LRT for Dummies

Got a ping a few days ago from It’s a local company that looks to have some very cool people inside and very cool things going on (They are hiring software people BTW …).

Check their website link above, but more importantly read the blog. Very well written and compelling.

The matter at hand is their infographic on LRT. They allowed us to repost as long as we attribute. So, attribute…

And give this graphic a good read. It obviously represents a lot of work, graphical and research.

Thanks Snapsort.

13 thoughts on “LRT for Dummies

  1. I’ve been seeing this graphic by Snapshot tweeted about the last week or so and now have finally read it.
    If it’s true – $2.65 for LRT – I’m for supporting it. I also didn’t realize the capacity difference between the bus and LRT … 75 vs 450. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a city that has an LRT that moves 450 per train/streetcar.

    Seeing the population growth projections – we’re going to be building this sometime in the future – might as well do it now.

    Although the most I’d use it would be to go to the kitchener farmer’s market once a week.

    I love biking!

  2. First of all, I’d like to say that I don’t oppose the LRT. I think that it will bring much needed decongestion in the downtown corridor and it won’t be an eyesore.
    However, here are a few points to consider:
    – First of all, population growth projections are never right. Did you know that back in the 70’s it was projected that KW would have over 1 million people?
    – Second of all, cost projections are never accurate. A projected cost of $0.8b will quickly grow to twice that amount. A perfect example, among many, is Boston’s Big Dig. Since we’re on this subject, what were the cost projections for the other projects? I’d like to see a side-by-side comparison of projection vs actual cost. The graphic is comparing apples to oranges in this regard.
    – Thirdly, how can we build an Ottawa-like BRT system in KW? It is utterly impossible, especially in the downtown corridor, so why is this even an option?
    – Fourth of all, how is the region planning to implement LRT and a more bike-friendly infrastructure at the same time? Seems like it will cost a lot of money.

    Anyways, that’s what came to mind as I went through the graphic. Let me know if there are errors in my judgement.

  3. Personally, I can’t think of a single regular trip that I make where the LRT would help me.

    I’m having a hard time thinking about the direct benefit I might get. Selfish, but an important consideration. I think a lot of people are wondering the same thing.

    1. Hi Rob,

      I suppose any trip by bike or by car in which you benefit from the reduced traffic because other people are taking the LRT would be a trip in which you benefit. Oh, and as The Police said: “Every breath you take”. Systemic benefits are among the most important to come from any large-scale project, but are easy to overlook in one’s reasoning. (Cf., “I’m a healthy young adult; how could I possibly benefit from a vaccination against a flu that couldn’t kill me anyhow?”)

      1. I sorta see what you’re going for here. There’s two problems with this secondary benefit as you describe.

        1. I’ve met very few who will realize primary benefit from the LRT. That makes me nervous. To realize lowered congestion, someone needs to actually get on it and ride. Ditto lower pollution levels.

        2. My commute is East-West. I think it’s a weakness of the planned route. I’m not suggesting the route be changed to suit me, but the secondary benefit might not be as large as one might think.

        As I say, it’s a selfish motive, but in a political decision, it’s a legitimate way to make a choice. And if more selfish people are for it, then I can live with that.

        I just don’t buy that this is a panacea. And I think that’s especially true for those who neither live, nor work anywhere close to the line.

        My heart goes out to the taxpayers of Cambridge should this thing pass.

  4. Roads are expensive – check the river road expansion out, 52-66million for just over 4km of new roads, and that really only benefits people going from south-west Kitchener to south-east Kitchener.

    LRT is great for everyone that can’t afford a car or can’t physically ride a bike… also a realistic alternative for people that have kids. I think LRT would be viable right now… route 7 on the GRT is packed most of the time… I took it from Conestoga to DT after working an evening shift and the bus was at least half-full, and it was midnight when it got to the terminal.

    The 450 person capacity is likely a train that has as many cars as possible, but it’s easy to run with less cars off-peak too.

    Even drivers will benefit indirectly as less cars will be on the road… I think it takes a bit of cognitive dissonance to argue that driving will still be cheap in 10-20 years, already the 30% jump in gas this year would be enough to force people on a tight budget to either stop driving as much or look to cut any discretionary spending out of their budget, which doesn’t really help the local economy at all if it’s going to buy gasoline.

