[Coming soon to a Waterloo Record near you!]
Re: Family startled by road work plans – August 19, 2014
I feel obliged to respond to a letter that tries to associate my name with opposition to light rail, a project I publicly endorse.
Anyone who took the time to actually read the article in last week’s Record would know that the proposed work on Weber near our home is part of routine maintenance of the road and waterworks, and is unrelated to the light rail project. Our concerns are that the proposed plan would needlessly and permanently destroy mature trees and greenery on our street to satisfy flawed and outdated traffic practices that favour cars over people.
Have light rail opponents become so desperate for public attention that they now try to blame road maintenance projects blocks away on the ION?
A reader would also note that we think the Region should take the opportunity as part of this project to make it easier to cross Weber, so that our family and our neighbours might have easier access to the ION when it is complete.
My family will proudly celebrate this Thursday’s ION groundbreaking, because we know that light rail will make it easier for us to get around, without having to widen roads and ruin streetscapes.
Above is a ‘walkshed’ map of potential future rapid and express transit services in Waterloo Region. A walkshed is the area that is accessible by walking a certain distance to or from some point of interest, in this case, transit stops.
The RT network (in red and orange) is derived from the plans by the Region’s Rapid Transit Initiative, while the iXpress network (in blue) is guesstimated from proposed 2013 service, the GRT Business Plan, and the Regional Transportation Master Plan. The code used to generate the walkshed map is hosted on Github.
It’s Saturday morning, but you’re stuck in traffic. You’re on your way to the Kitchener Market, and the cars on King Street are inching forward slower than rush hour. You grit your teeth as the bus you’ve been creeping behind lurches and stops to let off a few impatient passengers. They’ve been waiting to move as long as you have, and they scurry to the corner to cross, dodging turning vehicles. You finally make the turn onto Cedar and find the parking lot full, again. Frustrated, you loop the nearby neighbourhood a few times, finally snatching a parking spot. A good part of your morning wasted already, you hurriedly pick up your eggs, meat, and a few veggies, and head back to your car as quickly as you can, just to face the traffic all over again.
Fast-forward fifteen years from now. King Street is still busy, and the parking lot is full, but that no longer bothers you. You find your ride in a light rail vehicle relaxing as you glide to a stop at Cedar and Charles. A wide promenade to lead you to the market awaits, lined with shops and cafes. The street has been closed to traffic today, and vendors have set up tables here outside the market to keep pace with demand. You catch the eye of a friend – she’s just come downstairs from the flat she recently moved into on Cedar Street – and she invites you to join her at the little cafe below her new place. You grab some patio chairs and chat for a while before parting ways to browse the many shops and vendors. Arms loaded with food, you head back to Charles Street. As the train approaches, you remember you’ve forgotten the cheese! No worries, another train will come again in just a few minutes.
A draft of the central transit corridor community building strategy is being presented for public input this month.
I was privileged to participate as a citizen in workshops for the community building strategy in the spring and am impressed with the work that has gone into it.
The vision for the community transformation that will accompany rapid transit being presented in the draft strategy is both breathtaking and well within our grasp.
This future of better transit, roads, paths, and intensification is what will keep me and my family rooted and working in Waterloo Region.
Which is why I’m alarmed that a small minority who oppose rapid transit in the region has grown increasingly noisy as of late.
If this is allowed to continue unanswered, I fear regional council may forget the groundswell of support in 2011 for rapid transit, and this future may be lost, extinguished by those whose vision is too narrow to look beyond the status quo.
I would encourage everyone to attend the community building strategy public consultations, or visit the website at centraltransitcorridor.ca.
Catch the vision, contribute to it, and speak up once again for a better future.
This coming Thursday, the Region of Waterloo is holding an open house to present and receive feedback on plans for the new transit hub coming to King and Victoria. The open house will take place from 4-8, with a presentation at 7pm, in the UW School of Pharmacy. Skimming through the planning documents is enough to get any fan of good urbanism, transit, or active transportation excited.
The site, (shown above) will occupy the space between King and Duke Streets, and between the railroad tracks and Victoria Street, serving as a connection between GRT light rail and buses, coach buses, GO service, and VIA Rail. It is also proposed as a mixed-use development, with retail, office, residential, institutional, and civic spaces. Further, the Region desires to optimize the entire area for pedestrians and cyclists first. Continue reading
Update: As I was digging around through the Regional Transportation Master Plan, I discovered that the Region has found PM peak hours to fall between 2-6pm. My initial analysis looked at 5-6:59pm, so the sub-optimal wait times may have been skewed by the transition from peak to off-peak service levels. I have since updated my analysis to cover 4-5:59pm.
Update 2: I’ve adjusted my algorithm to merge stops that share the same terminal or the same intersection. This means there is no longer distortion around major hubs that exaggerates the amount of waiting and waits at stops elsewhere in the network appear more clearly. The interactive map has been updated, but I still have to update the static images in this post.
