Think transit when you vote Oct. 22
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.