Kitchener-Waterloo has been working away at a Rapid Transit plan since 2004, almost entirely out of the Toronto media spotlight, including mine. (A large amount of background detail can be found in the “Reports” section.)
Earlier this week, on June 24, Waterloo Regional Council approved the line which will be built initially with LRT in the north (KW) end, and BRT to the south in Cambridge. The first big surprise came Friday in the Kitchener-Waterloo Record who reported that both Ottawa and Queen’s Park were planning to fund the project. News of this reached me while Toronto Council was wrangling over funding for the purchase of new streetcars.
No sooner had Waterloo approved the LRT line, but local Cambridge MP Gary Goodyear announced that Ottawa would contribute $160-million to the project whose total estimated cost is $790-million. This took Regional Chair Ken Seiling completely by surprise. Support also came from Kitchener MP Stephen Woodworth who pointed out that this money will come from the “Build Canada Fund”, not the “Stimulus Fund” and therefore the project is not constrained by the latter’s March 2011 cutoff.
Meanwhile, the Liberal MPP for Kitchener, John Milloy, announced that Queen’s Park will provide two-thirds funding for this project. If you do the math, this leaves Waterloo Region with a comparatively small cost, roughly 1/6 of the total. The project also has support from local Conservative MPP Elizabeth Witmer. Bipartisan enthusiasm for transit is a refreshing change from Toronto where transit projects are used to score political points by the right wing of Council.
I received notes about this project from various readers before writing this article.
Tony Turrittin of Transport 2000 wrote:
Tonight the Waterloo Regional Council overwhelmingly approved the proposed rapid transit plan with a first stage LRT in Waterloo and Kitchener. This basically completes a six year process and its accompanying EA.
Cambridge will get BRT for now, LRT later. Many many Cambridge people are upset about not getting the LRT from the beginning. One councillor from Cambridge stated on June 10 that without LRT, ridership would never build to the level that would justify LRT being extended to Cambridge.
The powers that be in Cambridge were so upset that LRT for them was in the second stage, that they formally opposed LRT even for KW, and they hired Delcan to deliver a report available on the City’s website that argued that BRT was superior to LRT and that the case for LRT made by the EA had not been substantiated! Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. I thought such things only happened in Ottawa.
I am pleased that I was able to help get a group going in KW that helped to push the plan over the top. It was done through a Facebook campaign that resulted in a large majority of deputations at the Region’s June 10 council meeting making the case in favour of LRT, and also getting written support to the Regional Chair by way of letters and e-mails.
This became important because starting about mid-May the KW Record seemed to be grinding out all sorts of anti-LRT content. The next step is for the Region to get funding from the Province and the Feds and to tweak the route plan of the light rail line.
I have not been able to locate the Cambridge BRT study, and if anyone has the URL for it, please leave it in a comment.
John F. Mackay wrote both to me and to spacing magazine:
Dear Steve Munro & the Spacing gang,
I enjoy both of your blogs on transit and (in Spacing’s case) various other Toronto issues. I just wanted to draw your attention to an article in this morning’s Kitchener/Waterloo Record which suggests that a mere two days after the Waterloo Region council approved an LRT line, the federal Conservatives are offering to fund a part of it, with the Council having yet made no applications for funding in the stimulus program or otherwise. Granted, it’s only the local MP’s and not John Baird, but one of them is a cabinet minister making a prepared statement of a kind that this government doesn’t just fire off randomly without central approval.
The article also quotes a Liberal cabinet minister suggesting that Queen’s Park might even pay two thirds even though the usual for them is one third.
I haven’t seen this noted on any Toronto media, mainstream or otherwise, but it seems relevant, given that it casts some doubt on the feds’ claims that they’re refusing to fund our new vehicles not because of any dislike for transit or Toronto but only out of pure love for the integrity of the stimulus application process.
I also wonder whether any of you know whether our vehicles would be eligible for the Building Canada fund mentioned in the article, which seems to have less stringent criteria than the stimulus fund.
P.S. I note, without comment, the following results from the 2008 federal election:
Stephen Woodworth (CON) 36.68%
Karen Redman (LIB) 35.92%
Oz Cole-Arnal (NDP) 18.14%
John Bithell (GRN) 8.50%
Amanda Lamka (IND) 0.48%
Peter Braid (CON) 36.06%
Andrew Telegdi (LIB) 36.03%
Cindy Jacobsen (NDP) 14.73%
Cathy MacLellan (GRN) 12.10%
Jason Cousineau (LTN) 0.55%
As far as I know, BCF money can be used to pay for vehicles which are an integral part of any transit project.
The election results above show clearly that the Tories are vulnerable in KW, and they seem much more responsive to transit projects there (without even a letter of application) than in Toronto.
At this point, there is no word on a vehicle selection for KW. It will be intriguing to see whether Queen’s Park dictates that the work will go to Thunder Bay as an add-on to Toronto’s Transit City order, or if KW will proceed through its own procurement.