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Why everyone benefits by building the LRT


A very important angle is missing from the ongoing debate about the LRT in Waterloo Region.

The LRT benefits everyone.

Even if you never step foot on the LRT, you come out ahead. And not by a photo finish. By a wide margin!

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1.You save money!

Yes, the estimated $818 million cost of the LRT is significant. But it’s a small amount compared to the costs required by not building it.

Growing into the countryside is expensive. Just paying to build and widen roads is a significant expense. Not to mention ongoing maintenance of roads.

Without LRT, the Region of Waterloo would need to spend $1.4 billion on roads spending in this region over the next two decades. Just as since 2004, the region has spent $247 million expanding roads (or roughly the local portion of the LRT costs).

Road costs are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many other costs to provide infrastructure to grow outwards. Water, sewers, electricity are needed.

Parents will want schools, community centres and fully-equipped parks.

Public transit to these new homes will be inefficient and cost too much to connect people to rapid buses.

Who pays for these roads, services and infrastructure. You do.

Sure there are costs to providing those services through intensification too. The difference is that we’ve already paid many of those costs because the land is already built up.

Sometimes you need to spend money to save money.

Cancel the LRT and you can expect to pay more property tax than if you have it. Guaranteed.

Cancel it and you’ll be paying through the nose to break contracts and work already done–and have nothing to show for it. With the main contract expected to be passed by Regional Council in March, we will be far past the point of no return by the time the municipal election comes around. Our focus needs to be on making the LRT the best it can be including how it will impact development around its stations.

Want to learn more? Check out the cost of sprawl website.

2. We make more money!

We can expect more development along the land within easy walking distance of the LRT route (aka the central transit corridor). It’s already happening. More can be expected as developers see opportunities near a permanent route that are attractive to people who want to live, work and play without the expense of a car or the 2 or more cars many of us require.

This development increases the value of the land developed. The increased land values mean more property tax than is being paid on these properties currently. Rather than being a burden on the property owner, they will be making more money than they could from the current land uses. They will be able to afford higher property taxes and build recouping those costs into their development plans.

Do you think the City of Waterloo is bringing in more money from the apartment buildings that have sprung up near the universities than they did from the single family homes used previously by students? You bet they are!

Kitchener’s downtown core alone features attractive opportunities for development. Over time, the value of all those surface parking lots will become too valuable to be used that way. Property owners or developers will look to make greater income from these parking lots by building on them. Think Kitchener can expect more property tax revenue than from a parking lot? You bet it can!

Greater income from land along the LRT route is good news for property tax rates for the rest of us. Even without taking into account the savings described earlier, more money as a result of development means your city and the Region of Waterloo don’t have to look to existing homeowners and renters for the income they need to maintain or enhance the services we need or desire.

Your pocket book benefits from this development. If our municipal governments have a bigger pool of money resulting from new development, it is easier for them to budget without undesirable large annual increases to your property tax. Even easier if they are not expected to pay the mountainous costs to grow onto farmland and forests.

And who knows, you might just get a better paying job that the LRT attracts?

3. Your quality of life improves!

When the St. Jacob’s Farmer Market fire happened, we saw a outpouring of affection from all over Waterloo Region.

Love the St. Jacob’s Farmer Market? Love the farmer’s markets in Kitchener or Cambridge? Prefer local food and buying direct from farmers?

You want to build the LRT. Otherwise, the farms you are buying from today become the suburbs of tomorrow and we’ll lose some of the best agricultural land in Ontario.

A great benefit of living in Waterloo Region is how easily we can access nature. Those opportunities shrink as we expand outwards. We need to travel further to have the same experiences or we only find them in publicly owned land.

That just skims the surface of how your quality of life improves by having the LRT and what we risk if we don’t have it. There are many more examples possible.

Many blog posts could be dedicated to how the  environment benefits such as protecting our source of water underground and environmentally sensitive lands.

Our health benefits too. People using the LRT and the express bus routes will generally be healthier from walking more. Fewer cars on the road than if we grow by adding more roads further from jobs and services mean less air pollution and fewer accidents resulting in serious injuries.

