Contact(s)

Rapid Transit Division
Region of Waterloo
50 Queen Street North, Suite 830
Kitchener, Ontario
Canada N2H 6P4

Phone: 519-575-4400
Fax: 519-745-4040

View Google Map Location
rtinfo@regionofwaterloo.ca

 

Frequently-Asked Questions

Rapid Transit Basics

Grandlinq

Procurement

Costs

Ridership

Route/Scheduling/Stations

Changing with LRT

Rapid Transit Basics

Why does Waterloo Region need rapid transit?

Although a rapid transit corridor appeared in the 1976 Region Official Policies Plan, work on implementing it began only after the Region assumed responsibility for transit in 2000 and included it in the plans for a Growth Management Strategy which was adopted in 2003. Subsequently the Province of Ontario, through the Places to Grow legislation, mandated the Region to plan for major population growth that was to be accommodated in large part by cutting back greenfield development and redeveloping and intensifying urban areas. The Region continues to plan for significant population and employment growth over the next two decades. With little opportunity to add or expand the road networks in our core areas, and an expected increase in population of 100,000 in the central transit corridor, Regional Council chose rapid transit as the most sustainable transportation solution to meet our community's future transportation needs.

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What are the benefits of rapid transit?

Rapid transit will move people, increase transit ridership, reduce emissions, improve mobility, and contribute to a prosperous community. Rapid transit offers a means of managing urban growth to protect our countryside by preventing urban sprawl and promoting intensification in existing urban areas, while preserving the region's precious agricultural lands, natural beauty, heritage and cultural characteristics that make this community unique. Light Rail Transit (LRT) will shape development along the corridor. Developers are more willing to invest private money near a permanent public asset such as LRT.

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Is this the right time to be thinking of rapid transit?

Yes. Implementing rapid transit now will help us address the transportation and land use demands that will result as our economy grows and our population increases from more than 543,000 today to 729,000 by 2031.

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Why can't more roads solve the congestion problem?

Building new or bigger roads won't ease traffic congestion - it just attracts more cars. Road expansion is not a realistic or affordable option to manage future growth. We need to make forward-thinking and creative land use and transportation policies to promote public transit and reurbanization in the central transit corridor. As traffic congestion increases, rapid transit on dedicated lanes will provide more reliable travel times.

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Why can't we just keep using iXpress?

iXpress works well now, but is already experiencing traffic delays from road congestion. As ridership continues to grow, the capacity of iXpress will not be enough to meet travel demand. LRT provides a better quality of service (more convenient and comfortable) and will attract more riders than iXpress alone.

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How do the costs of ION compare with other Regional services?

Grand River Transit (GRT) annual operating costs are $105 million and the Region?s 10-year Capital Roads Program is $860 million.

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GrandLinq

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How were the proposals evaluated?

Numerous Region staff and consultants, including Infrastructure Ontario, Deloitte, Parsons Brinckerhoff and Norton Rose carefully evaluated each of the three short-listed proposals based on their financial and technical specifications.
Infrastructure Ontario and the Fairness Monitor (P1 Consulting) worked closely with the Region to oversee the process, ensuring each proposal was evaluated in a transparent, fair and consistent manner.
The team with the highest overall score was selected and has been recommended to Council as the preferred team.

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What are the main highlights of the GrandLinq proposal?

Some of the main highlights of the GrandLinq proposal include:
- The capital cost of the proposal is consistent with the capital cost estimate, and can be accommodated within the ION project capital budget of $818 million.
- Projected operating, maintenance, lifecycle and financing costs can all be accommodated within the Region's approved funding strategy.
- Based on the GrandLinq proposal, the rapid transit project remains on-time, on budget and the costs remain affordable based on the Region's approved funding strategy.

What are the next steps?

The final Project Agreement with GrandLinq will be completed by early May, 2014 and construction will begin shortly thereafter. 

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What is the Project Agreement?

The Project Agreement is an important document. It outlines the Region?s expectations for ION Stage 1 LRT as well as the responsibilities and obligations of both the Region and the preferred team. 

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What is the Region responsible for in the Project Agreement?

The Region will:
o Own the ION LRT system, including all infrastructure and vehicles;
o Set fares and the frequency of the service;
o Be responsible for customer service and system-wide integration;
o Collect all fare revenue.
o Monitor the performance of GrandLinq to ensure all service requirements are being met. 

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What is GrandLinq responsible for in the Project Agreement?

GrandLinq will:

o Take ION Stage 1 LRT to final design;
o Build ION Stage 1 LRT;
o Operate and maintain the ION LRT service between Kitchener and Waterloo, consistent with the Region?s performance requirements. 

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Procurement

What is a P3?

P3 stands for public private partnership. The partnership is based on a negotiated contract between a public organization and a private company. They work together to complete projects. The intent of a P3 is to build on the strengths of each partner (public and private sector). Each project is different, therefore public and private sector roles adjust to provide the best outcome.

