Transit improvements slated for Waterloo

On June 28, the province announced that it would be contributing $300 million towards the foundation of rapid transit in the Region of Waterloo. This initiative will include light rail transit (LRT) in Kitchener and Waterloo as well as a bus rapid transit (BRT) system stretching to Cambridge.

“It means first of all, it will help us put in place our intensification plans to try and stop rural sprawl,” said regional chair Ken Seiling, further discussing the environmental benefits.

The provincial government’s contribution, however, fails to meet the estimated $790 million cost of the project.

“There is quite a significant shortfall,” stated Brenda Halloran, mayor of the city of Waterloo, whose transit plan incorporates the regional initiative.

“We still have another hurdle to get through and that’s the federal government to see what their cash contribution will be because … we need it make this a go as well,” explained Seiling.

Once funding is announced, construction can begin as early as 2012 to install the LRT system that will have a stop at the University of Waterloo, between Columbia and University avenues, and near Wilfrid Laurier University, at Seagram Drive.

Nancy Button, project director for the region’s rapid transit, further explained that bus lanes and controlled traffic signals would also be implemented for the BRT system to improve traffic in areas outside the LRT route.

For the city of Waterloo specifically, the initiative will provide benefits to the high tech and business industries as well as the universities.

Halloran reiterated those benefits, stating, “For us we look at the opportunity to attract people who might be living in Toronto, Milton, other areas, that they would commute in to Waterloo, because we have so many jobs outstanding in the high tech sector.”

The high concentration of workers and residents in the areas surrounding the Research and Technology Park and the universities requires alternatives to driving to provide efficient transportation.

“You want to make sure you’re able to get around the city because most students don’t have another method of getting around,” said Saad Aslam, vice-president of university affairs for the Wilfrid Laurier University Students’ Union.

LRT through Kitchener-Waterloo will be operational by approximately 2015 according to Button, if the remainder of funding is received in the near future.

Looking forward to the results of the project, Halloran expressed, “I think it’s going to be very positive for this city and our future growth.”