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Rapid Transit

Issue Paper

 

 

Tom Galloway on 

RAPID TRANSIT

 

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 are embarking on a Rapid Transit plan.  Already we see numerous developments along the Rapid Transit (LRT and aBRT) route and land is being snapped up quickly  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 for 2 reasons; the Cambridge segment needs further ridership development and the funding from the Province and Canada was not sufficient for a single phase. The second phase will proceed when ridership allows and funding is secured. However, an aBRT system (adapted bus rapid transit) is starting on the Cambridge segment in 2015.

 

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 will be 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 $350 million reduction in road construction that   otherwise would  need to be funded over the next 30 years,

– 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.

 

The Rapid Transit system has attracted over $550 million from Canada and the Province of the $818 million capital price tag.  A funding plan for the Region’s portion is in place and the average home property tax will require a total of $77 ongoing (7 years @$11) to fund the project including, construction, financing, operating and maintenance. We are already into year 3 of this plan so $33 of the $77 has already been built into the current budget and property taxes .  Be aware of information from other sources to the contrary.

 

Ridership on the current routes that will be replaced by the LRT are already very close to the ridership predictions required to fund the fare revenues estimated in the business plan when operations begin in 2017.

 

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.