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What is a 'procurement and delivery' option?

Procurement is a process used to buy a product or service. Delivery is how that product or service is built and/or provided. Together, a 'procurement and delivery' option is one way that a product or service can be completed. There can be many different options for purchasing and providing a product or service. A 'procurement and delivery' option can include private sector involvement in any combination of designing, building, financing, operating and maintaining of a project.

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What does the Region of Waterloo's preliminary preferred 'procurement and delivery' option, DBFOM, mean?

DBFOM is one way that the rapid transit project can be purchased, constructed, financed and eventually operated and maintained. As noted above, this is a P3 approach that is a partnership between the public and private sector. DBFOM means:

Design = the private company would complete detailed design drawings and plans of the route.

Build = the private company would build the rapid transit system.

Finance = the private company would have to obtain financing to pay its employees and other costs in advance of the Region's instalment payments. The Region would withhold part of the construction payment to the private company and pay it in instalments when the contract requirements are met by the private company over the term of the project.

Operate = the private company would manage the day-to-day operations of the light rail transit (LRT) system.

Maintain = the private company would look after the repairs and upkeep of the LRT system, including tracks and vehicles.

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Why is DBFOM the Region's preliminary preferred 'procurement and delivery' option?

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.

DBFOM 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.

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What would be the Region's role(s) with the DBFOM procurement model?

  • Own the LRT system (rights of way, tracks, vehicles, etc.);
  • Set LRT fare prices and service schedules;
  • Be responsible for customer service and addressing customer issues;
  • Receive the fare revenue, which would offset the cost of the Region's transit system;
  • Be responsible for the integration of LRT and the Region's conventional transit system;
  • Continue to operate bus service through Grand River Transit. More bus drivers will be needed because of the Region's approved plan to expand the transit network; and
  • When the project term ends, assume operations and maintenance, or extend the contract of the current private company, or find a new private company to operate and maintain the LRT system.

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With DBFOM, who would be in charge of setting the fare price and scheduling of the LRT?

The Region of Waterloo would set the ticket price and establish the schedule of the LRT.

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With DBFOM, who would get the money from the fares?

The Region of Waterloo would receive the fare revenue, which would offset the cost of the Region's transit system.

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With DBFOM, what happens after thirty years?

After thirty years or the length of the project term, the contract with the private company would end. The Region of Waterloo could assume operations and maintenance, or extend the contract of the current private company, or find a new private company to operate and maintain the LRT system.

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With DBFOM, who would drive the trains and buses?

The private company would supply the operators to drive the LRT trains, keeping to the Region's service schedule. Grand River Transit operators would drive the buses. More bus drivers will be needed because of the Region's approved plan to expand the transit network.

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Has the Region contracted out operations and maintenance to the private sector before?

The Region has successfully contracted out operations and maintenance of garbage and recycling collection, recycling sorting, and wastewater treatment plants. The Region retains ownership of facilities, sets user rates, and is responsible for customer service and addressing customer issues.

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How can the Region avoid getting "locked into" a long term operating contract that may not be meeting the Region's interests?

Changing the operations portion of the DBFOM to separate, short-term operating agreements with the private DBFOM team (5-10 years), such that a new operator can be competitively procured at an appropriate time to operate the system would allow the Region to change the operations agreement whenever the agreement comes up for renewal. This would provide some certainty for the private DBFOM team on the length of the operating agreement and would allow the Region to review and implement different operations at shorter intervals. The Region may also retain the right to terminate the operations services under the main DBFOM agreement, and procure a new operator for the system or assume direct responsibility for the operations activities with Regional staff.

There may be a number of options available to the Region to best balance the benefits of DBFOM, while maintaining operating flexibility. Staff will review and evaluate these further and report back to Council.

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Costs

What is the capital cost to build the rapid transit system?

The current estimate for the preliminary preferred rapid transit implementation option, which is LRT from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall and aBRT south to Ainslie Street Terminal, is $818 million.

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What's the current state of funding support for the capital cost of the rapid transit project?

On June 28, 2010, the Province of Ontario committed $300 million towards the capital cost of constructing a rapid transit system in Waterloo Region. On September 2, 2010, the Government of Canada committed one-third of the eligible costs, up to $265 million to support the construction of the Region's rapid transit project. The Region's portion of the capital cost is $253 million. On June 15, 2011, Regional Council approved the funding for the Region's portion of the Stage 1 capital costs, subject to annual budget deliberations.

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What is included in the $818 million capital cost estimate?

The capital cost estimate includes LRT and adapted BRT from Conestoga Mall to the Ainslie Street Bus Terminal in Cambridge, along with a maintenance yard facility. It also includes three park and ride stations to be located at Northfield Drive, Fairview Park Mall, and Sportsworld Drive.

