QUICK LINKS: GO Network Status | GO Arrivals/Departures | VIA Rail Arrivals/Departures | TTC Trip Planner (Unofficial)

No desire for this Waterloo streetcar

By shost at 11:15 am on Thursday, August 12, 2010

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/editorials/no-desire-for-this-waterloo-streetcar/article1656693/

“commendable in general, there’s little to recommend this plan in particular. Light rail transit makes great sense for large urban centres with dense commuter traffic travelling to a downtown employment core or other significant destination. This is not the case in Waterloo Region, which lacks a recognizable downtown and has a population of just 500,000. As it stands now, the train would run from a shopping mall in Waterloo to a shopping mall in Kitchener. Most area jobs are distributed throughout the suburbs, and few commuters use existing bus services. Building a train track will not change this reality.”

Oh really? Edmonton, Population 730,000, has light rail. Calgary, population, 1,000,000 has light rail. These systems were built 25 years ago when the cities were much smaller. Can you fault Waterloo region for thinking ahead? Places to Grow requires urban intensification and Light Rail will enable this to occur. Again, think of this as an investment in the future.

From Monday’s Globe and Mail

Waterloo Region in southwestern Ontario is widely known for its vibrant high-tech sector, universities and think tanks. The Queen took a day trip to the area for a tour of Research in Motion, manufacturer of the BlackBerry, during her Canadian visit. Stephen Hawking was recently in residence at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics.

This week it was Michael Ignatieff’s turn to drop by. In an effort to court local favour, the federal Liberal Leader threw his support behind the region’s $800-million light rail transit commuter proposal. “I am a passionate believer in light rail,” he said, promising to “make this happen.” For an area with such a reputation for intelligence and education, however, the region’s train plan is a surprisingly poor idea. And an issue of national significance.

While Mr. Ignatieff’s passion may be commendable in general, there’s little to recommend this plan in particular. Light rail transit makes great sense for large urban centres with dense commuter traffic travelling to a downtown employment core or other significant destination. This is not the case in Waterloo Region, which lacks a recognizable downtown and has a population of just 500,000. As it stands now, the train would run from a shopping mall in Waterloo to a shopping mall in Kitchener. Most area jobs are distributed throughout the suburbs, and few commuters use existing bus services. Building a train track will not change this reality.

Waterloo Region’s light rail transit proposal may not make any practical sense; however, it holds considerable attraction for municipal politicians. And while the area’s four MPs are all Conservative, some won by rather slim margins in the last election. Hence Mr. Ignatieff’s enthusiasm for local trains.

The regional government’s plan requires that capital costs be shared fully between the province and Ottawa. Both have spoken in favour of the project, but Ontario recently offered just $300-million, due to budgetary concerns. This suggests the project will only survive with massive support from Ottawa. An announcement is expected shortly.

Given equivalent fiscal constraints at the federal level, the inappropriateness of Waterloo Region’s $800-million rail project assumes national importance. That money would be better applied to other, more pressing transportation needs”

Like what? Another 100 KM double lane divided highway into Northern Ontario (Think Highway 400 to Sudbury, Highway 11 through to North Bay which is presently being twinned through canadian shield at an estimated cost of $1b, annually)

Light Rail is cheap by comparison, on a per person basis.

- Steve

Filed under: Uncategorized2 Comments »

2 Comments

1
Get your own gravatar for comments by visiting gravatar.com

Comment by Denis Agar

August 16, 2010 @ 12:05 am

This editorial is appalling! I’ve lost quite a bit of faith in the Globe and Mail – it’s obvious that their editorial board doesn’t “get it”. Not only does Waterloo Region have a downtown, it has four (five if you count Hespeler)! And the beauty of it is that they’re all more or less in a straight line! Rarely is a city or region blessed with so many massive trip generators laid out in a straight line – from Conestoga to UW to Fairview and eventually Galt; Waterloo was made for light rail.

2
Get your own gravatar for comments by visiting gravatar.com

Comment by shost

August 17, 2010 @ 10:33 am

Denis, what people dont’ realize is it was the former “rail transit” options of Waterloo Region that shaped it in the way it is today. This being both the Grand River Railways and Kitchener-Waterloo Streetcar system. Basically, the current system almost aligns with the former route of the GRR and will duplicate it in parts should it come to fruition.

RSS feed for comments on this post.

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.