platform in Istanbul

A station platform as two LRTs (one in each direction) simultaneously arrive.

LRT and ambulance

A Red Crescent Ambulance using the LRT track right of way for emergency access in Istanbul.

Crowds and LRT tracks

Huge tourist crowds not impeded by the LRT tracks in any way.


A double LRT train passing alongside t entrance to the 1,600 year old Hagia Sofia Cathedral/Mosque.

Crowds by the LRT

Crowds by the LRT. Nobody run over!


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




What I said in response to Mayor Halloran about the City of Waterloo’s Support for LRT

I am so tired of Mayor Halloran and some people saying that the City of Waterloo does not support LRT. I grew up in Waterloo and often my kids say to me “Do you know everybody, Mom?”

At least four of the delegations tonight who are for the LRT are from the City of Waterloo. The universities, including urban planning and engineering professors support the LRT. Of course the University students support LRT. Sitting in the audience tonight are representatives of the B.I.A. which supports LRT. Most of the City councillors support the LRT.

I have letters from high tech Waterloo companies who support the LRT. Communitech supports the LRT. I have had many letters and comments from my constituents that they support the LRT. Yes, even when I went door to door in 2010, I met people who supported the LRT.

My City of Waterloo includes the people who support the LRT.

Public Engagement and Publicity around the Ion

When we were in China, our guide proudly told us that subway extensions are built in one year. The land is expropriated and the people moved and that’s it. No public input. Quite different here, where it has taken 10 years to get to the point of building the LRT.

Some people have said that the Region isn’t doing enough to publicize or engage the public over the building of the LRT. Please remember, we’ve been publicizing this issue for 10 years, three election cycles.

This is just what has been done  in 2011 and 2013 and doesn’t include all the public meetings, newsletters, etc, etc before the 2010 election.


In 2011, prior to Council¡s decision on the preferred approach to rapid transit ( remember, council had already approved the LRT once, before the 2010 election, this was the relook), the Region held a variety of community relations activities and events, including:
25 public consultation/information centres (2,650 participants);
20 consultations with local businesses and agencies (550 participants);
two formal public input meetings at Council (101 participants);
a live webcast (139 participants);
1,760 written comments from the community. (On top of this, I got 1000 individual emails in support of the Ion, the most emails on any topic ever and way more than the anti-emails which were around 100)


