(Note: thanks for everyone's incredible feedback and debate. Excited that maybe we could figure this out together. You can find the latest discussion over here: http://www.walkablewaterloo.com/)
I love this city. I moved here in 2005 to attend Mechatronics Engineering at the University of Waterloo. I founded Kik here in 2009 when everyone else moved south. And I gave back to the community as soon and as much as I could. I love Waterloo. And I believe that Waterloo has an incredible future. That with the right vision, leadership, and resources we will be able to shape Waterloo into one of the premiere cities of the world. But our voice has been stolen, and is now being used by our politicians to push through an emotionally charged plan. And we need to stand up and ask them to stop, before it’s too late.
I only started reading about the specifics of the LRT this past Sunday. I read about how it was supposed to be nice to see, and fun to ride. How it was supposed to be something we could be proud of. I was so excited. I always thought trains were so cool. But then I saw a picture of what the LRT would actually look like, pictured above but with two wheels photoshopped in for effect. Not a futuristic train whizzing by overhead, but just a glorified bus running up and down King in a dedicated lane. And I read about how much it would cost. 800 million dollars. More than enough money, according to Wikipedia, to build 3 CN Towers.
This is the problem with the LRT. It has convinced our politicians to make an emotional decision for themselves, when it is their job to act rationally on our behalf. But let’s just stop, take a deep breath, and think for a second. We say that traveling by bus is brutal and that these trains will be so much more comfortable to take, but after two wheels are photoshopped in we will all see that it is simply a shinier bus. We say that the train will be so much fun to ride that everyone will choose to leave their cars at home, but have you considered the studies that show commuting by LRT will take twice as long, meaning that you’ll have to give up time hanging out with your friends, or playing in the backyard with your kids? And we say that this is our only option to fix our transit and that we better do it now before it gets too late, but how much have we really looked into other solutions, ones that would make getting from home, to work, to activities actually fun?
I know we all want something to point to and say look, we have arrived! And as a recent student I know that having to take the bus in Waterloo truly does suck. But I worry that 5 years from now we'll all look back and feel like fools. Because instead of a train we all know and love, we'll have glorified buses that are just as miserable to take. Because instead of getting cars off the streets and opening our roads, we'll have closed key roadways and made traffic a mess. And because instead of looking for a unique solution that would actually make commuting in Waterloo fun, we'll have gone over budget and burdened any future options for decades to come.
The LRT is full of risk. And no one can truly know which way is right. But there is one thing we know for sure. That either way, it is the people who should decide. Unfortunately a hand full of politicians have stolen our voice. They all told us they were against the LRT during elections, but once they got in they changed their minds and voted to approve it 9 to 2. We asked them to put it to a referendum, but they decided they'd rather choose on their own. And now they are going to use our voice today to purchase the first 100 million dollars of trains, after which they hope there’ll be no looking back.
Maybe a glorified bus really is worth 800 million. But our voice has been stolen, and then repeatedly used to get an expensive project pushed through. And I’d like to know why, and what other solutions were actually considered. So I will be appearing at council today to file a Freedom of Information request on all matters related to the LRT. So that once we get our voice back, we will be able to get educated and decide for ourselves.