Tag Archives: Region 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.

http://www.grt.ca/en/aboutus/grtbusinessplan.asp

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 : Cycling and Walking, part 3 of my Fourth of Five Priorities

My Pledges: I will continue to advocate for more cycling and walking infrastructure. I will fight for better snow clearing.

Cycling

Some people think that cycling is only done by rich, middle-aged men in Spandex. In fact it is the primary transportation for many poor people who cannot afford a car and find that transit can be expensive.

When I first got on Regional Council in 2000, I became the representative on the new Regional Cycling Advisory Committee because no one else was interested. We worked on the first Cycling Master Plan, putting lines on maps where bike lanes should go. We asked for money to build a network and begged staff to include bike lanes in roads projects.

Since then, along with the new staff person who works on alternative transportation and the cyclists, I have quietly and sometimes not so quietly worked on improving cycling in Waterloo Region.

Bike racks on buses, bicycle racks by bus stops and boxes to store bicycles, bike lanes down University and many other roads, bike lanes now included in every Regional road work, route maps, bike routes on Google, the Waterloo Spur line, segregated bike lanes. It is time to point out that the councillor who championed all this at the Region is ME.

We still have a long way to go. Segregated bike lanes are just beginning. We still need to fill in the gaps on the cycling routes. Cyclists, pedestrians, and motorists need more education to work together. Snow clearing is also an issue for cyclists. Like in Scandinavia, more cyclists are riding in the winter. Bike lanes are not for dumping cleared snow.

I was so happy that the argument for segregated bike lanes for Manitou Dr. was about multi-use paths versus segregated lanes, not about whether cyclists should even be on roads.

Walking

It’s only been a few years since the Region took over the care and building of sidewalks on Regional roads from the cities. Like bike lanes, sidewalks are not on both sides of all regional roads. It is patchwork, though some are being installed with road upgrades. Snow clearing on the sidewalks and at bus stops continues to be a problem. It can be particularly difficult when a snow plow goes around a street corner and blocks off the way onto the street with a high hill of snow.

Walking across a roundabout is a problem, both for the able-bodied and the disabled. Where people nearby are disabled, the Region will, in the near future, put up a light away from the crossing right at the roundabout.

Constituents have asked why the crossings are so close to the roundabout. The answer is that pedestrians will not walk back a car length or two but will cross where it seems natural to cross.

Drivers are supposed to stop to let pedestrians cross at roundabouts. I would like to see all the small signs saying that traffic must stop for pedestrians made bigger, like those at Block Line road.

Walking is the basic form of locomotion for humans. Some use it for transportation and many use it for exercise. Why should people be stuck walking down a dirt path on the side of busy roads like Manitou?

Transportation LRT Part 1

Transportation Roads Part 2

Transportation, Transit, Part 4

 

 

Transportation: Roads, part 2 of the Fourth of My Five Priorities

My Pledge: I will work to get money added to Roads Rehabilitation

This past term, the Region of Waterloo built the first new bridge over the Grand River in 40 years. The new Fairway Bridge – I voted with Mayor Doug Craig to name it the Kossuth bridge, but what can you do? – links Cambridge and Kitchener and gives new routes to the 401 and Guelph. It is one of the areas of greenfield development, not everything is downtown intensification.

Three under/overpasses have been built this term, two in Kitchener and one at the Delta in Cambridge. The City of Waterloo has had a number of road upgrades and construction is all over the city.  Ira Needles is going to four lanes.

People are saying that the Region is seriously cutting road work to pay for the LRT. Here are the actual figures for spending on road construction from Regional staff.

In the 2014 Budget, the additional $1.3 million that would have been added to the Roads Rehabilitation Reserve per the long-term funding strategy was cut along with an additional $1 million reduction to the transfer to the Roads Rehabilitation Reserve for a total reduction in the transfer to the Roads Rehabilitation Reserve of $2.3m.

The Net Operating Levy for Planning, Admin and Construction in 2014 was $26.2 million; for Operations and Maintenance the 2014 Net Operating Levy was $20.5 million for a total Roads Net Operating Levy of $46.7 million.

On the Capital Budget side – The 2014 Capital Budget was $93.5 million ($915 million over the 10 year forecast 2014-2023). The $915 million breaks down into $409 million for Rehabilitation projects, $ 476 million for expansion projects and $30 million for Vehicles, Buildings, Equipment, and other.

That being said, I will vote to have money put into the Roads Reserve this year.

 Transportation, LRT part 1

Transportation,    Cycling and Walking part 3

Transportation, Transit, part 4

 

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

Smells, Peels, Poop and Pop Cans, Part 4 of Waste Management, My Second Priority for the next term of Regional Council

Pop Cans.

My Pledge: I will continue to monitor the costs of recyclables and work towards better solutions for waste management.

This post will be a little shorter. Perhaps I should make Waste Management my number one priority for the next term. So much to do in this file.

Recycling is a big success in Waterloo Region. People are great at putting out their pop cans, water bottles, newspaper, paper, tin cans, and brush for recycling. It is helping the landfill last longer and we reuse metals and paper.

The problem with recycling is the cyclical nature of remuneration for recyclables. Glass is no longer sent out to be recycled as the Region would have to pay to have it taken away. The market has tanked. However, please keep putting glass in your blue box,  the province requires it to be collected. The glass is crushed and used on roads in the landfill site. It isn’t put into the landfill.

