Region Wants more GO to Get On

Not to sound either pessimistic or bitter, but how likely is the campaigning outlined below going to yield any real results?

The following press release, which I received from the City of Kitchener’s Director Corporate Communications & Marketing Laura Johnston, discusses a consultation meeting in the Tri-Cities today where local politicians met with provincial counterparts about expanding GO Transit service in the Toronto-Kitchener corridor, including two-way train service. But between the present mayors of Kitchener and Waterloo stepping down after this fall’s election, and the strong possibility that the Liberal government will fall after presenting its budget, what are the chances, if any, that this proposal will bear any fruit?

Good question, but the answer is it shouldn’t matter because expanding GO train service can have benefits for us all. Or at least those of us willing to explore the sometimes fun and always environmentally sound world of using public transit. Currently, the GO train heads to Toronto from Kitchener (and through Guelph) twice in the morning, and brings commuters back this way twice in the evening. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could catch the train in Guelph to go to Kitchener? Or catch a later train from here in order to take a day trip into Toronto? It sounds like a pipe dream, but then again, so was getting GO trains to come back through here once after they were scaled back in the early 90s.

On the one hand, it’s difficult to say if there’s appetite at the government level to increase GO Transit in our area, but on the other hand there’s no doubt that Metrolinx has made a concerted effort in the last couple of years to develop its transit access outside the immediate GTA. Along with the return of the GO train, more bus times have been added throughout the week and the weekend, and a GO train stop has been added to Acton to spare that town’s residents from commuting to Georgetown to get the train to Toronto. So will our region’s petitioning make a convincing case? I guess we’ll find out when the province releases its budget later this spring.

Here’s the press release:

KITCHENER – During a pre-budget consultation today, Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr presented the joint two-way GO train business case to the Hon. Charles Sousa, Ontario’s finance minister and to Kitchener Centre MPP John Milloy. The proposal is a collaborative initiative that, in addition to the City of Kitchener, includes the cities of Waterloo and Guelph, the Region of Waterloo, and partners in the technology and financial services sectors.

Mayor Zehr’s presentation outlined the needs and pay-back of expanding the commuter rail service between Union Station and Kitchener. The request is for the province and federal government to establish a capital allocation for rail infrastructure to support full-day, two-way GO train service on the Kitchener Line (CN North Mainline) in the 2014 provincial and federal capital budgets.

Mayor Zehr believes the presentation was important and valuable.

“I’m optimistic that the province will give our request favourable consideration,” Zehr said. “With the foresight to invest in this initiative, the federal and provincial governments will play a key role in generating over 30,000 new jobs in the technology and financial services sectors in the innovation corridor.”

Waterloo Mayor Brenda Halloran agreed that enhanced rail service is much more than a public transit strategy – it’s a job growth strategy. She also noted that the proposal is aligned with the province’s budget priorities.

“Our local plan for jobs and growth is focused on building modern infrastructure and promoting a dynamic and innovative business climate,” Mayor Halloran explained. “Expanded two-way GO service certainly fits into that vision.”

The compelling 90-page business case for expanded GO Train service between Waterloo Region, Guelph and Toronto/GTA was released in December and demonstrates that a strategic investment in transit infrastructure is critical to continued growth and vitality.

Guelph Mayor Karen Farbridge explained that full-day, two way GO train service “builds on the incredible momentum we have already created in this region. We need to link the regional economies of the GTA with Waterloo Region and Guelph in order to fully achieve our potential as Canada’s Innovation Supercluster.”

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BACKGROUND:

To read the business case, visit: http://www.kitchener.ca/en/businessinkitchener/resources/ED_GO_Train_Business_Case.pdf

The cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph and the Region of Waterloo have collaborated to create a detailed business case – “Innovative Regional Economies and Strategic Infrastructure: the business case for Two-Way Urban Commuter Rail on the CN North Mainline”- which outlines the economic imperative and opportunities along the Toronto to Kitchener rail corridor which will help the province and our communities compete for global talent and innovative companies.

The joint request is that a 10-year capital allocation for rail infrastructure be established by the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario to support full two-way GO Train service on the Kitchener Line (CN North Mainline) in the 2014 federal and provincial capital budgets.

The business case contains cost-savings analysis, maps, ridership estimates and development potential organized in six sections:

  • Ontario’s economic growth opportunity;
  • Building an innovation supercluster
  • Innovative cities in the Waterloo region to Toronto corridor
  • The geography of innovation
  • Proposed two-way GO Train service
  • Recommendations and conclusion

Communitech, Wilfrid Laurier University, University of Waterloo, the Greater KW and Guelph Chamber of Commerce, Manulife, The Cooperators, Open Text, Desire2Learn, Waterloo Region Home Builders’ Association and many other private sector stakeholders support this initiative.

Quick Facts:

There are 30,000 local tech workers, 34% commute from Toronto/GTA
There will be an additional 37,000 tech and creative workers in the area by 2031
32,000 trips are made daily each way between Waterloo Region and Guelph
There are 11 million sq. ft. of potential residential growth in transit station areas
There is $4 billion construction potential in urban growth centres/station areas
Initial prediction of ridership fares total $5.25 million with net operating costs of $750,000

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