The major intersection in uptown Waterloo is King and Erb. It is the busiest intersection in uptown, both for cars and pedestrians. It has historical landmarks on its corners. All the major parts of uptown are close by: restaurants, shops, cinemas, Waterloo Square, the library, an office tower, a hotel, and so on.
Of all the problems that the proposed LRT will cause for uptown, this intersection may be the most serious issue.
Here is a snippet of the Region's LRT map showing the King-Erb intersection after LRT (you can see the complete map here):
The proposed LRT tracks (shown here as a thick pink line) run along the right side of King (the east side), and then turn left across the Erb Street intersection to run along the north side of Erb.
The Region's map is a little difficult to read, so here's my rendition of it:
The LRT is scheduled to run every 7 minutes, so every 7 minutes all traffic is going to have to come to a halt to let the LRT go through. This isn't going to be a little streetcar turning left through our busiest intersection: this is going to be a train. In addition to those stoppages, we'll still need the same number of red lights that we currently have.
If you look closely at the lane markings, the LRT plan has only two lanes on Erb Street approaching King. One is a left turn lane, so there is only one lane on Erb that crosses King. That single lane is also a right-turn lane. Since there are a lot of pedestrians at King and Erb, cars turning right regularly hold up the cars behind them. Currently Erb has three lanes that continue across King Street. If you stand on the corner and watch traffic, you'll see that there is a very busy flow of traffic heading down Erb across King Street. That's because Erb is the main east-west artery through town. If you don't take Erb, you have to drive over to University or Columbia to the north, or Union to the south.
In addition to the problems that LRT will create at King-Erb, the current plan for the LRT messes up most of the major intersections in uptown: Erb-Caroline, Albert-Erb, and William-Caroline.
I know there are people who believe the solution to our environmental problems is to make driving so inconvenient that people leave their cars at home. That's not how it works. There are wide roads and big parking lots at the Wal-Mart that was built just outside the boundaries of Waterloo. The expressways go right to the malls, the big box stores, and Wal-Mart.
When you create this amount of havoc in a downtown core, you kill the downtown. Once it's killed, it is really difficult to revive it. Just ask Kitchener: they've spent decades and tens of millions of dollars trying to repair the damage done to their core and it's still a mess.
We cannot allow the LRT to go through Waterloo as planned. It cannot come into Waterloo from Kitchener and then turn left across King Street. That would be disastrous. I oppose the rail option on many grounds, and think buses are a far better alternative, but if we must have a train running through our town, it cannot go on this route.
Update: At the 11th hour, regional councillors voted to change the route so that it no longer turns on Erb. Instead, it turns half a block earlier and runs along the railway tracks. As this was the major request in my last submission to Council, I felt pretty good about that.