The end of the recession means the market for recyclables is now improving again.

In case you might think that the Region never asks the public to engage or make suggestions, here is the results of a survey of residents about recycling.

Public Comments about Recycling

General information about recycling

Waste Management Part 1

Waste Management Part 2

Waste Management Part 3

Smells, Peels, Poop and Pop Cans. Part 3 of Waste Management, My Second Priority

Poop

My pledge: I will continue to oppose a biosolids drying plant at the Waterloo landfill. I will continue on the Waste Management Committee as we work towards future solutions for disposal of biosolids.

Or as Regional staff like to call it, Biosolids.

The Region of Waterloo is growing. People who live in Canada have freedom of movement. To try to stop someone from coming to live in this wonderful area would end up in court.

With a combined population of more than 553,000, Waterloo Region is one of the fastest-growing areas in Ontario and is expected to reach a total population of 729,000 by 2031. Region of Waterloo website.

All those people have natural functions that no one talks about in polite society. But not mentioning pee and poop doesn’t mean it does not exist.

That is why your water bill has gone up. To pay for upgrades to the wastewater and water treatment plants. This is required by the Provincial government and regulations are tight since people died a few years a go in the Walkerton tainted water scandal.  The people downstream in Brantford are very happy.

One of the by-products of the wastewater treatment plants is bio-solids. Bio-solids can be processed and used as a component in fertilizer on farmlands, as we use manure from animals. It is processed so all bacteria are destroyed. The Region wastewater treatment plants do not accept industrial waste that could contain heavy minerals.

Bio-solids are thickened into a slurry. This is what we do at present. You may have heard of the Lystek plant in Dundalk which accepts bio-solids from various municipalities and processes it to a slurry put on farm fields. The Region does not at present send bio-solids to Lystek although they would like us to, or allow them to process bio-solids in Waterloo Region. Presently Region bio-solids are put on farmlands.

Staff came forward last term with a proposal to build a plant either in Cambridge or at the Waterloo landfill to dry bio-solids to pellet form. These pellets can be used as fertilizer or burned in waste to energy plants. There were a number of public meetings.  Citizens did not want this plant near them, particularly in Waterloo where we already have the only landfill in the region. Staff backed off.

A report passed by council recommended:

Expand the investigation of biofuel opportunities in support of the Ontario Ministry of Energy report “Making Choices – Reviewing Ontario’s Long Term Energy Plan” (July 2013);
b. Update the 2011 Biosolids Master Plan with consideration of synergies with outcomes from Region’s Waste Management Master Plan and other Regional Policies including opportunities beyond the Regional boundary;
c. Take no further steps to pursue the P3 application for implementation of a Biosolids Heat Drying Facility including suspension of any site selection works pending the completion of the Biosolids Master Plan update as recommended in Report E-13-104 dated September 10,2013 and approval of a preferred option for management of the biosolids by Regional Council;
d. Inform P3 Canada and the public of the proposed update of the Biosolids Master Plan; and e. Develop a work plan and schedule for the completion of the Biosolids Master Plan update and report back to Council in early 2014. 

The report was put off until the next council. With a growing population, the present slurry, even the pellets can not stop an overflow of biosolids. There  is too much for farmers’ land. We must look at alternatives to waste disposal in the next term and beyond.

http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/aboutTheEnvironment/Biosolids.asp

Waste Management, Part 1

Waste Management, Part 2

Waste Management Part 4

 

Smells, Peels, Poop and Pop Cans, Part 2 about Waste Management, My Second Priority

Peels

My pledge: I will continue to listen to your concerns and work on ways to make your green bin better to use. I will find ways to make the green bin a better bet for your tax dollar.

“If the people of Waterloo had to rotate living throughout Waterloo, they would all use their green bins,” the lady at the door in Westvale said.

That recent smell from the landfill is from disturbed organics. The very organics that can go in your green bin. They also create the methane that needs to be burned off or used as fuel by Toromont, a company at the landfill.

compost container.

Councillor Jean Haalboom’s lovely compost container

If people use their green bins, the old leftovers, peelings and even dog poo and cat litter, will be sent to the Guelph composting plant to be turned into soil. Like the aged manure you can buy at the garden store to fertilize your plants, this soil will never smell again and it’s great for farmland and gardens. It’s not just a case of helping the landfill last longer, though that is good, you will also be helping your neighbour’s quality of life.

My family has reduced the “yuk” factor by using the new biodegradable plastic bags. They can be bought at Basics or Canadian Tire and other stores. They must have a certain symbol on them. On twitter and in discussion with constituents, ideas have ranged from freezing peelings until collection day to putting egg cartons on the bottom of the pail to prevent bags from sticking. Here is a fantastic page from the Region of Waterloo website that gives tons of information about using your green bin.

http://www.regionofwaterloo.ca/en/aboutTheEnvironment/Green_Bin_Organics.asp

 

There has been some criticism in the paper about the cost of the green bin contact. You should know that the green bin pilot was a great success. People were phoning up the region wondering when they would get their green bin. Then came the roll out and a lack of response. The current contract was the lowest cost option but only if people use their bin.

Next term, council must decide whether to have green bin and recycling every week with regular garbage every other week or bag tags or other ideas to increase use.

People have also suggested less pick up stops with several houses putting their garbage in one spot to save money. Lots to think about.

Waste Management Part 1

Waste Management Part 3

Waste Management Part 4