    The other thing that isn’t mentioned a lot is smog and air quality, it’s been a few years since we’ve had smog alert days but I imagine there will be more of those in the future as well. :/

    1. @Charles,
      Your point about family is spot on, particularly when it’s extreme temperatures.

      This past winter I avoided either pushing the kids or trailering the kids in extreme cold or poor road conditions. LRT would help immensely. Perhaps I’ll experiment in coming weeks taking the bus to the Kitchener’s farmer’s market instead of driving.

      Great comment!

  5. Thanks for your follow-up comments, Rob. My own cycle commute is nowhere near the LRT route except at one point, but it seems clear to me that — to choose just one example — anytime I ride downtown, it is better to deal with fixed facilities and a scheduled train than to deal with a mass of extra buses converging on and passing through the downtown core — driving and stopping in the bike lanes at each point. So even if one were to confine one’s reasoning to “direct” benefits, one has lots of food for thought.

    My own perspective is partly shaped by personal experience. I’ve lived and traveled in plenty of cities in plenty of countries, and the ones that had mass rail transit were in general vastly more livable than the ones built around more roads and more sprawl. I agree absolutely that it will not be a panacea; but then, I haven’t seen anyone argue that it will be a panacea. Whereas I have seen a good number of contra arguments along the lines of “Alas, it won’t be perfect!” Our choices are between only imperfect options at this point, so LRT’s not being a panacea is neither here nor there. Both as a (sometimes selfish) cyclist and as someone who (sometimes selflessly) wants to see Waterloo Region become a generally better place for cycling, I think that LRT is a clearly better choice than either vastly more cars and wider, busier roads, or vastly more buses and wider, busier roads.

    In any case, thanks for posting the LRT for Dummies graphic. It’s useful and thought-provoking.

  6. That info-graphic is interesting. I wonder how our area compares to the other cities listed W.R.T. things like levels of urbanization? And are those cost comparisons exclusive of each other. IMO Waterloo region feels like a highly sub-urbanized area, so an LRT would benefit only the core KW strip and you’d need to maintain/ invest in the huge bus network to feed into the small area covered the LRT. But I suppose the flip side would be that an LRT might be the very thing our area needs to spur true urban growth and stop encroaching into the townships with yet another suburb and developments like that retail monstrosity in the west end…

    And kudos to our Mayor…Brenda H. ….way to take a stand, you’re a true politician…

  7. FYI, I’m an Iron-Horse cyclist with a 7km commute from downtown Kitchener to the R+T Park. The LRT is NOT a panacea and it will not improve commuting here. Conceivably, I’d benefit from the route, but in reality I won’t. It will triple my commute time, once the walk-and-wait times at each end are factored in. And consider:
    1) Electricity to run LRT will come from coal or nuclear plants. It’s not clean and it’s not cheap.
    2) Inter-city train travel in SW Ontario is a joke. It’s slow, inconvenient, and VERY expensive. Two hours each way by GO train to get from KW to TO, at a cost of almost $500/month? No thanks. Why, oh why, can’t we prioritize a decent high-speed rail line along the Windsor-to-Quebec City corridor? Now THAT would get a huge number of cars off the road.
    3) Collectively, we’re told we need to change our behaviour as commuters. Fine. But why force us onto transit? Why not force us onto bikes? If Kitchener councillor John Gazzola, who is in his 70’s, can commute by bike, then so can most people. Got kids? Get a bike trailer. Need groceries? Get a backpack and some saddlebags – or a cargo trailer (and maybe stop buying bottled water and soda pop!!) Consider moving closer to the school or workplace. Save time, save money, get healthy, and save the region from a white elephant.
    4) We’re moving toward a knowledge-based economy here. Many high-tech workers have flex time and the ability to telecommute. Why not encourage more of that? It has the added advantage of saving companies money by not having to build or lease more bricks and mortar.
    5) LRT here would be run as a corporation unto itself – entirely separate from GRT, and staffed by Bombardier employees. That does not bode well in many respects: scheduling, wages, unions …
    6) Property – especially public property – is increasingly difficult and costly to maintain because of vandalism and graffiti. Are we prepared to cover the costs?
    7) Given that the costs of a skateboard park here have doubled, do we really think that LRT will cost anything less than $1.5B or more?

    1. Meghan you’re preaching to the choir :)
      But my hope with the LRT discussion/decision is that it’s only one small part of the larger equation of making our cities livable.

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