Waterloo Regional Council Votes 9-2 in Favour of LRT

According to the Waterloo Region Record, in a historic decision, regional council voted 9-2 Wednesday to build an $818-million rail transit system, the largest public works project ever undertaken in the region.

Critics fear trains will prove a costly blunder in a car-friendly community where commuters shun transit. Some critics argue rapid buses — at $702 million — are a cheaper, more flexible way forward. What the critics don’t realize is that for the extra $116 million in additional capital costs, the LRT system will cost less per year to operate than a rapid bus system.

The approved plan and latest timeline suggests that by 2017 you will see electric trains, drawing power from overhead wires, running 19 kilometres between Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and Fairview Park mall in Kitchener. Trains will pass every 7.5 to 15 minutes and stop at up to 18 platforms. Mall-to-mall travel time is estimated at 39 minutes, up to nine minutes faster than the schedule for express buses today.

Cambridge is getting buses instead of trains because transit ridership is lower there, redevelopment potential is less, and rapid transit is being implemented in stages to save money.

Work to relocate or encase utilities beneath streets could launch by next year, to prevent ruptures and maintenance from disrupting transit. Track construction could launch by 2014.

If only this could be built and running sooner. Toronto could certainly use a good dose of LRT Envy, and this is close enough for that!

One Response to “Waterloo Regional Council Votes 9-2 in Favour of LRT”

  1. Tom West Says:

    LRT will cost less than BRT to run… that doesn’t surprise me, but do you know exactly how much less? (And hence how many years before LRT is cheaper than BRT)

    Cal’s comment: I was tempted to speculate that the extra $116 million would be saved within five years, but I don’t have any hard figures. Considering that an LRV can carry roughly double what an articulated bus can carry, it is easy to see that labour costs for the operation will be half for the same capacity, and a quarter if two-car trains are operated. There is also the lower cost of energy with electricity over diesel, and this gap is likely to widen in the coming years.

    There is one other consideration that is of importance to a municipality or region: provincial and/or federal funding. Of the $818 million for this project, $300 million is coming from the Queen’s Park and $265 million is coming from Ottawa. A bus plan would also likely see contributions from both of those as well, but there is no additional funding from either for the operation of a transit system. It is better to spend a little more where a percentage of that spending is covered by the province and the feds, and be left with something that will cost less to operate by the municipality or region on its own.