By BRENDAN DALEY
Tri-city residents have bought the ticket, but will they take the ride?
Years of research and discussion had finally appeared to pay off after a June vote passed in favour of the implementation of Light Rail Transit in Waterloo Region. However, although the project has been given the thumbs up, many are still giving the idea two thumbs down.
Cambridge councillor Ben Tucci wasn’t pleased when he heard that Cambridge would be receiving a bus service instead of the LRT that both Kitchener and Waterloo will be given. According to Tucci, Cambridge is at a competitive disadvantage without LRT and will have to increase its taxes to compensate. Additionally, forecasts predict that the cost to bring LRT to Cambridge will double in the future making it nearly impossible to find investors.
Instead, Tucci suggests that the region scraps its current LRT plans and focuses on those who commute to and from our region to areas such as Toronto.
“We need to focus on moving people in and outside the Region. Bring the GO Transit service to Cambridge and improve the service to Kitchener and Waterloo. Now you’re connecting the region with all of southwestern Ontario. Ten years from now, if you don’t do something, we are going to have such traffic gridlock that the region is going to be forced to put up tollbooths as a disincentive to drive.”
However, according to LRT supporters such as TriTAG or the Tri-cities Transport Action Group, “LRT is infrastructure which we need to serve our growing transportation demands and to guide the future development of Waterloo Region.” According to the TriTAG website, our region is projected to grow by over 200,000 residents by 2031. Therefore, we require better transportation service within the region – one that has the ability to guide future development and increase urban intensification.
For close to a decade Waterloo Region has been discussing ways to improve upon our public transit system.
Many possibilities, including traditional forms of transportation such as subways and monorails, were to be considered. However, in 2009, Light Rail Transit was decided upon as the new means of transportation.
To the dismay of LRT supporters, the two-thirds of cost that the provincial government originally agreed to pay was lessened to $300 million during the summer of 2010. As a result, the region was left with approximately $200 million in outstanding costs.
The $790-million project will be completed in stages, linking Fairview Mall to Conestoga Mall and passing through Uptown Waterloo and downtown Kitchener along the way.
In addition, Adapted Bus Rapid Transit would initially connect the Ainslie Sreet bus terminal in downtown Cambridge to Fairview Mall.