Back in the spring, Sustainable Waterloo Region released a policy statement in support of Light-Rail Transit (LRT) in Waterloo Region. The vote was successful and planning work is already underway! Although the first train isn’t expected to start rolling down the tracks until 2017, we were curious about how the construction and operation of LRT will impact organizations across Waterloo Region. The Region of Waterloo’s Rapid Transit Acting Director, Nancy Button, offered to chat with us and answer our questions.

Q.     What will the LRT system look like in 2017?


Q.     LRT is to be connected with a multi-modal transit hub at King St. and Victoria St. What is a “multi-modal transit hub”, and how will it impact riders and commuters?


  • The development of a new transit hub will bring together the various forms of transportation in the region.
  • The new transit hub is being planned to include:
    • Train platforms to serve inter-city GO train and VIA Rail services;
    • Bus bays to support Grand River Transit (GRT) and inter-city bus services such as GO bus and other private sector carriers;
    • Connections to and from the Region’s rapid transit system;
    • Facilities to integrate other forms of transportation such as taxis, car share, cycling and pedestrians; and
    • New development, such as commercial and office space, that would be served by a large multi-level underground commercial parking structure.

Q.     How will construction impact organizations and commuters? What can businesses do to mitigate the impact of this construction?

A.      Construction will be completed in stages, to limit the impacts of construction on any one area to a short period of time.  Every effort will be made to maintain the flow of traffic and access to businesses in construction areas.  A communication plan will be put in place to work with and inform the public, business owners, and property owners regarding timing for construction in each area, access options, alternate routes, etc.

Q.     Why was a public-private-partnership (P3), specifically a Design-Build-Finance-Operate-Maintain (DBFOM) procurement model, recommended? What are the potential strengths and weaknesses of a P3? A.      A DBFOM procurement and delivery option would provide better accountability where performance may be related to either maintenance or operation because the same company is responsible for both. DBFOM would also transfer lifecycle risks such as major vehicle and track maintenance to the private sector. The Region would be responsible for those risks that it is best able to manage, such as fare setting and ridership risk. DBFOM would provide the following benefits:

  • Cost: LRT design and construction can proceed at the same time, with significant time savings, better coordination and more efficient construction. The private company would have to deal with competitive pressure and answer to their lenders, so they would be inclined to provide a better value and a lower total project cost ensuring that the project is on time and on budget.
  • Experience and qualifications: The private sector has more experience and qualifications than the Region with designing and constructing an LRT system. They also have more experience with operating and maintaining an LRT system at start-up, and with providing trained and certified staff to operate the light rail vehicles.
  • Incentives: With DBFOM, payments and penalties based on performance would provide incentive for the private sector to complete the project on time and on budget. The payments and penalties would also apply to performance standards for operating and maintaining a high-quality LRT system over the long term. If the private sector does not perform to the standards set in the contract, it does not get paid.
  • Risks: With DBFOM, the Region limits its risk by placing responsibility on the private sector.  The Region monitors the service and holds back payments if the private sector does not meet the contract performance standards.

Q.     Are there case studies that show where a P3 worked really well? A.       

  • Project: Canada Line (British Columbia)
    • Procurement Method: DBFOM
    • Description: The system was completed and put into service in late 2009, three months ahead of the due date. It has been acclaimed as a resounding success.
  • Project: Hudson-Bergen Light Rail Transit Line (New Jersey)
    • Procurement Method: DBOM
    • Description: Construction for this project was completed on schedule. The system has been in service for approximately 15 years, meeting or exceeding contractual performance targets each year.
  • Project: Nottingham Light Rail, Phase 1 and Phase 2 (United Kingdom)
    • Procurement Method: DBFOM
    • Description: Phase 1 opened for service in March 2004 and carries approximately 10 million passenger trips a year. Construction for Phase 2 will take place between 2012 and 2014.

Furthermore, the Evergreen Line in British Columbia (DBF) and the Ottawa Light Rail Transit project (DBFM) are both currently in procurement with three internationally-qualified bidders.

Q.     Will the use of DBFOM have any impact on a future Cambridge expansion?

A.      With the proposed DBFOM procurement option, the Region owns the infrastructure, the Region collects the LRT fares and the Region sets the LRT service levels and schedules. It would be up to the Region to plan the timing of Stage 2 LRT to Cambridge. The contractor would be paid by the Region to provide the service specified by the Region

Q.     Sustainable Waterloo Region’s Regional Carbon Initiative facilitates voluntary target-setting and reductions of carbon emissions in organizations across Waterloo Region. How will LRT support RCI members in reduc their emissions?

A.      Greenhouse gas (GhG) emissions are reduced by shifting travel from cars to rapid transit. LRT is projected to result in a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions of 22,260 tonnes per year by 2031.

Q.   What big decisions still have to be made?


  • Vehicle procurement
  • Station design
  • The name, branding, and logo for the system
  • Issue a request for proposals (RFP) and select a preferred bidder consortium to design and construct the system

Q.     How can readers get involved in the process of designing and implementing LRT in Waterloo Region?

A.      Public consultation will continue throughout the project.  For example, the Region’s rapid transit team is hosting three public consultation centres as part of the Ontario Regulation 231/08 Transit Project Assessment Process. Information will be available at the centres regarding potential impacts that the rapid transit project may have on the environment.Tuesday January 24, 2012, 3 to 8 p.m.

  • First United Church, 16 William Street West, Waterloo

Wednesday January 25, 2012, 3 to 8 p.m.

  • The Region of Waterloo, 150 Frederick Street, Kitchener

Thursday January 26, 2012, 3 to 8 p.m.

  • The United Kingdom Club, 35 International Village Drive, Cambridge