Is it new? No. The report provides a dizzying array of 11 options, nine of which are LRT and one of which is "status quo" (AKA inflated estimates of the costs of not improving transit). Some of the options, such as the one to run LRT to St Jacobs' farmer's market, seem to be included just to set up easy targets and divert opposition from the main goal - to push through the original LRT proposal.
The report also sets up dates for new public consultation. If I had any expectation that the consultation would be any more honest than last time, when the region spent a fortune disguising a PR campaign as public consultation, I would make an effort to publicize these. As it is, what's the point.
But that, of course, is just the goal of this latest salvo in the war on Waterloo Region to force LRT on us against our wishes: confuse the issues, obfuscate the issues, wear us down. So, with a tired and heavy heart, I'll repeat a few of the reasons that the vast majority of citizens are against this crazed plan to put a train down our main streets:
LRT is a flawed transit plan that will be a costly white elephant that will bleed resources from useful transit routes, will provide inconvenient service, will create congestion on the roads, and will cause unnecessary increases in taxes.
As Jane Jacobs argues in her book Dark Age Ahead, "fixed transit routes were expensive failures when they were not preceded by evidence of sufficient demand." As John Shortreed recently showed, the demand forecast by the Region is wildly overstated. We do not have the demand sufficient to justify a fixed rail route. (I would provide a link for the Shortreed info but The Record is no longer posting certain anti-LRT articles on therecord.com, a devious tactic that should be stopped. I would be happy to discuss this with anyone interested in rectifying it.)
The report's claims that a BRT would quickly become overused are highly questionable. There are heavily used bus routes in Toronto that operate just fine with heavy use at rush hour. The report's overblown images of an endless line of bunched buses are just scare-mongering.
The LRT proposal is more about creating a flashy legacy project for departing politicians than it is about good city planning.
I am concerned that the ideology behind the LRT proposal is that the way to reduce car use is to artificially increase congestion by creating a route that disrupts traffic. That’s the only way I can think of to explain the route down King, the left turn across King at Erb Street, the disruption of intersections at Caroline-Erb and Caroline-William (in the latter case, the current map has the LRT running diagonally across the middle of the intersection).
In addition, the planned LRT would not be convenient. While the LRT will take away two lanes of traffic on our main arteries such as King Street between downtown and uptown, the stops are so infrequent that the area LRT serves will not be well-serviced. This type of infrequently stopping public transit is suitable for bringing people into downtown from the suburbs, but is not suitable for a transit line that is supposed to service the heart of the city.
If people find transit inconvenient they won’t take it, and then it will not reduce the need for roads at all.
The biggest convenience factors are frequency of arrival and total length of time of trips. Buses, which carry less people, run more frequently. Routes can be extended to require less transfers. And overall time on the iXpress route is similar between BRT and LRT. Meanwhile LRT, being an inflexible fixed route with large carriers, has less frequency and requires more transfers in the entire trip. It is much less convenient.
Buses can be short-turned (run in a loop over the busiest stops at rush hour). Buses can be moved between routes to suit demand. Buses can travel on different routes to avoid slowdowns when there are accidents or other disruptions on the road.
BRT could be an even cheaper option if the route was designated by painting diamonds on the road rather than building curbs around the BRT lanes. There could be a combination of the two techniques: buses could merge with regular traffic when going through Uptown Waterloo, for example (a proposal that was unanimously adopted by the Uptown Vision Committee).
Finally, the LRT route is overly favorable to the university of Waterloo. That helps the Region boost their ridership projections, but since university students essentially ride for free, it does little to help transit revenues. It does very little to meet the stated goals of the proposal, which is to lure commuters out of their cars and on to transit.