Want the best quality of life possible in Waterloo Region? The LRT is a key ingredient in striving for that goal!

Let’s extend LRT to Cambridge ASAP

These benefits apply to all parts of Waterloo Region including Cambridge. Admittedly the benefits may not be experienced equally by all parts of the Region but I expect people living in all parts will benefit more by having it than not having it.

At the same time, I believe it critical to fast track extension of the LRT to Cambridge. By that I mean faster than the Region’s current timetable. Planning should already be more advanced.

Learn more about how we all benefit by building the LRT

I’ve deliberately avoided getting detailed and providing lots of precise facts. My intent is to help people unconvinced about the LRT how they can expect to benefit and desire this post to be as easy to read as possible.

There are plenty of hard facts to back up how everyone benefits from the LRT. Just follow these links:

And a blog post that explains now is the time to look forward:

What do you think?

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6 comments on “Why everyone benefits by building the LRT

  1. With all due respect roads, infrastructure, schools and subdivisions will still have to be built and maintained in the region as it grows. Not everyone can, or has the ability to live downtown and rely on public transit. That is an idealistic perspective, not realistic. Can’t see many people hauling a bushel of cucumbers home on the LRT to make pickles.

    • You make a good point Chris! All those things you listed will continue to happen. I understand there are already a good supply of new projects already working their way through the process.

      With the LRT, you’ll see a different pace and quantity of new suburbs. To give you an idea, the Region’s official plan slated 85 hectares for new development over the next 20 years. The OMB decision reflected a status quo approach to growth and called for 1053 hectares for new development. That’s an 1100% difference with you and me paying the infrastructure costs that come with developing that much more land. Focussing development in built up areas already serviced is a much more efficient use of our tax dollars. Taking that into consideration is how we all benefit in the three areas outlined.

      That bushel of cucumbers? Even someone who relies on LRT/public transit still has access to cars if desired through carshare, rentals, friends, families and coworkers, etc. If they want to make pickles, I’m sure they can find someone who will help make that happen!

  2. Well said James. The Millenials or Generation Y want to live and work downtown. Tech companies like Google are making a huge commitment to the Region and having the Ion will make it easier to attract and keep the talent here.

    http://www.treehugger.com/urban-design/yet-another-study-shows-how-gen-y-wants-live-and-work-downtown.html

    • Thanks Jeff! You make a good point about the differing lifestyle choices being made by many especially those recently graduated who face a different financial picture and have different priorities from previous generations. That’s a shift in thinking that’s hard to get your head around if someone hasn’t shifted their own mindset.

  3. James I completely understand and agree with the need for an effective public transportation system that is environmentally responsible to enhance the quality of life and change the social fabric of our region. What I and many of my generation of middle aged, hard working, self made, tax paying citizens object to (despite the countless studies and justifications) is the over all cost of the project and it’s impact on current tax bases. It could be argued that while Waterloo Region tends to weather economic storms better than most regions in the country shouldn’t we be trying to keep it that way?

    I may not be as informed as I should be but certainly there must be less costly and less disruptive alternatives that would move people in the same volumes, schedules and velocity that the ION will. And accomplish the same value goals you speak about. At least for the foreseeable future.

    It appears to many of us that Regional Chair Ken Seiling is trying to leave himself a costly legacy. Personally I feel the candidates running on a cancel the LRT platform are misguided but I can tell you many people share that emotion. Perhaps a silent majority.

    By the way, many of us remember our first ION… It was called the trolley and worked just fine!

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective Chris! I understand the concern about cost so I’m trying to show how much we’d be paying if we paid for enough new roads to grow outwards. We’re saving money.

      At this point in the process, there really isn’t any viable alternative. Buses are suggested yet the original iXpress route that roughly uses the LRT route is regularly full even when you wouldn’t expect it to be. We could add more buses and help them move faster but at some point, there’s too many buses to move people efficiently and we’ll want light rail. Imagine how expensive that would be in a decade? And that’s after we’ve spent millions on a temporary bus solution.

      The demise of the trolley was a change in lifestyles. Similarly, a change in lifestyles is bringing us state of the art light rail trains.

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