Think tran­sit when you vote Oct. 22

Waterloo Region Record - - Editorials & Comment -

As Water­loo Re­gion gets big­ger by the day so, too, does the nag­ging prob­lem of how to get around in it.

With a pop­u­la­tion set to top 600,000 by year’s end — dou­ble what it was 40 years ago — there are more peo­ple than ever try­ing to squeeze through the same lim­ited space — and of­ten at the same time.

Nav­i­gat­ing more densely set­tled ur­ban cores, try­ing to move at all on jam-packed rush-hour streets and high­ways, find­ing a way to a far-flung sub­di­vi­sion if you don’t own a car or make the trip by bi­cy­cle are ma­jor chal­lenges to­day. But they’ll only be­come more press­ing in the com­ing years, par­tic­u­larly the 2030s when our pop­u­la­tion is pre­dicted to hit 750,000.

How we col­lec­tively meet these chal­lenges will de­ter­mine the fu­ture qual­ity of life in this com­mu­nity.

That’s why, re­gard­less of how they travel to the mu­nic­i­pal elec­tion polling sta­tions on Oct. 22, Water­loo Re­gion’s vot­ers should think tran­sit and trans­porta­tion when they mark their bal­lots.

To be sure, the $900-mil­lion light rail train sys­tem that will soon start run­ning in Kitch­ener and Water­loo will be a game-changer. It’s al­ready drawn bil­lions of dol­lars in in­vest­ments in new de­vel­op­ments around the light rail cor­ri­dor be­fore the first Ion has even made a reg­u­lar run.

But it won’t solve ev­ery­thing. So here’s our list of trans­porta­tion is­sues we think mat­ter most in this elec­tion.

The next Water­loo re­gional gov­ern­ment — and re­mem­ber it will be led by a new chair — needs to broaden the tran­sit sys­tem so it works seam­lessly with light rail. That means new bus routes co-or­di­nated with the LRT that pro­vide greater ac­cess not only to ur­ban cores but ar­eas that are open­ing up to new de­vel­op­ment.

Do­ing this won’t only fa­cil­i­tate travel, it will en­cour­age the con­struc­tion of new hous­ing, in­clud­ing more rental and af­ford­able units, all of which we des­per­ately need.

In ad­di­tion to this, the next re­gional coun­cil must ex­pe­dite the plan to ex­tend light rail through Cam­bridge. This will mean set­tling the thorny ques­tion of the train route. There’s no per­fect op­tion, but the new coun­cil will need politi­cians with the courage to make the best choice, even in the face of op­po­si­tion.

In the in­ter­est of get­ting mo­torists off the over-bur­dened 401 cor­ri­dor, the re­gion needs to keep prod­ding the On­tario gov­ern­ment to meet its com­mit­ment for all-day, two-way GO com­muter train ser­vice be­tween Toronto and the Kitch­ener sta­tion. This would be a boost to the lo­cal tech com­mu­nity, too.

Ad­vo­cat­ing for the GO con­nec­tion so many Cam­bridge vot­ers de­sire must also be high on the re­gional agenda. And don’t for­get the Re­gion of Water­loo In­ter­na­tional Air­port. Af­ter sink­ing mil­lions of dol­lars into its ex­pan­sion, re­gional tax­pay­ers de­serve more pas­sen­ger ser­vice from it.

Trans­porta­tion isn’t just a re­gional gov­ern­ment is­sue, ei­ther.

The car is still king to­day and it will surely re­tain this sta­tus over the next mu­nic­i­pal term. But Kitch­ener, Cam­bridge and Water­loo city coun­cils need de­ci­sive, vi­sion­ary lead­ers who will make the ur­ban cores safer and more ac­ces­si­ble for pedes­tri­ans while de­vel­op­ing a rea­soned, af­ford­able and long-term plan for ex­pand­ing bet­ter, and even seg­re­gated, routes for cy­clists.

These are the is­sues. What an­swers will your can­di­dates pro­vide?

We need vi­sion­ary lead­ers who will make the ur­ban cores safer and more ac­ces­si­ble for pedes­tri­ans while de­vel­op­ing a plan for ex­pand­ing bet­ter, and even seg­re­gated, routes for cy­clists.

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