Tag Archives: 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

Good News for Regional Transportation

  •  Grand River Transit annual ridership has already achieved the RTMP forecast for 2016, four years ahead of schedule, and is now 22 million;
  • Current ridership on iXpress and Route 7 between Conestoga Mall and Fairview Park Mall is 20,000 rides per day, which is approaching the 2017 target ridership of 25,000 on the ION light rail;
  •  Since 2006, cycling lanes have nearly doubled to almost 300 km;
  •  Since 2004, almost $250 million has been invested in expansion of the Regional road network;
  • Since 2009, the Province has invested about $150 million in Regional highways;
  • The Transportation Management Association has been promoted to more than 8% of the Region-wide workforce, and in one year 5% of TMA-participating employees surveyed have shifted from driving alone to more sustainable modes of travel;
  •  All Grand River Transit buses are now fully accessible; and
  • The EasyGo electronic traveller information system has increased to over 5 million uses annually, compared to less than 1 million in 2008.

Here’s where you can find the full report under the planning and works agenda for January 28:




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

Athens LRT: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly

Guest Blogger, Kevin Thomason discusses the Athens LRT

This time I would like to profile the Athens, Greece LRT system built for the 2004 Summer Olympics that has been problematic. There are several things that we can learn for our Waterloo Region LRT system from the challenges they have encountered – though there are also a few things that they have done well too.

Starting with the positive –

Grass and Greenspace – About 70% of the Athens LRT system runs on a wonderful grass surface. It creates a beautiful green belt through many parts of this otherwise dry, crowded, ancient stone and concrete city. Despite the dry climate and the intense heat, the grass grows well without much maintenance, and significantly dampens the sounds and vibrations of the LRT trains. Most stations (even those in the middle of narrow streets) have some trees and greenery integrated into them and a few stations are gorgeous with huge flowering shrubs, lush green grass, and significant trees all planted as part of the LRT project.

The Beach – the Athens LRT is unique as it is one of the few LRT’s one can ride from the downtown core and National Parliament right to the beach and seaside. In fact, there are 17 LRT stations right on the beach and waterfront making it quite common on nice days to have some of the passengers in business attire with briefcases and other passengers in bathing suits with beach umbrella’s and water toys. The Athens LRT can get alarmingly crowded on summer evenings when thousands of people are heading home from the beach at sunset. It is a very efficient way to move these large crowds of people (particularly when there is little available parking along the seashore).

However, moving on to some of the negative aspects of the Athens LRT:

Construction – we can learn in Waterloo Region from the construction of their system. I was lucky enough to be in Athens in July 2004, the week that their LRT system opened just hours before the start of the Olympic games. Needless to say that despite using some innovative ideas such as pre-fabricated sections of track to quickly cross highways and minimize construction interruptions, the work on the system was too rushed in the lead-up to the games, too many corners were cut, and the system has been functioning poorly and failing prematurely as a result.

A Very Rough Ride – The Athens LRT is by far the roughest riding LRT system I have ever been on. The eight years since the Olympics has not been kind to Greece nor their LRT infrastructure. This past summer the maximum speed the LRT trains could achieve was less than 60km/hr and any speed over 30km/hr saw the trains lurching, rattling and shaking quite disturbingly. I’m not sure if the problem is in the tracks, the suspension, or the truck carriages of the LRT trains but something is definitely wrong and everyone has to hang on tight as the Greek LRT’s bounce and toss everyone around despite going fairly slowly compared to other LRT systems that are truly rapid. We need to ensure that we have better engineering and a fast, high quality ride.

A Very Noisy Ride – Unlike the extremely silent LRT systems in Strasbourg, Istanbul, Vienna, etc. the Athens LRT is extremely noisy with loud track squeals on bends, lots of thumping and rumbling noise. Thank goodness for the grass track sections where it runs smoother and much quieter than on the very rough and noisy concrete and gravel sections.

Poorly Maintained – It was astounding for a system that is only 8 years old to see how battered, scratched, dented and beat up it has become. There is no way that they are going to get 20 or 30 years out of trains that are already falling apart. It was incredibly sad to see the contrast between the gleaming new system I rode in 2004 and the damaged system it has so quickly become. Twice in July LRT’s I was riding in broke down and the driver had to take panels in various parts of the train apart to reset electronic systems to get us going again.

Lines to Nowhere – While some portions of the Athens LRT system are quite heavily used with good passenger loads, other parts go to distant abandoned Olympic sites that are now empty wastelands of shuttered buildings. Some stations sit empty with no prospect of much ridership to those areas. Thankfully, the Athens LRT uses a stop request system where one has to push a red button that sounds a bell (similar to most Canadian urban buses) to request to stop at the next stop. This works extremely well as if no one requests a stop and there is no one on the LRT platform the LRT will not stop at that station and will continue on passing through empty stations until someone requests a stop.

This can make it quite fast to get through some of these seldom used parts of the Athens LRT network though it must make scheduling the LRT’s a challenge as it would be hard to predict how many times each train is going to stop on any particular route.

I have noticed on the Toronto Metrolinx Bombardier Flexity Freedom 2 mockup they now have (and we should borrow for special events) that it is equipped with stop request buttons so I would presume that if Toronto will be implementing a stop request system that is being considered here in Waterloo for our LRT too. It could be a good feature to not always have to stop at every station if nobody is there, nobody is getting off and nobody is boarding. We want our system to move people as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Pictures of the LRT in Strasbourg by Guest Blogger Kevin Thomason

Kevin’s observations can be read in the previous blog.

Bicycles are encouraged on the LRT and plentiful bike racks throughout the city
make it extremely easy to get around.


LRT’s, pedestrians, bicycles and cars mingle together in the core quite successfully.  Notice the clearly labelled public washrooms on the left.


The broad mix of transportation choices that have been so integral to Strasbourg’s success are shown here – the two lane paved bike road on the left, the LRTs in the centre, the road on the right and the sidewalk for pedestrians on the far right with lots of greenery between them all.


Some LRT medians are so green and tree-lined it is like creating a park the length of the city!  If they can do this in compact, space-challenged Europe amongst 600 year old buildings surely we can do this in vast, spacious Canada.


Another example in a Western suburb of a road on the left, a paved two lane cycling path, and then the LRT lines running on a natural grass surface.


The dedicated bike lanes and trails are well marked, segregated and signed too –
lit here even at night.


A sleek, modern ground level LRT in the central station in Strasbourg, France


One of the dozens of streets closed to cars and instead enjoyed by pedestrians, bicycles and cafes.  In the foreground this gate/post system still allows delivery and other vehicles in as needed.


An LRT coming into a suburban station.  Note the use of grass right up to the station and the people waiting for the train with bicycles, buggies, etc.


The LRT’s are still busy at night too.  The huge windows and flat floor on these models of LRT trains are wonderful.  Each train can hold up to 300 riders and is far more efficient than buses.


This parking lot has been moved underground and the area turned into a thriving square, plaza and fountain area in the core of the city.


Clear signage makes the system easy for everyone to use.



An electronic payment system makes it convenient and affordable.  A ride anywhere in the city costs about $1.80 Cdn, an all day unlimited pass costs about $5.00 Canadian.