WCI Poll: Taking a Closer Look at the Tracks

Lately, driving in the Kitchener-Waterloo feels like a constant traffic jam. With construction covering the region, many feel as though detours are now a part of their daily routine. The greatest cause of these obstructions is the construction of the new Light Rail Transit system (LRT), which has been a lengthy project.

The LRT system is a recent form of public transportation that strives to make traveling short distances faster and easier. There are three LRT systems in cities across Canada to date, and others are either being planned, or are under construction.

Even before construction began for the LRT system in Kitchener-Waterloo, there was much controversy. According to an article by CBC from 2013, the decision was thoroughly debated and then debated again, leaving many who disagree and agree with the final outcome. Some believe the LRT system will have tremendous value, while others believe it to be a waste of money.

With differing opinions on the matter, we have decided to show two sides of the LRT controversy from our perspective. Below are a few questions we asked each other about this ongoing issue.

Do you believe that the LRT system will pose difficulties with normal traffic in KW? Why or why not?

Mark – Right now, navigation around Waterloo is terrible. LRT construction has caused road closures throughout the region, which causes major delays on one’s everyday commute. Current construction has also made a large impact on local businesses. Once the construction of the tracks are complete and the trains are in service I think there will be an adjustment. It will take a while to get used to the new system; however, once the transition is complete, I believe the everyday traffic and the LRT can work in unison.

Mel – The construction is definitely an issue for many people in the region, especially due to the prolonged timelines in certain parts of the city. The construction has taken much longer than anticipated, but building the tracks is a lengthy process. In the future, once the construction is over, I think the LRT system will be able to run smoothly alongside traffic. In fact, there are already three systems in Canada that demonstrate how the two modes of transportation can co-exist without difficulty.

Will the LRT system really be more convenient than the Grand River Transit (GRT) system that is currently in place?

Mark – The trouble with the LRT stops is that they will be in a very straight line. Fewer stops along the way may make the train ride shorter; however, this still may not compensate for the time spent getting to the station. Going virtually straight down King Street for the most part, it may be a pain to use if you do not live within a reasonable distance of the downtown core. You can see a map of the track plans on the ION Site.

Mel – Absolutely. The LRT system will have fewer stops and move more quickly than the GRT system, which will make it much more effective and convenient. Since the system will have its own tracks it will not have as many issues with traffic and will be able to operate smoothly.

Do you believe that the transit system will pay off once it is finished?

Mark – I believe it will be a good thing, just not for a long time. Although the population of Waterloo is growing, I don’t think it is growing fast enough for the LRT to be useful for a while. I believe it will not be used by the amount of people it is hoping to for a long time. However, when the time is right I definitely think it could be used to its full potential.

Mel – I do believe that the transit system will pay off once it is finished. The region’s population is continually growing and according to The Region of Waterloo, there will be 200,000 new residents in the community over the next 20 years. Of course, the new system will require adjustments, but with the expected increase in population, the LRT will most definitely be worth it.

Whether you believe the change will be beneficial or not, there is no arguing that it will be a big change. Change can be hard sometimes, but the truth is, the LRT system will only ever be as successful as residents make it. You can put the transportation in place for these residents, but that does not guarantee it will be utilized. We can speculate about how useful the system will be, but until it is in service, it will all remain a question.