LRT invests in the future of Waterloo Region

The June 10 decision by Waterloo Regional Council to implement light rail transit (LRT) represents progressive and forward-looking thinking that we should expect from our political leaders.

With an expected population rise to more than 700,000 by 2031, representing an increase of almost 10,000 annually, planning for increased congestion is necessary for building proper urban growth. From an urban planning perspective, LRT will concentrate development in the city cores, a step in the right direction of avoiding urban sprawl and unintelligent growth.

LRT is not a solution for immediate transit issues. Traveling at a speed of 30 km/h, LRT will run up to only five minutes faster than existing Grand River Transit iXpress buses. If LRT was available today as a transit option, it would be questionable whether it would be the most optimal current solution.

Yet, this is a decision for the future. It’s about exercising the kind of strategic foresight that is so often lacking from politicians weary of making a decision that might frighten an electorate content with the status quo.

Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran’s decision to oppose LRT is regrettable.

Among her constituents are almost 40,000 students who rely on public transit and will be dealing with transit issues in the Region for decades to come should they decide to settle here. She took the politically-safe position, favouring a referendum instead to pass the buck along to the voters instead of dealing with the burden of governing herself.

Those citizens who are weary of the cost have valid concerns but must look not to their own wallets but to the future. The question was not whether the Region would need to act to implement a transit solution but when.

The council’s almost unanimous vote to pass LRT is to be commended as an investment in a future vision of Waterloo Region.

–The Cord Editorial Board