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Ridership

What is the projected ridership for rapid transit? How was the ridership determined?

Daily passenger boardings on opening day are expected to be around 27,000. This is expected to increase to about 56,000 by the year 2031. Ridership forecasts were developed by the consultant teams of TSi and Halcrow Consulting using a ridership forecasting model as part of the Environmental Assessment. The model was peer reviewed by Dr. Eric Miller of the University of Toronto and Dr. Jeff Casello of the University of Waterloo and was deemed to be a sound forecasting tool. Details of the modelling process can be found in the Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment Phase 2 Summary Report.

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Route/Scheduling/Stations

Where will the route go? Where will the stations be?

The preliminary preferred rapid transit implementation option includes Light Rail Transit (LRT) from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall and adapted Bus Rapid Transit (aBRT) -- that will evolve to LRT -- from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Bus Terminal. Regional Council approved the route, the technology, and the station locations in June 2011.

Please see our maps for the station locations.

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What will LRT look like?

The LRT system will be street-level rail technology, generally on either existing roads or rail corridors. Two-way traffic will remain on all roads that have LRT. See what rapid transit could look like in Waterloo Region.

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How often will I be able to catch rapid transit?

Exact schedules will be established before rapid transit service begins, but the intention is for Light Rail Transit (LRT) to come every 7.5 minutes and for adapted Bus Rapid Transit (aBRT) to come every 10 minutes during morning and afternoon peak periods. Both LRT and aBRT will come every 15 minutes outside of peak periods.

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What will happen to the iXpress service after the implementation of rapid transit?

The new rapid transit system will essentially replace the current iXpress route, however new express service like iXpress will be introduced on other routes.

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Are there going to be any park n' ride facilities?

Three park n' ride facilities are planned at the Northfield, Fairview Park Mall, and Sportsworld rapid transit stations to serve those who want to park their car and then ride the new rapid transit system. Additional park and ride facilities may be considered at a later time.

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Will riders outside of rapid transit station areas have good transit service?

The future of the Waterloo Region transit system is one that integrates GRT with LRT, GO Transit and VIA Rail. The aim is to establish a cohesive inter-city network of public transit, linking people with local businesses, sites and services. Shown here are stages of LRT, the expansion of GRT routes, the Region of Waterloo Transit Hub and connections with GO Transit. As our region grows and develops, so too will our transit needs.

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What is the length of the new rapid transit system?

The approximate length is 36 kilometres, including 19 kilometres from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall and 17 kilometres from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Bus Terminal.

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What will rapid transit travel times be?

Approximately 39 minutes from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall for Light Rail Transit and approximately 33 minutes from Fairview Park mall to Ainslie Street terminal with adapted Bus Rapid Transit.

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Living with LRT

What will happen to the businesses along the LRT route?

LRT will bring more people to the central transit corridor. Businesses will benefit from expanded amenities and increased visibility due to rapid transit. It will enable employees to access job opportunities and provide access by employers to an expanded workforce.

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Will rapid transit affect emergency services?

The rapid transit team has worked with and will continue to work with emergency services staff to ensure that access to all properties remains available.

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What will happen to the street events like Oktoberfest and Buskers once LRT is built?

They will still happen! A parade can still go down King Street. Regional staff will work with organizing committees to accommodate parades along the LRT route.

During events, LRT service can short-turn to leave the parade area clear, but still provide LRT service to the crowds of people coming to the parade.

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How will traffic operate around the LRT line?

Left-turns and U-turns will be provided at specific signalized intersections. In the downtowns where there is a curbside rapid transit lane, traffic will be able to cross the LRT to get in and out of driveways.

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Are pedestrians going to be able to cross the street with LRT?

Pedestrians should use the same rules as always when crossing a street.

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Will LRT be able to operate in winter conditions?

Typical winter conditions will not affect LRT operations. No de-icing or snow clearing will be required on the rail tracks. Other LRT systems in Calgary, Edmonton and Minneapolis, with similar or worse winter conditions, have not experienced any major delays.

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What happens if a light rail vehicle breaks down?

Disabled trains will be removed from the main track to side tracks with minimal disruption to the service.

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What happens if the power goes off?

A back-up power system will be in place for short-term power disruptions.

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How fast will light rail vehicles travel?

LRT vehicles will travel at a speed appropriate to the environment in which they are traveling. For example, LRT vehicles will travel at a slower speed (as slow as 20-25 km/h) in areas with a lot of pedestrian activity, such as downtown areas. LRT vehicles operating within rail corridors, away from other traffic and pedestrians will travel at higher speeds.

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How will the construction of the rapid transit system impact roads, traffic and access to local businesses?

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 inform the public, business owners, and property owners regarding timing for construction in each area, access options, alternate routes, etc.

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How will the overhead wires required for LRT affect the streetscape?

Modern electrical wires used to power new LRT systems fit well into the streetscape and are quite unobtrusive.

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