Still no an­swers for stranded res­i­dents

LRT fences cut off vi­tal short­cut to em­ploy­ment, shop­ping

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - Cather­ine Thomp­son, Record staff cthomp­son@there­cord.com, Twit­ter: @Thomp­sonRecord

KITCH­ENER — More than three years af­ter res­i­dents in the Traynor-Vanier neigh­bour­hood learned the LRT would cut them off from nearby stores and ser­vices, the low-in­come neigh­bour­hood is still plead­ing for a so­lu­tion from Water­loo re­gional coun­cil.

“In some neigh­bour­hoods, walk­a­bil­ity is a hobby, a lux­ury. In this neigh­bour­hood, walk­a­bil­ity is sur­vival, and now peo­ple are suf­fer­ing,” res­i­dent Sam Kam­minga told re­gional coun­cil­lors this week.

The neigh­bour­hood in­cludes se­niors, peo­ple with mo­bil­ity is­sues, stu­dents and refugee fam­i­lies from Syria, Nepal, Congo, and else­where, most of whom don’t own cars and get around on foot or by bus.

The five-foot fences that line the tracks have turned what used to be a five- or 10minute walk to stores, ser­vices and jobs on Fair­way Road into a half-hour walk or a trip on two dif­fer­ent buses.

Ac­cess to Fair­way is vi­tal for res­i­dents to be able to get to the gro­cery stores, phar­macy, banks and other ser­vices there, and for kids who go to McDon­alds or Tim Hor­tons to ac­cess Wi-Fi to do home­work, Kam­minga said.

“It’s cre­ated a big prob­lem for our neigh­bour­hood.”

Hun­dreds of peo­ple used to walk on about a dozen in­for­mal paths between the neigh­bour­hood to the com­mer­cial strip on Fair­way.

Some peo­ple are still cross­ing, and will likely to do so af­ter the trains start run­ning, Kam­minga said, show­ing coun­cil a photo of pal­lets propped against the fence that peo­ple use to clam­ber over it.

“The re­al­ity is the res­i­dents find ways to make trans­porta­tion work. They’re not safe. They’re less safe than they were be­fore, and noth­ing that we will say or do with stop that, short of ac­tu­ally find­ing a so­lu­tion,” Kitch­ener Mayor Berry Vr­banovic said. “I think it’s in­cum­bent on us to work with the res­i­dents group to help find such a so­lu­tion … We can’t un­der­es­ti­mate the need in this com­mu­nity.”

Sev­eral coun­cil­lors wor­ried that a level cross­ing might be dan­ger­ous, since trains will be go­ing by ev­ery four min­utes on a high-speed sec­tion of the LRT. “I think a pedes­trian cross­over cer­tainly has merit,” said Coun. Ge­off Lorentz, who sug­gested the re­gion has been slow to re­spond to res­i­dent con­cerns.

“It’s a shame to say it, but it re­ally is an af­ter­thought,” Lorentz said. “It was brought to our at­ten­tion a cou­ple of years ago and it seems like we haven’t re­ally got very far on it.”

A study by the City of Kitch­ener is al­most com­plete and the pre­ferred op­tion is a level cross­ing, said Thomas Sch­midt, the re­gion’s trans­porta­tion com­mis­sioner. Hur­dles in­clude the need to put in safety gates, and to get an ease­ment, since the prop­er­ties on Fair­way are pri­vately owned.

Sch­midt es­ti­mated the cost for the cross­ing could be $1.5 mil­lion, adding there’s no fund­ing in the re­gion’s bud­get for such a cross­ing. How­ever, the project would meet the cri­te­ria for fed­eral in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing avail­able next spring, he said.

There might be a way to work with busi­nesses to pro­vide a shut­tle ser­vice from the neigh­bour­hood, sug­gested Coun. Sean Strick­land.

Kam­minga said he had mixed feel­ings af­ter the meet­ing. He felt that many coun­cil­lors heard res­i­dents’ con­cerns, but he was frus­trated that it seems to be tak­ing so long for a so­lu­tion.

Since a pub­lic meet­ing in Jan­uary, res­i­dents have had no com­mu­ni­ca­tion from ei­ther the city or the re­gion about the is­sue, and weren’t no­ti­fied be­fore a sec­ond fence went up last week. He won­ders if the is­sue would have got prompter at­ten­tion if it had oc­curred in an area where peo­ple were well ed­u­cated and more com­fort­able in speak­ing out.

“The peo­ple who live in this neigh­bour­hood, they feel they don’t have a voice to speak out,” Kam­minga said. “They don’t have in­flu­ence.”

PETER LEE, RECORD STAFF

Fences line the LRT tracks be­hind Traynor Av­enue in Kitch­ener, mak­ing it dif­fi­cult for res­i­dents to get to Fair­way Road.

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