Light rail transit plan for KW shows promise

The Region of Waterloo recently received funding in part by Federal and Provincial governments in order to move ahead with its Light Rail Transit (LRT) plan. Many of Canada’s largest cities have LRT in place, including both Edmonton and Toronto.

The region is growing at a rate that would foresee growth targets for the next 25 years being hit in the next five to seven years and LRT hopes to accommodate that growth by allowing both students and permanent residents easy access to the main transit corridor and reducing the need to use a car as primary means of transportation.

Introducing Light Rail Transit to Waterloo Region comes at a price – almost $800 million. However, as our economy continues to sputter, people will desire more affordable means of transportation and LRT certainly does offer that.

It is still not known what the true cost of the LRT will be to the city and the taxpayers. Not only does everything always cost more than the contractors say it will, but the maintenance costs, the training and wages of employees are all financial worries that could be an issue if the city does not receive the growth it desires.

The money going into LRT would be wasted if the returns do not sustain the entire project. Of course, the likelihood of the region becoming stagnant is quite slim, as both universities took in more students and in general people are moving to the area.

There’s also the possibility that maybe Waterloo region isn’t ready for such a change. Ideally, Light Rail Transit would be introduced to reduce car traffic and the gridlock already occurring on King Street during the rush hours, therefore decreasing carbon emissions as well as creating an uptown Waterloo that wouldn’t require the use of a vehicle to live in.

A lot of European cities have uptown areas dedicated only to pedestrians and light rail – no cars. Due to the very obvious fact that our cities are continuously growing at a very high rate, the light rail trains are an excellent solution to taking cars off the road.

When Kitchener-Waterloo built the Conestoga Parkway back in the late 1960s, the internal transit corridor’s businesses and employees finally had a chance to connect. Travel was made easier for those wanting to get to work and mobility was increased. The LRT plan includes stops at both shopping centres as well as at the Kitchener Market and Uptown Waterloo area and would be a great way to get across town quickly and efficiently.

The added pedestrian traffic coming off of these trains could be a well-needed boost to the Waterloo region’s economy and would inspire the city to create pedestrian-friendly parts of the city.

Reducing the need for reliance on a car in Waterloo region seems to be an excellent reason to support LRT, because when that need is reduced the opportunity arises to use the spare lane for cyclists, planting more trees or maybe just giving people more room to walk around and enjoy our beautiful city.