I live on Queen Street, about a 10 minute walk from Charles Street terminal. It’s a 3 minute bus ride though, and the stop outside my building is serviced by 4 different routes coming in and out of the terminal. In theory, based on the number of buses passing through each hour, you would expect an average wait of 3.5 minutes (up to 7 minutes) making the bus competitive with walking if I’m in a hurry or the weather is poor.
Sadly, this is not the case. You can often see 2 or 3 buses coming one after another down Queen, which means there are up to 16 minutes of no scheduled service at times. Because of the variations in headways for the stop, based on the schedule, we should expect 6.5 minutes of delay, making taking the bus marginally faster on average, but almost twice as long at worst. Clearly, the bus schedule is not very optimal for wait times near my home. From a user’s perspective, it could be made more efficient for the same amount of service.
The “cut the waits” challenge
I decided to investigate a little further, to see if there were other areas of Waterloo Region where this was a problem. Thankfully, the Region provides its transit schedule as Open Data. I was able to read in all the bus schedules in order to create a map of inefficient scheduling from a user’s perspective.
Today was the last day of the Central Transit Corridor Community Building Strategy’s forum on creating great places. We focused today on the part of the corridor between downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo, ‘midtown’. While we were discussing ideas and possibilities, the Urban Strategies staff worked away at building a model of the midtown corridor out of foam blocks. Current buildings are in white, potential redevelopment and intensification possibilities are blue.
Especially exciting is the redevelopment potential for the RMS property (former Uniroyal factory). Of course, the blue buildings are just conceptual models of what things might look like.
During the meetings, we also discussed many of the nitty-gritties of midtown, like how to make the area more amenable to walking and cycling (and not less), where does parking fit in, and what places we’d like to preserve and which ones are ripe for redevelopment.
Proposed relocation of the Iron Horse Trail to accomodate new condos and parking
A development is being proposed at the north end of the Iron Horse Trail. The proposal includes changing the alignment of the trail connecting Park and Caroline Streets around the buildings such that the trail lies between two parking garages. Others have attempted to share their concerns (see A sanctity of trails, Building a place to go, not go around, and Designing to improve the Iron Horse Trail). I have recently described my reservations about this development in an email to Uptown Waterloo councillor Melissa Durrell. I have included these concerns here. To voice your own, please use the Council contact form provided by TriTAG.
I am deeply concerned about the impacts to the Iron Horse Trail. Speaking from experience, the present connection between the Iron Horse and the Laurel Trails make it far too easy for new residents to lose their way. Relocating the trail further back and behind a tower will only further exacerbate this problem. If any relocation of the trail needs to be done, it should be to restore its natural alignment to connecting directly to the corner of Caroline and Allen. This would make it more visible, direct, and would make a natural connection between the trail and the future Allen LRT station. I believe there is open space around the future 144 Park development to facilitate this connection. Continue reading
Photo credit: The Guardian http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/us-news-blog/2012/may/07/new-york-bike-share-scheme-sponsor
This week, the Region of Waterloo Central Transit Corridor Community Building Strategy (say that three times fast) hosts its second “Exploring the Opportunity Forum” focused on creating great places. I encourage you to visit one of their open houses, the walking tour, and the speaker series.
I’m certain we will have some wonderful discussions in the stakeholder workshops. The recent “Power of Ten” Jane’s Walk through downtown Kitchener has no doubt seeded some great ideas and thoughts throughout our community.
One of the things I’d love to see our region explore is enhancing place-making through bike sharing. The Project for Public Spaces identifies bike sharing stations as ideal triangulators. A triangulator is something that links people together in a public space and causes strangers to talk to each other who otherwise wouldn’t. Here’s why they think bike sharing stations accomplish this:
- They’re natural conversation starters.
- They attract a stream of diverse users at all times of day & night.
- They act as casual landmarks that concentrate activity.
In the first speaker series talk
in the Community Building Strategy, we learned that cities should aim to maximize exchange space and minimize transportation space. Bike stations appear on the surface to be transportation spaces, but they transform into exchange spaces when people interact with them. Bike sharing can be so much more than a station range extender for light rail. Bike sharing can help us build community here in Waterloo.
From the Waterloo Region Record
Kudos to The Record for its editorial Monday encouraging participation in the community building process around the coming rapid transit line. I hope that the paper continues to raise awareness so that more people can be engaged in making their neighbourhoods the best possible places to live, work, shop, and play.
In June, Council made the right decision for our Region’s future health and prosperity by voting in favour of light rail transit. If you disagree, merely complaining won’t accomplish much. Instead, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and constructively contribute to the discussion of how to make your neighbourhood take greater advantage of LRT. I was pleased to see a few of the more vocal opponents to rapid transit doing just that at the Region’s workshop last week.
I think we’ll all be surprised by how much we benefit from LRT when the line opens. But we’ll benefit even more if we all have a hand in helping to positively shape our community.