Appendix A ¡V Complete list of ION presentations
City of Cambridge Economic Development Committee ¡V January 9, 2013
City of Cambridge Revitalization Advisory Committee ¡V January 9, 2013
Tri-TAG Meeting  January 17, 2013
Grand River Accessibility Advisory Committee ¡V January 24, 2013
LPGA Organizers ¡V January 28, 2013
Downtown Kitchener BIA Networking Event ¡V January 30, 2013
City of Waterloo/BIA Update Meeting ¡V February 13, 2013
Preston BIA AGM ¡V February 20, 2013
UpTown Waterloo BIA Update ¡V February 21, 2013
Galt BIA Update ¡V March 8, 2013
Public Art Advisory Committee ¡V March 11, 2013
Reurbanization Community Advisory Panel ¡V March 25, 2013
University of Waterloo Employee Lunch & Learn ¡V March 27, 2013
Downtown Kitchener BIA Networking Event ¡V March 27, 2013
Wonders of Winter Meeting ¡V April 2, 2013
UpTown Waterloo BIA Networking Event ¡V April 4, 2013
University of Waterloo School of Architecture ¡V April 10, 2013
Galt BIA AGM ¡V April 23, 2013
UpTown Waterloo BIA AGM ¡V April 24, 2013
Downtown Kitchener Action and Advisory Committee ¡V April 25, 2013
Waterloo Wellington Museums and Art Galleries Network Meeting ¡V May 6, 2013
City of Waterloo Fire and Rescue ¡V May 6, 2013
Reurbanization Community Advisory Panel ¡V May 6, 2013
City of Waterloo Fire and Rescue ¡V May 7, 2013
Kitchener Economic Development Advisory Committee ¡V May 22, 2013
Waterloo Rotary Club ¡V May 23, 2013
Alliance for a Grand Community ¡V May 25, 2013
Building Downtown Kitchener 2020 Vision Event ¡V May 29, 2013
Downtown Kitchener BIA Networking Event ¡V May 29, 2013
Belmont BIA Annual General Meeting ¡V June 12, 2013
Tri-TAG Update ¡V June 13, 2013
Terrance on the Square ¡V June 14, 2013
UpTown West Waterloo Neighbourhood Association ¡V June 17, 2013
City of Kitchener Arts and Culture Advisory Committee ¡V June 18, 2013
Public Art Advisory Committee ¡V June 21, 2013
UpTown Waterloo BIA Walking Tour ¡V June 21, 2013
King & Northfield Business Owners ¡V June 25, 2013
Downtown Kitchener BIA Networking Event ¡V June 26, 2013
Grand River Accessibility Advisory Committee ¡V August 22, 2013
Cambridge Rotary Club ¡V August 23, 2013
Wilfrid Laurier University Get Involved Fair ¡V September 4, 2013
UpTown Waterloo BIA Walking Tour ¡V September 9, 2013
Oktoberfest Meeting September 9, 2013
UpTown Waterloo BIA Networking Event  September 9, 2013
City of Waterloo All Staff Lunch and Learn  September 11, 2013
Waterloo Park Advisory Committee  September 11, 2013
City of Kitchener All Staff Lunch and Learn  September 12, 2013
Region of Waterloo All Staff Lunch and Learn  September 13, 2013
City of Waterloo/BIA Update Meeting  September 18, 2013
Public Art Advisory Committee  September 26, 2013
Central Frederick Neighbourhood Association  September 28, 2013
Grand River Accessibility Advisory Committee October 10, 2013
UpTown Waterloo BIA AGM  November 6, 2013
Mary Ellen Neighbourhood Association  November 7, 2013
City of Waterloo Economic Development Committee November 14, 2013
Grand River Building Manager¡s Association  November 19, 2013
Tri-TAG Meeting  November 28, 2013
Reurbanization Community Advisory Panel ¡V December, 2013
Public Works Association  December 9, 2013
UpTown West Taskforce Committee  December 18, 2013
Community Building Strategy
Waterloo (Knox Church)  February 20, 2013
Kitchener (The Tannery)  February 21, 2013
Cambridge (Cambridge City Hall)  February 25, 2013
Rapid Transit Brand Name
Cambridge (United Kingdom Club)  January 10, 2013
Waterloo (Knox Church)  January 14, 2013
Kitchener (School of Pharmacy)  January 15, 2013
Grand River Hospital  Entrance and Intersection Modification
Waterloo (Knox Church)March 20, 2013
ION Stop Design Concepts
Kitchener (Regional Headquarters)  June 19, 2013
Cambridge (Chamber of Commerce)  June 20, 2013
Waterloo (Knox Church)  June 25, 2013
Northfield Drive at Highway 85  Intersection Modification
Waterloo (Albert McCormick Arena) June 27, 2013
City of Waterloo Transportation Summit
Waterloo Recreation Complex  October 30, 2013
UpTown Waterloo Streetscape
Waterloo Recreation Complex  November 13, 2013
Ottawa & Mill Street  Intersection Modification
Concordia Club  December 4, 2013

This does not include the Regional newsletter that goes to every household in the region, the monthly Ion newsletter, the LRT website, social media, the visit of the train mock up, etc. etc.

Here are some of the events for 2014

While ION staff continue to refine the community relations and communications
initiatives planned for 2014, a series of major activities and events have already been
indentified. They include:
Funding agreement signing with the Province (Winter/Spring)
To highlight Ontario¡¦s investment in ION
Start of Hydro One construction (Winter)
Along the hydro corridor near Fairview Park Mall
Neighbourhood Advisory Panel (Spring)
Nominations to be collected in the spring; meetings to begin in the fall
Focus on providing information to residents, overall updates, input, etc.
Name the ION stops contest (Spring)
To collect feedback in order to finalize the name of each ION stop

Funding agreement event with the federal government (Spring/Summer)
To highlight Canada¦s investment in ION
Stage 1 LRT contract signing (Spring)
Celebrate the signing of the Project Agreement with the team selected to
design, build, finance, operate and maintain Stage 1 LRT in Waterloo
Start of LRT construction (Summer)
Groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of ION LRT construction
 Stage 2 LRT consultation (Summer) (That’s the Cambridge LRT Cambridge Mayor Doug Craig says will never exist. Hmmm)
Public engagement begins on the route, stops and alignment for Stage 2
LRT (Cambridge to Kitchener), in advance of the Environmental
Start of ION aBRT construction (Summer)
Groundbreaking ceremony to mark the start of aBRT construction
ION aBRT service launch (Fall/early-2015)
To celebrate the start of aBRT service in Waterloo Region

Urban Agriculture in Vancouver

A hydroponic garden sits on the top of a parking garage. A farm covers a parking lot beside a raised highway. Urban Farming was one of the most interesting study tours at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities in Vancouver in June.

