Questions raised regarding LRT

Photo by Paige Bush

Photo by Paige Bush

Questions have been raised by the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union regarding the accessibility of Grand River Transit’s planned Waterloo Park-Laurier light rail transit stop.

The LRT is part of a project initially proposed in 2003 as a solution to the Waterloo Region’s inability to handle the growing amount of motor vehicle traffic.

The proposed project, ION, is set to connect the three major cities which comprise the Region, with the LRT to connect Conestoga Mall in Waterloo with the Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener, followed by a bus rapid transit route connecting the Fairview Park Mall with Cambridge’s Ainslie Street Terminal.

The LRT track is scheduled to serve the Laurier community through its Waterloo Park-Laurier stop on Seagram Drive.

“It’s only about 500 metres from campus, but that is like the edge of campus that we’re talking about, so right where the Library sits,” said Matt McLean, assistant vice-president of university affairs.

“Not a central sub and not a destination for students coming on or off that stop either. Students are going to be heading to the stop, or heading home from the stop, and in some cases if a student lived up near Columbia [Street] and King [Street], that’s about a two kilometre walk from their nearest LRT stop on Seagram Drive.”

Kimberly Moser, manager of community relations for ION rapid transit, said in an email that, “the location of all of the ION stops were determined years ago, including engagement with the community and stakeholders along the corridor (this includes both universities in the town).”

This statement, however, does not align with statements made by the Students’ Union.

McLean said that there was a lack of consultation with Laurier.

“Waterloo was thoroughly consulted because the track runs right through their campus. Laurier was not consulted as heavily with regards to that process.”

As a result of the location of the stop, the Students’ Union has been heavily involved with advocacy work through the Region in an attempt to increase accessibility to the stop for Laurier students.

As well as being a large part of the Students’ Union’s local advocacy week in January, representatives have spoken with the mayors of both Kitchener and Waterloo, the Waterloo regional chair, two regional councillors and the GRT itself.

The main solutions proposed by the Student’s Union have been for improvements to the walkways and lighting along Seagram, as well as for the possibility of a bus or shuttle to serve students between the university and the LRT stop.

Though the mayor of Waterloo, Dave Jaworsky, has expressed support for improvements to Seagram, there are not yet any definitive plans to implement either solution.

“[The LRT is] definitely becoming more and more prevalent as the construction gets more and more aggressive. Our students are wondering what’s going on and how this is going to benefit them,” said McLean.

“Of course students are going to put up with the construction, but we just want to make sure that the end product is something they can use.”

2 Comments

  1. The issue of stop placement near the Universities has long been discussed. Consider this post from TriTAG four years ago:
    http://www.tritag.ca/blog/2012/03/21/university-area-lrt-station-spacing/

    Ultimately, Seagram was created *because* of consultation with Laurier at the time, as a way to create a station that was as close as geographically possible to campus. A station on University Avenue, though technically further from campus, would have allowed transfers to frequent bus service, making Laurier much more accessible from LRT.

    It’s a shame that people like McLean were not at the table when these decisions were made all those years ago.

  2. The Cord’s map appears to have – ironically – used driving directions. I doubt students at Laurier wouldn’t realize that they can walk through the campus to get to the ION stop, cutting down 25% of the distance on their map.

    And as Mark Jackson-Brown pointed out, this has been years in the making with dozens of consultations. I believe the original plan didn’t even have the stop where it is, but at the railway crossing at University, which would have been a lot better for connections with cross-corridor buses, eliminating the desire for a new shuttle service. But, through consultations with Laurier students and staff, it was decided to move the stop to Seagram. If Laurier managed to get two stops moved (something no other group I’m aware of has managed to do), I don’t see how McLean can claim that Laurier was neglected in those consultations.

    Ultimately, raising a flag about station placement, on a project that has been a decade in the making, halfway through the construction process doesn’t come across as acting in good-faith. I imagine Ms. Moser has suffered a severe facepalm as a result.

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