Trains, Planes or Automobiles?

My preference of course is Planes, as Bob Connors of the Waterloo Wellington Flight Centre, and my instructor Rachel Ratsep as well will say, “I’d Rather Be Flying”. While the future tells us we will have personal hovercraft’s some day, today we are talking about on-street rail (street cars) and using this solution to mitigate the effects of growth in the region. The Region of Waterloo is expected to grow by 200,000 residents over the next 30 years or so, and of course with that will come a whole whack of automobiles. So the plan is designed to reduce that road congestion in the future by implementing a Light Rail System (street cars), which will encourage much of that growth in population to high-rise condo’s in the core areas, fend off urban sprawl so those “new”  folks will ride public transportation instead of having their own automobile. Now, the proponents of this option suggest that if we don’t, we will become like Toronto, traffic congestion, impossible to move around, negative impacts on business because we can’t get our goods to the stores and factories as a result of all this pending growth. And of course proponents say that acting now, will avoid the tribulations that Toronto is having now in dealing with their local transportation issues, and of course the cost of implementation now is a far cry from the future costs, and acting now is a proactive and visionary solution to the inevitable problems down the road (no pun intended).

There are some monumental problems with the proposed solution, and the vision of the proponents. First of all, doesn’t Toronto have a Light Rail System (street cars)? Doesn’t Toronto also have a complex and expansive subway system? And doesn’t Toronto still have the disasters predicted for the future here with congestion and difficulty moving around? Of course they do, we all know that, in fact what is the real lesson we can learn from Toronto’s plight now is, Street Cars simply don’t do the job, in fact, they add to the congestion. Secondly, are we embarking on a strategic marketing plan for future residents by welcoming only those future residents who want to come to a “carless” community? Are we not saying, we don’t want anyone moving here who brings a car with them because we can’t accommodate them? Are we not saying to existing residents, you think traffic is bad now, wait till we put a street car on the same roads you are driving on today.

Look folks, we all know that public transportation is not convenient, if we are all (well most of us) truthful with ourselves, will this or any other proposal coming out of these politicians and bureaucrats encourage us (most of us) to get out of our cars, stand in a cold/wet transit stop and jump on a bus or train. If we, the majority are honest with ourselves, even the strong proponents will have to answer that question with a NO! I’ve said it before, and I will harp once more on it, please google “the future of public transportation”, no where do you see street cars as a solution for now or the future in public transportation. If we are looking to accommodate the potential future problems, if we are insisting that only new residents to the region are welcome if they want to come here “non auto-dependent”, then we should truly be looking to the future. Ironically, bus systems are the future, bio diesel, diesel-electric, hydrogen fuel with zero emissions, electric hybrids, even solar-powered. All of these are now in use, some in the last stages of testing before market absorption, all are considered the future of public transportation. There are rail systems as well, these are not however on street systems, they are either hi-speed commuter trains between urban centres, or elevated systems that do not depend on surface infrastructure other than stop points.

And finally folks, maybe your decision maker in the end, is the costs. Today the Region stands 200 million light on the expected funding from the Province of Ontario for this project. Ironically, the Federal Government is coming through with what they promised in the beginning. I think the Region had originally planned on putting in about 50 million, now folks it will be in excess of a quarter of a billion dollars that you and I the regional taxpayer will be on the hook for. Last year when it was anticipated that only 50 million would be the capital injection from the Region, considering all the start-up costs and forecasted revenues it looked like in 2014 Regional Council would be forced to hand out a 9 – 10% increase in regional municipal taxes, at a minimum as the upgrades required for the existing system were not considered. Now, we need to add the cost of borrowing and paying back the added 150 million left, and that would represent an annual expenditure increase of interest and principal in the amount of approximately 11 million dollars. In the grand scheme of things, the minimum anticipated increase in regional portion of our municipal tax bill would be 20%, and that, for some businesses, would be intolerable.  

So folks, I guess it isn’t up to me, it’s probably however up to you. If you want the proposed LRT (street car) solution, voice your support, if you do not, voice your opposition. Send either into the Region or your Regional Councillor, or Mayor, maybe the Chamber will do a petition, one in favour, one opposed, we will see if the Board wants to do that. In the mean time, do some research, ask some questions, formulate YOUR decision, let everyone know, because this final decision for the future of public transportation in the Region of Waterloo will be made early in 2011. Make sure you have your say!

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