Ontario, Waterloo Regional Council approves Light Rail Transit

Ontario, Waterloo Regional Council approves Light Rail Transit

• Approve light rail transit (LRT) as the preferred technology from Conestoga Mall in theCity of Waterloo to the Ainslie Street Terminal in the City of Cambridge and the LRT route and stations;

• Approve the implementation of option L3 as Stage 1 of the LRT system including LRT from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall and adapted bus rapid transit (aBRT) from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Terminal;

• Direct staff to review route options in uptown Waterloo;

• Approve funding for the Region’s portion of Stage 1 capital and operating and maintenance costs based on tax rate increases of 1.2 per cent annually (2012 to 2018) and allocate budget reductions from debt retirement and uploaded social assistance costs (average 0.5 per cent per year for 2012 to 2018) to reduce the net property tax rate increase to 0.7 per cent, per year for 2012 to 2018 (seven years), all subject to annual budget deliberations and area rated to the urban transit service area;

• Approve funding for improvements to Grand River Transit bus service, subject to annual budget deliberations, based on an annual tax rate increase of 0.3 per cent per year (2012 to 2018), area rated to the urban transit service area;

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• Direct staff to pursue a Regional development charge legislative amendment in order to assist with funding the LRT project;

• Complete an evaluation of project procurement and delivery options, including the role of Infrastructure Ontario, with the goals of maximizing project innovation and quality, leveraging private sector expertise, and managing risks to the Region of Waterloo and our taxpayers;

• Direct staff to report on the financial status of the RT project, as part of the Region’s periodic financial reports;

• Approve an allocation of one-time capital of $1,000,000 annually, for a 10-year period, to implement transit-supportive strategies in Cambridge. Details of the program to be developed in conjunction with the City of Cambridge and to be presented to Regional Council for approval in a subsequent report; and

• Direct staff to pursue the following steps to expedite Stage 2 of the LRT system including LRT from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Terminal:
o Begin the Transit Project Assessment (TPA) for LRT from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Terminal in 2014;
o Acquire property for the implementation of Stage 2 of the LRT system;
o Pursue additional federal and provincial funding for Stage 2 of the LRT system;
o Explore the location of a future multi-modal transit facility in Cambridge to link to future GO rail service; and
o Undertake measures to encourage transit-supportive development, to enhance transit ridership throughout the urban transit service areas, including (but not limited to) developing incentives for transit-oriented developments and supporting and developing transportation demand management strategies for new and existing businesses and residents.

This vote marks a truly historic and defining moment for the future of Waterloo Region,” said Jim Wideman, Chair of the Region’s Planning and Works committee. “The leadership we have taken tonight will be transformational to our community as we prepare for tremendous growth over the next two decades.”

LRT is an important part of the Region’s plan to accommodate significant population and employment growth over the next 20 years. It will encourage greater intensification in existing developed areas, provide an alternative transportation choice that will encourage transit ridership growth, improve the ability to move within the region and help to shape the urban form.

Since 2006, the Region has conducted an extensive public involvement process for this project with more than 150 public outreach events for rapid transit, including presentations, speaking engagements, information booths and more than 30 public consultation centres (PCCs). Between February and May 2011, staff conducted two rounds of public consultation – the number of people attending PCCs and information booths was well over 2,000 and staff received more than 1,700 written comments. The comments and questions raised at the various forums throughout the process helped to shape the project and the final recommendation approved by Council.

“Over the last 10 years, the rapid transit team has put in a huge amount of work to provide the basis for tonight’s landmark decision, said Mike Murray, Chief Administrative Officer. “Tonight’s decision is one more critical element in the Region’s integrated approach to planning for a vibrant, prosperous and sustainable community. We look forward to working with the area municipalities, and all our community partners, as we proceed with the implementation of this transformational project.”

The LRT system will be built in affordable stages: Stage 1 will include LRT from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall and adapted bus rapid transit (aBRT) from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Terminal.

Stage 2 of the LRT system will add LRT from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Terminal.

Regional staff are on track with and continue to follow the project schedule adopted by Council. Staff anticipate that next steps will include:

• July/August/September 2011: completion of the Environmental Project Report for Stage 1;
• October 2011: commencement of the six-month TPA for Stage 1;
• November 2011: PCCs for the TPA for Stage 1;
• December 2011: report on a preferred procurement strategy;
• April 2012: completion of the TPA for Stage 1;
• 2012: begin implementation of aBRT Stage 1;
• 2014: begin construction of LRT Stage 1 and begin the TPA for LRT Stage 2; and
• 2017: complete construction and begin operation of LRT Stage 1.

Light Rail Transit will be truly transformational for Waterloo Region. In the Regional Growth Management Strategy, as well as in the Places to Grow Growth Plan, LRT was identified as one of the key catalysts to support downtown revitalization and control urban sprawl in the region.