The tour started off with a local community garden beside a school. Most of the plots were cultivated by aboriginal students at the school. Having a plot in the Sunnydale community garden, I knew about this form of  urban farming. Most interesting was the comment from one of the councillors on the tour that her city’s community gardens have barbed wire on top of the fences. Hope we never go that far. Our chicken wire fences are to keep out bunnies, though not raccoons or squirrels as I have discovered.

Beside the garden sat a transport truck trailer. A similar trailer sat beside the urban farm we visited. I asked what they were, thinking they might hold supplies for the gardens and farms, though pretty big. Turns out the trailers are located throughout Vancouver and hold several days worth of emergency supplies for citizens in case of earthquake.

Solefood Urban Farm

Solefood Urban Farm on a parking lot in Vancouver

The urban farm on a parking lot is located near the Rogers Arena. The land is owned by a developer and could eventually become condos. The farm is portable, all the beds raised just above the asphalt of the parking lot. The farm workers are recovering drug addicts, the mentally ill or homeless. The produce is sold at farmers’ markets and restaurants. Solefood, the organization that runs the farm has several throughout Vancouver though this is the largest. They have also started a fruit orchard on contaminated land with the trees in containers.

Hydroponic farm

Hydroponic farm on top of a parking garage

The hydroponic farm on the top of a parking garage shows what happens when a city moves away from car dominance. The farm grows hydroponic greens for local markets and restaurants. The farm is not yet quite breaking even. No, it doesn’t grow any of B.C.s other hydroponic crop.

One of our group asked how they paid their rent as normally each car space in a car park is pretty profitable real estate. The owner said that in fact, parking garages in Vancouver are often half empty as people take transit and don’t use their car to get to work. It was true, as we walked back down, the car park was half empty.

Our bus driver said this is because parking is so expensive in Vancouver but a glance at the Metro parking website shows parking costing about a dollar an hour, less than Toronto or even Kitchener. Another article said the maximum for on street parking is 6 dollars an hour.  Toronto is around 5.50 an hour, but I have parked for less in lots.

The ease of biking is also blamed for the decline in car use. There are separate lanes for bicycles as my husband found out in Stanley Park when he was yelled at for standing in a cycling lane. We found a pedestrian walk beside the sea and quickly moved there.

There is also a 12 percent tax on the sale of used vehicles.  The ease of using the Skytrain and transit is listed as a cause of the decline in cars. Certainly we didn’t even use a taxi in Vancouver, using transit and walking to get to our destinations.

Here is an article about Vancouver’s decrease in car use.

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

Learning from the Success of the Vienna, Austria LRT Network by Guest Blogger Kevin Thomason

In a follow-up to my e-mail earlier this summer on the amazing Strasbourg, France LRT system I would like to share some recent experience with the Vienna, Austria LRT network. With 32 different LRT and Tram lines spanning this historic city and moving tens of thousands of people each day there is a lot that we can learn from the success of this world-class city.

Vienna’s public transit success has included not only fast, efficient LRT’s but also an extensive bicycling lane/trail network, easy connectivity to greenspace, and closing some streets to automobile traffic to create pedestrian malls, great public squares, and performance space that allows shoppes and cafes to thrive. Similar to Strasbourg some of their LRT lines run on a grass surface, many routes have incorporated tree lined rights of way, and most have distinct, creative station areas that are extremely welcoming and easy to navigate.

