Thursday, June 16, 2011

Toronto suburbs pass LRT/BRT plan

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By a 9-2 vote, the Waterloo Regional Council Wednesday approved a C$818 million rail plan to serve a large swath of Toronto’s western suburbs.

The approved plan, relying heavily on light rail transit would establish LRT in Waterloo and Kitchener, with Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) running into Cambridge. LRT would be extended to Cambridge in the future.

Regional businesses last month voiced strong support for LRT, urging council members not to abandon the plan. Several members of the council abstained to avoid charges of (of the appearance of) conflicts of interest. The 16-member council includes mayoral representatives from Cambridge, Kitchener, North Dumfries, Waterloo, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich, Ont.

Council members supporting the plan said they believe a commitment to LRT, along with its BRT segment, would influence investment toward transit-oriented development, as well as reduce the need to build more roads (and reduce the costs involved with such action).

“This is a long-term vision of what our community will require to sustain itself,” said Kitchener, Ontario, Mayor Carl Zehr. “I ask for our entire community to stop waiting for the future to happen. Instead, join us in creating it.”

Representatives from Waterloo and Cambridge opposed LRT, but audience members attending the council session reportedly applauded as the measure was passed.

Some council members said they hoped to extend LRT to Cambridge in the future, acknowledging Cambridge residents dissatisfied with BRT for their municipality. “They feel very discouraged and disenfranchised,” Cambridge Councillor Nicholas Ermeta said.

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