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The Region of Waterloo is implementing a number of transportation, planning and economic initiatives that are fundamentally shaping the future of the community. These actions represent a coordinated and integrated approach to managing a growing population and ensuring the Region's continued prosperity.
Grand River Transit (GRT) is working towards a greater coordination and integration of transportation services to get riders to the places they need to go and to support projected future growth. New GRT routes are being designed and current routes are being redesigned into a grid system to better intersect, compliment and flow with ION - supporting a liveable, walkable community. GRT is also working to strengthen its existing service with the addition of more iXpress routes, with limited stops, real time next bus arrival times, and service every 10 minutes during rush hour.
An Electronic Fare Management System (Smart Card) is also in development. The Smart Card will ultimately allow users to pay an integrated fare for all transit systems across Waterloo Region. The card will be used for fare payment on GRT buses, MobilityPLUS, and ION. Smart Cards will change how riders pay for public transit in our region allowing them to swipe one card for travel - offering a more consistent and seamless service.
The Region of Waterloo's rapid transit service, as approved by Council in June 2011, is a visionary plan that will fundamentally shape the community for the future by bringing LRT (Light Rail Transit) in two stages.
Stage 1, expected to begin operations in 2017, features a 19 km LRT route from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall, with stops in Downtown Kitchener, Grand River Hospital and UpTown Waterloo. It also includes a 17 km route of adapted Bus Rapid Transit (aBRT) from Fairview Park Mall to the Ainslie Street Terminal. The aBRT service will begin operating in late-2014 or early-2015. Stage 2 will convert the aBRT line to LRT, creating a seamless 37 km ION service of 23 stops in Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo.
ION will not only address the Region's future transportation needs, but also shape the community's future. ION will help protect the environment, prevent urban sprawl, create attractive, livable, vibrant urban spaces in our central transit corridor, move people and reduce road requirements.
ION is part of a coordinated, Region-wide transit system, connecting rapid transit with a redesigned network of Grand River Transit bus routes. It will move people efficiently, comfortably, and conveniently and will be one part of a fully integrated transportation system, which also includes VIA Rail and GO Transit services to help provide sustainable transportation choices for residents, businesses, and visitors.
Through extensive consultation with the public, the Central Transit Corridor Community Building Strategy has identified unique opportunities for growth and development around each station area and will help integrate ION with the King/Victoria Transit Hub and other existing transportation networks. With greater connectivity, and programs like Travelwise, transit will be more convenient to use and will encourage commuters to choose active and sustainable transportation more often.
ION will help achieve the goals of the Regional Transportation Master Plan and Active Transportation Master Plan by managing urban growth, direct a greater share of new development to existing urban areas, and promote reurbanization for the efficient use of land. Existing infrastructure and services like transit, will help reduce our carbon footprint, promote active transportation choices, improve air quality and protect our countryside. ION will help preserve the region's precious agricultural lands, natural beauty, heritage resources, and cultural characteristics.
In September, 2013, Regional Council unanimously approved the logo for ION. The approved logo registered strong first impressions and word associations with all three research groups and participants said it connected most with the Region's family of brands, including Grand River Transit (GRT) and iXpress.
Central Transit Corridor Community Building Strategy
The Region, in partnership with the Cities of Cambridge, Kitchener and Waterloo, has developed a strategy that will help shape how our community, especially in station areas, is planned and built around rapid transit. The Strategy includes a framework that will help us leverage the investment that will come with rapid transit by providing valuable information to developers and investors about the many opportunities that exist along the rapid transit corridor and beyond. The Region and City staff are currently developing an implementation plan for the CBS that will help us identify priorities and strategies for moving ahead.
King and Victoria Transit Hub
The Region of Waterloo will be building a Transit Hub at the corner of King and Victoria Streets in downtown Kitchener that will connect pedestrians, cyclists, Grand River Transit buses, GO and VIA trains, intercity buses, taxis, and cars with Light Rail Transit. Construction is not expected for several years, but design concepts have been developed and new zoning is in place to permit a high-density landmark development with residential, office and shopping components. The Transit Hub is intended to provide convenient amenities for travellers, while supporting the continued redevelopment of nearby properties.
TravelWise is a program available to all employers across the Region. TravelWise encourages residents and commuters to walk, cycle, carpool, or take transit more often by promoting and hosting services that match carpool partners, provide bulk discounts for Grand River Transit passes, and help pay for rides home from work in cases of emergency or sickness.
Regional and Active Transportation Master Plans
The Regional Transportation Master Plan (RTMP) defines how our transportation system will grow and change in the coming decades. As a Master Plan, the RTMP will help shape policies and decisions to help the Region offer more travel choices to residents, and make sure our future transportation system is affordable and environmentally sustainable. The plan predicts that by 2031, 15 per cent of all trips in Waterloo Region will be by transit and 12 per cent of all trips will be by cycling or walking.
In order to meet the targets set in the RTMP, the Region is developing an Active Transportation Master Plan called Walk Cycle Waterloo Region to provide guidance to Council and staff on actions to take to make it easier for residents of and visitors to the Region of Waterloo to choose active transportation.