Kate Turner Cord Visual Director

A new look for the GRT

Kate Turner Cord Visual Director
Kate Turner Cord Visual Director

Waterloo residents got a preview of the new ION Light Rail Vehicles

Justin Smirlies

The ION made its first trip to Waterloo Region this month.

The $818-million light rail transit (LRT) system that the Region of Waterloo has approved is finally in motion. On July 12, Bombardier, under its Flexity Freedom line of vehicles, showed off one of the new light rail vehicles (LRVs) in front of Region of Waterloo headquarters to give residents the first official glimpse of the ION train.

The Region purchased 14 vehicles in total for the LRT system, which is to be completed by 2017. “These kinds of projects and getting to milestones like today take a huge amount of work by a huge amount of people, so one of the themes of today will be partnership, collaboration and working together,” announced Mike Murray, chief administrative officer for the Region of Waterloo, at the official unveiling of the ION train.

The model on display on Fredrick Street in Kitchener featured the driver’s area, some seats and the exact width of the train car – a vehicle that already appears to be a lot more spacious than the buses in the Grand River Transit (GRT) system. The final LRVs will have doors on both sides, will be able to seat 56 passengers and should hold up to 200 people in total.

The project will be implemented in two stages with the first stage — a 19 km track from Conestoga Mall to Fairview mall — to be completed by 2017. The second stage will connect Conestoga Mall and Ainslie St. terminal.
While it has been approved by regional councilors in June 2011, the LRT system in Waterloo Region has seen its fair share of opposition, some of which resurfaced earlier this month. Through a petition on Change.org on July 10, Ted Livingston, the CEO of Kik Interactive, tried to reignite the opposition to the project.

But Tom Galloway, a councillor at the Region of Waterloo, said it was too late. “The people who are primarily not on board [with the project], so to speak, don’t understand that this is much more than a fancy transportation project. This is about shaping our community,” he said. “We must plan the 250,00 people that are coming in the next 25 years. And it is happening; it’s about 10,000 people a year.”

One of the reasons why the region moved toward a LRT system is to reduce congestion without having to expand urban sprawl. Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy spoke to The Cord Community Edition at the unveiling about his thoughts on the new system.

“I’ve found, by driving around the community, that there are issues with congestion and traffic problems, and we’ve got to address it and this is going to address it head on,” he said.

While the Region won’t see the ION LRVs until the summer of 2016, the production will begin about two years earlier in 2014.