Oddly enough, knowing the Chamber was opposed to the LRT/BRT or any RT system right now, I was politely invited to attend our Prime Minister’s announcement of the Federal Governments contribution of 265 Million for the Regions proposed LRT/BRT system. Now I’ve heard some comments that our Member of Parliament wasn’t there so this must indicate there are issues with his support, however if everyone was paying attention to all the news that day, you would know that the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr. Goodyear was in Montreal making a historic announcement that Chris Hadfield will be heading up an international space station mission in 2012. In my perspective, the Hadfield investment is certainly more visionary, and maybe even better than the LRT/BRT investment.
The Cambridge Chamber of Commerce does not support either option, we favour increasing the I-Express (for now), that everyone tells us is working fine, creating east west routes, including the Townships (so they will also share in the costs of a region wide rapid system eventually), and go back to the drawing board to come up with a solution that is truly visionary. Since the late 80’s, LRT has been on the regions track (no pun intended), the serious conversations started about 1999 or so. They (the Region) are forecasting that by 2031 the entire region will be serviced by LRT. By my calculations that means, the LRT will be 40-year-old technology, when the project is completed. Is this the future of public transportation? The Chamber says, NO! And with the potential of a 20% increase in regional taxes, yes 20% (fairly simple math), we say this is the wrong idea, at the wrong time. We are in the heat of the technology revolution and our leaders are looking at Street Cars as the future mode of public transportation? Yes street cars, we need to clarify, the “R” in LRT does not represent “Rapid”, it is “Rail”, there will be little that is rapid in this proposal. Do a 3 minute research project and google “future of public transit”, eco-buses, elevated rail systems (check skytran, interesting), high-speed trains from community to community, but no street cars. This current proposal comes from ideas and concepts that have been up and running in communities for 50 years already, this is not new, not innovative, not where the future is. We live in Waterloo Region, the Blackberry that revolutionized global communication was invented here. ComDev’s micro-satellite’s to guide cargo ships to and from ports, protect them from pirating, monitor them in storms and high seas, invented and built here in our region. It’s beyond me, that politically we can’t look a little further over the hill. That futuristic stuff all said, and before I’m criticized for being a loony toon, if we are preparing to put in a system where the tax base isn’t big enough to support it now, why not look to the future and start planning in that direction. 30 years ago if we knew what the Blackberry was going to bring us, how would that have changed our communication planning for the future. I’d suggest we’d be better prepared, we would have saved tons of money trying other failed items, and our financial preparedness would have enabled us to immediately take full advantage.
So, the Chamber will do its very best to have Regional Council take a second look at this, ensure that we will not have totally ridiculous tax increases as the current proposal does, and hopefully we can encourage them, no matter how deeply they are entrenched in the past, that for our youth, they must look into the future just a little bit. I had to laugh when one young person I was talking to quipped, maybe it’s so expensive because we are buying antiques. Maybe that is the sound-bite of the whole issue!