Delegation to Regional Council In Favour of LRT

I love living in Waterloo Region.

I love living in the City of Waterloo.

One of the things I love is that I can start walking from my house in Lakeshore–a 40-year-old suburb–and find myself in cow pastures in about 20 minutes.

I worry that if our current growth patterns and planning continue, we will lose that agricultural heritage. What we get in exchange are more car-dependent neighbourhoods, more traffic, more infrastructure that will need to be maintained and need to be replaced in the future.

I don’t want the Region of Waterloo to become another Mississauga.

Something needs to change, and I applaud regional council for moving forwards with an initiative to make that change.

Waterloo region is growing fast. In order to accommodate that growth, we need to intensify. The people who will move to those intensified neighbourhoods in our cores will not want to own a car. Because if they do–if they all do–they’ll see nothing but gridlock. It won’t work. We need rapid transit. And we need rapid transit on a dedicated right of way so that it is not held up by traffic.

Should we choose buses or trains? About 15 years ago, I lived in Ottawa and rode on what was at the time an excellent bus rapid transit system. Just a few decades after it was built, however, Ottawa is replacing its BRT system with light rail, at great expense to avoid disrupting existing ridership.

But what I find particularly telling is that there’s no discernible intensification around Ottawa’s Transitway stops since I lived there 15 years ago. BRT doesn’t meet our goals for intensification. People don’t want to live near buses. People don’t want to build near buses.

People do want to live next to rail. Developers want to build next to rail. In cities with rail transit, people organize their lives around rails.

In 2009, regional council chose light rail by an overwhelming majority. The provincial government, however, failed to come through with their promised share of the capital cost. So here we are.

As much as I favour light rail, I would prefer not to have to raise property tax rates significantly, nor do I believe we should slow implementation of the excellent Regional Transportation Master Plan. That’s why I favour Option 1A, with its shortened LRT route to Ottawa St. A shortened route still encourages growth in our cores.

I also believe we should aggressively pursue development charges and tax increment financing to fund LRT, as Rob Ford proposes for his subway project in Toronto. But if that’s not possible, I do believe we need to bite the bullet and build light rail.

If you vote against the LRT proposal I would expect to hear how your proposed alternative encourages intensification and can help to halt sprawl.

When asked if she had any regrets over her long career as mayor of Mississauga, Hazel McCallion said* her one regret was not investing in transit and using it to shape development of her city. I urge you not to repeat the mistakes of the past and the mistakes of other cities. I urge you to invest in a fast, convenient and attractive rapid transit system. I urge you to hold the line against urban sprawl and protect our natural landscape. I urge you to invest in LRT.

Thank you.

* And I’m paraphrasing here, since i didn’t have internets in the meeting when I wrote this

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