I know that Light Rail Transit (LRT) is not a city issue. I also know that the only person on Kitchener or Waterloo City Council who will definitely vote on the issue is the Mayor–and though my focus here is on Kitchener, I urge voters in Waterloo to identify and elect a strong LRT advocate as Mayor.
But I am still interested in what candidates for Kitchener City Council think about this issue for three reasons:
- An option that I have heard some people discussing is whether the Cities of Kitchener and Waterloo should contribute towards the local portion of the cost. While at first, I thought that the cities shouldn’t even consider a request because the regional and city taxpayer are the same person. But having given it more thought, it might be something to consider as one of the alternatives for paying the local portion of the project since both Kitchener and Waterloo will benefit from an increased tax base as a result of intensification and will benefit proportionately more—or at least sooner and more directly—than other parts of the Region. I’m not sure if either City can afford to contribute but there is at least a chance that there could be a LRT vote at City Council.
- Even if the cities are not asked to contribute financially, a strong pro-LRT City Council can play an important role in helping to persuade the Region, Province of Ontario and the Federal government to make light rail happen and ensure that our growth is through intensification rather than expanding outwards. Leadership from the City could make the difference in whether we have light rail transit.
- A City Council candidate’s position on the LRT also tells me a lot about their views on city building and spending tax dollars in a responsible, yet progressive manner. I will trust a pro-LRT Council to follow through on intensifying our city cores and resisting the call for more suburban growth.
If you have not already done so, I urge you to read Luisa D’Amato’s column for the Record on Saturday where she does a great job of explaining why we need a LRT system. One point that she raises that I haven’t highlighted is that the Region of Waterloo faces significant costs due to continued growth whether or not we have rapid transit. We will be building or widening roads if we don’t have a rapid transit system in place that will encourage people to live an work in our cores. Building the roads needed means big bucks that may not come with any contributions from the federal or provincial governments. We face big bills related to growth. Our choice is how we want to spend that money and what kind of quality of life we’ll have once we have spent it.
Toronto decided to grow by building roads. If you haven’t noticed, moving people more effectively is a major issue in Toronto’s municipal election. We have the chance to learn from its experience.
Let’s choose progressive solutions for growth and transit and enjoy a higher quality of life! Be sure to vote for politician’s at both the Regional and City level who agree.