Light Rail Transit

Please click here to download this position statement in PDF

Thursday, May 5th, 2011
Sustainable Waterloo Region Recommends Region-Wide Light Rail Transit

Waterloo Region is internationally renowned for its high-tech leadership, quality post-secondary institutions, passionate entrepreneurial spirit, and its picturesque landscapes. Plans to develop Light Rail Transit (LRT) in Waterloo Region provide an opportunity to ensure the continued health of our community, economy, and natural environment. Sustainable Waterloo Region is supportive of the Region of Waterloo’s staff recommendation of L3b linking the Conestoga and Fairview Malls from Waterloo to Kitchener. However, the implementation of the region-wide L9 option linking St Jacobs to Cambridge is preferred to maximize the benefits of LRT at a marginal cost increase.

The Big Picture: LRT Allows for Smarter Growth in Waterloo Region

Waterloo Region is growing. The Government of Ontario forecasts the region’s population to increase from 535,000 to 729,000 by 2031 – representing average growth of approximately 10,000 annually – as one of its Places to Grow, largely through core intensification. 1, 2 Both Edmonton and Calgary began their successful LRT programs with smaller populations.3 In the case of Waterloo Region:

  • Communities: LRT from St. Jacobs to Cambridge will only cost on average $38 per household per year more in property taxes than if we were to continue with business as usual road expansion.The incremental cost of the staff recommendation linking Conestoga and Fairview Mall is actually $2.35 cheaper than the cost of continuing with business as usual.4
  • Economy: L9 is expected to create over 21,000 jobs in station areas as opposed to 13,000 for L3b.5
  • Natural Environment: Region-wide transit is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 22,260 tonnes per year by 2031, or the equivalent of taking 4,062 cars off the road. L3b is expected to reduce emissions by 14,030 tonnes per year. 6, 7

Infrastructure Support: LRT Meets the Needs of Organizations in Waterloo Region

In addition to the shared benefits of LRT described above, organizations within Waterloo Region face several common challenges that implementing region-wide Light Rail Transit will help address:

  • Within Waterloo Region, convenient, fast, and affordable public transportation is a key concern for talented recruits when deciding whether to accept a new job opportunity. A strong public transit system allows organizations across Waterloo Region to be more competitive.8
  • LRT reduces greenhouse gas emissions by providing lower impact commuting options. Members of Sustainable Waterloo Region’s Regional Carbon Initiative have reported that employee commuting accounts for 24% of their total GHG emissions, and that reducing these emissions requires increased local transit infrastructure support.9
  • LRT reduces the need for parking spaces, which are costly and use valuable development space.10

A Healthy Community, Economy, and Natural Environment are in the Interest of Us All

Sustainable Waterloo Region supports the implementation of L3b, however, we recommend option L9 to ensure our community has the infrastructure required to allow everyone in Waterloo Region to get around in away that is in the best interest of our community, economy and the natural environment!

Mike Morrice

Mike Morrice 
Executive Director 
Sustainable Waterloo Region

The views expressed in this letter belong to Sustainable Waterloo Region and do not reflect those held by all members of the Regional Carbon Initiative.

References

  1. “Preliminary Preferred Rapid Transit Implementation Option.” Region of Waterloo, Transportation and Environmental Services. Pg 11. Retrieved from http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/April_12_PW_Report.pdf
  2. “Rapid Transit Project Overview.” Region of Waterloo, Transportation and Environmental Services. Pg 2. Retrieved from http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/2011_RT_Project_Overview.pdf
  3. “Preliminary Preferred Rapid Transit Implementation Option.” Region of Waterloo, Transportation and Environmental Services. Pg 11. Retrieved from http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/April_12_PW_Report.pdf
  4. “Rapid Transit Implementation Options.” Region of Waterloo, Transportation and Environmental Services. Pg 16. Retrieved from http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/E-11-021.pdf
  5. “Multiple Account Evaluation – Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment.” Region of Waterloo, Transportation and Environmental Services. Pg 33. Retrieved from http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/DRAFT_FINAL_MAE_REPORT_June_3,_2009.pdf
  6. “Multiple Account Evaluation – Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment.” Region of Waterloo, Transportation and Environmental Services. Pg 32. Retrieved from http://rapidtransit.region.waterloo.on.ca/pdfs/DRAFT_FINAL_MAE_REPORT_June_3,_2009.pdf
  7. “Emission facts: Greenhouse Gas Emissions from a Typical Passenger Vehicle.” US EPA. Retrieved from http://www.epa.gov/oms/climate/420f05004.htm
  8. From conversations with organizations across the region and community partners
  9. Derived from primary data provided to Sustainable Waterloo Region by members of the Regional Carbon Initiative that report their greenhouse gas emissions resulting from employee commuting
  10. Staff at the Region of Waterloo report that, depending on land value, the typical surface parking spot costs approximately $8,000 plus maintenance. New structured parking facilities in Waterloo Region are estimated to cost between $25,000 and $32,000 per parking space.
  11. The image used on the homepage is controlled by a Creative Commons license. Image taken by Steven Vance.