As our LRT progresses in its planning there are a number of details in the Vienna system that are worth learning from to ensure that we get things right too:

1) Buttons to Open Only the Required Doors – One of the first things a rider notices is that to keep the temperature inside the train comfortable (cool in summer, warm in winter) you have to push an orange button (with green LEDs) to open the door of the train to get on or off – thus every door on the train isn’t opening and closing at every stop and letting out all the cool air into the hot summer days when no one is getting on or off at that doorway. It is simple but brilliant as in other cities such as Istanbul the air conditioning could never keep up every time every LRT door opened and let in so much hot, summer air at each station even when no one was entering or exiting the train.

We need individual door control buttons to ensure that our LRT is always comfortable inside – particularly during our long, cold winters.

2) Ticketing System – the Vienna system operates on an honour ticket system much like our GO Transit Trains that is fast and efficient. There are no turnstiles or fences limiting access or creating bottlenecks on the train platforms. You simply purchase and/or stamp your ticket in a machine on the platform or even on the train. You can board at any door and enforcement officers check occasionally to ensure everyone has a valid ticket – issuing to fines to riders without a valid ticket, stamp or pass.

It is a simply system that avoids so much of the congestion and issues seen on other transit systems where everyone has to cue up at the driver’s door (like our current GRT buses), or a specific station gate to get into and onto the transit system.

We need to plan carefully and ensure that our Waterloo Region LRT has a simple, efficient, and easy to use ticketing system in order to ensure the highest possible ridership and to avoid the chaos of Athens and other LRT systems whose turnstiles and gates create considerable congestion and delays where even one person fumbling for correct change can hold up dozens of others.

3) Signage – With 32 LRT routes Vienna has had to ensure extremely clear signage, route maps and network information to ensure the high success of their transit system. Even more challenging has been for them to do it in a manner that is clear to the millions of non-German speaking tourists that visit the city every year. They have done an excellent job of the making the system easy to understand and navigate. We can learn a lot from their signage and communications.


LRT in Vienna, Photos by guest blogger Kevin Thomason.

Did you know that Vienna Austria has been rated in the top three of several surveys of the most liveable city in the world?

The Siemens LRT Trains used in Vienna

The Siemens LRT Trains used in Vienna


Vienna LRT

Like in so many other cities, Vienna’s LRT’s will often have grass along the track lines – here the LRT’s pass seamlessly through this grassy, garden median.

vienna button

The bright orange button with green light up LED’s that transit users must press to open and close the doors on demand – helping to keep the climate in the train comfortable – cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

vienna signs

Station signage that clearly identifies the next train, destination and how many minutes until its arrival.

vienna maps

City maps are posted at each station and throughout the LRT trains showing all 32 lines and the hundreds of LRT stations throughout Vienna


The orange ticket machines on each LRT train to buy your tickets easily and efficiently while you are enroute to your destination. Notice also the great rolling carts most people have for shopping and easily using the transit system.

vienna LRT

The machine to stamp and validate your ticket if you already have a ticket or pass.

vienna LRT

A brilliant stroller strap can help to secure a stroller while the train is in motion.

vienna LRT

Not only do they provide upholstered comfortable seats but even magazines and other reading material promoting the community and events around town.

vienna LRT

Flush, level tracks make it easy for cars, bicycles and LRT’s to all share the road despite the LRT having a dedicated right of way. It also helps to facilitate snow removal in the winter.

vienna LRT

Shady, tree-lined streets encourage pedestrians along with dedicated lanes for cycling and then LRT and traffic lanes to the right.

vienna cyclists

Cycling trails are clearly marked, giving bikes equal priority as cars and other traffic. Austria is a country with four seasons and a climate very similar to ours.

vienna square

Streets closed to traffic near LRT lines to create great pedestrian and shopping areas.

vienna LRT

Tree’s, sidewalks, traffic lanes and flush LRT tracks all combined together into a pleasant streetscape.

vienna LRT

Tracks that are flush with the street though clearly delineated allowing easy emergency vehicle access and snowplowing but with heavy fines for any motorist or cyclist caught in this area.



vienna station

LRT Trains can be joined together in extra long trains to provide impressive capacity and the ability to move huge numbers of people quickly and easily. Notice only the doors required are open at this station.

vienna door

Extra wide LRT doors and low curb level floors make it extremely easy to get on and off – even with your bicycle or roller cart for shopping.

vienna LRT

A typical station area – cycling lanes, shelters, low floor LRT platforms and then traffic lanes on the far right. Again note the orange button strips to open the doors only as needed