The Region of Waterloo’s award-winning Regional Growth Management Strategy is a strategy that responds to the Ontario Places to Grow Act that clearly required the Region of Waterloo to plan for 250,000 new residents in the next 25 years. We are on target to achieve that growth by 2031.
In order to accommodate this growth required by the Province, we looked at how we wanted our community to grow. The Strategy concluded 50% of new residential units in new areas and 50% in existing neighbourhoods. The new area growth (greenfield growth) will be market driven as it has for many years now; no stimulus was needed to support this growth. However, intensification of existing neighbourhoods is not as simple. Other municipalities beset with this dilemma have used Rapid Transit to spur this type of growth. That is why we embarked on a Rapid Transit plan. Already we see numerous developments along the Rapid Transit (LRT and aBRT) route and much land has been assembled for more. Developers know there is a big market for accommodations along a Rapid Transit route.
LRT is being used rather than buses because developers making major investments need to have certainty that the routes won’t change; rubber tire bus routes can easily be changed whereas LRT is not likely to change due to tracks being laid down. Experts suggest you get 40% more development with LRT rather than buses for this reason. The LRT system is being built in stages. The second phase to Cambridge will proceed when ridership allows and funding is secured. In the meantime, aBRT system (adapted bus rapid transit) has started on the Cambridge segment.
To date over $3 billion in investment along the route has been started or announced. Where previously 65% of new residential units were on farmland, now 65% is along the route or intensification.
In addition to spurring this intensified growth on municipal services and roads already existing, the Rapid Transit system will provide for convenient and efficient transportation for thousands of citizens. Conventional transit routes are being transitioned to hook up with the Transit Corridor providing better transit services for users in the suburbs.
But in any event, everyone will benefit from the new system, whether a user or not
-by virtue of an estimated $500 million reduction in future road construction that otherwise would need to be funded over the next 30 years, through property taxes.
– by favourable impacts to limiting sprawl on the Environment
– by reducing road congestion already a problem
– and by increasing property tax assessment along the route without requiring full new municipal servicing.
Ridership on the current routes that will be replaced by the LRT is already very close to the ridership predictions required to fund the fare revenues estimated in the business plan when operations begin later this year.
Major infrastructure projects such as Rapid Transit are always controversial. The Conestoga Expressway was severely criticized by many when it was proposed. However, these strategic investments by their nature are long-term and their value is only realized in time. Responsible leadership supports long-term planning and investment.
The Region has been responsible for Conventional transit including MobilityPlus since the year 2000. In the past 18 years, service levels and ridership have been increased dramatically. Increased conventional transit use is a major element in the Regional Transportation Master Plan. Significant new dollars have been and are planned to be invested through the special 7-year levy now almost completed. A number of new iExpress routes have been introduced and are planned to attract new passengers including choice passengers and improve modal share. With the advent of Rapid Transit, a major transition taking place to coordinate effectively and efficiently the two systems that will operate together seamlessly on a one ticket basis.
- Continue the implementation of the Regional Transportation Master Plan as it relates to Conventional Transit
- We must continually improve the transit experience by on-time performance, through enhanced electronic apps or internet interfaces, by increasing frequencies where warranted
- Review eligibility requirements for MobilityPlus to ensure needs are met but at the same time making sure regular transit is as accommodating as it can be