Transit rules discussion at UW Mayoral debate

Photo by Will Huang

Photo by Will Huang

The key issue occupying the most time and interest in the debate for mayoral candidates at the University of Waterloo on Monday was transit. The candidates mulled over all transportation topics the city features, including the expansion of bike lanes, public trails, Grand River Transit and the light rail transit ION project.

The debate itself was the second of two student-centric debates which took place at UW, and was the final chance for students to hear Waterloo’s mayoral candidates argue why students should vote for them. The debate largely focused on student issues, such as transit, employment and affordable housing.

One topic that really caused lively, spirited debate was the future of the ION system, which has been passed by the regional council, and is set to be built and operational by 2017. Candidate Dave MacDonald was the lone member of the debate who opposed the ION project, with the other three largely endorsing the project as necessary for the city to move into the future.

“First of all, I’m very much in favour of better transit, but every study done before the LRT said that bus rapid transit was a better option,” said MacDonald.

Candidate Rami Said, a supporter of the LRT, also agreed with MacDonald that GRT should expand its bussing system. However, Said supports the expansion in bussing as a way to support ION, not to replace it.

“The candidates largely debated over whether or not the ION project was cost-efficient and would actually improve transit in the region. MacDonald asserted that rather than building the ION, expanding the GRT bus system might be a better use of resources for the city and the region.

“I’m all for public transit, but we can put in rapid busses for less than half of the cost of LRT,” said MacDonald.

Jaworsky came out in support for the ION project, mentioning that there are stark differences between GRT’s bus system and the ION project in terms of rider convenience and comfort.

“The comfort and reliability of the LRT versus the bus system is undeniable,” said Jaworsky.

Candidate Erika Traub asserted that the ION project would be the focal point of the city in the future.

“The LRT is the start of our plan for the future – it is the backbone. The key is to have it connected to the rest of our community. Our challenge ahead is connectivity,” she said.

The debate on the ION LRT project closed with candidates again declaring their respective positions. However, the energy of the debate period did not stop with its closure, with some candidates accusing opposition to the ION project as opposition to modernization.

“If you want a 20th century mayor with 20th century solutions, don’t vote for me,” said Traub. “If you want the city of the future, 21st century solutions, catching up to the rest of the world with new solutions, vote for me.”

The candidates, near the end of the debate, also mentioned that student involvement in municipal politics was key for the development of the city and the region. All candidates encouraged students to get to polling stations on Oct. 27, and vote.

“Get engaged, take an interest in it,” said Jaworsky.

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