My husband and I arrived back in Canada in 2009 after two years in Europe and quite a few more in BC. I’ll admit we didn’t choose the area, it chose us with a fantastic opportunity for my husband. Hoping to continue our sans car, public transit life we’d had in Europe, we selected Guelph’s Ward 1 for its proximity to Via Rail (I commuted into TO) and our ability to walk to the Market and the downtown core. After a year we decided to move on to KW, and again chose a house that allowed me to walk to work and downtown. We were surprised to find that there was no commutable transit between Kitchener and Guelph, which left my hubby tethered to our car everyday. After living in Madrid, with one of the world’s best metro systems, this was and is a shock.
You can imagine that we were thrilled to hear about the arrival of GO Train and the seemingly aligned Regional plan for LRT; and our dismay at hearing the advocates start to dismiss it as unnecessary, too expensive and not “for us” during the recent election. Enter tritag, the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group and Wonderful Waterloo with December 5th’s Rally for Rails: Don’t Derail Our Future. A strong showing of supporters (in freezing weather) plus a really good offering of speakers including Region, City, university and even arts representatives showed that there are others like us out there – people who want to tread lightly on our planet’s resources, plan for long term sustainability and who believe in what Waterloo Region is and what it can be.
Like every rally of this type, you have your naysayers. An older gentleman circulated through the crowd with flyers that deemed the LRT plan as too expensive. We gave him a polite no-thank-you, and when he asked if our minds were already made up, we said heck yes. After all sir, not only do we pay taxes now, we will be paying them long after you are not. We´re planning for the future, are you? And as one sign so well put it – “Roads aren’t free.”
If you want more on what is happening with LRT planning, what you can do to help or just to see what the arguments are, I would encourage you to visit tritag’s website. You can find ready to print flyers, how to get involved (from sending an email to volunteering your time) and links to all sorts of resources like an intercity transportation guide. You can also join the conversation on Wonderful Waterloo.
We aren’t Toronto and we certainly don’t have the bulk of a major city like Madrid, most likely we don’t want to be either. R4R drove home the message that systems like LRTs are not just for mega cities, they are for communities that are planning for substantial growth, that take initiative for greening their backyard and others and understand that sustainable planning isn’t always the easiest route to take.
My favorite sentiment of R4R came from Martin de Groot who said (I’m paraphrasing here) that wasn’t it crazy that a city that has been deemed one of the most intelligent and innovative in the world, feels that it can’t do an LRT because it is too difficult. Yes I agree Martin, LRT may be hard, but it is right.
Thanks to Wonderful Waterloo and TRITAG for this opportunity to show our support and connect with others who think it’s as good an idea as we do.