Ion Rapid Transit - BIon Rapid Transit - B
Because Stage 2 was still years away in March 2017, Grand River Transit was providing rapid transit between Fairview Park Mall and the Ainslie Street Transit Terminal (in the "downtown Galt" area) using iXpress buses. Adapted versions would become available in the near future for the Ion bus. Other stops are at Hespeler Road at the Delta, Can-Amera, Cambridge Centre, Pinebush, and Sportsworld. The rapid transit vehicles use bus-only lanes at Pinebush, Munch and Coronation to minimize slowdowns at times of heavy traffic. Following the launch of light rail stage 1, the Ion bus provides a direct link to that system. This bus route is properly known as 302 Ion Bus. That service, termed "adapted bus rapid transit" runs in shared traffic lanes for most of the route, and fares are collected on board. It therefore does not meet the BRT Standard definition of bus rapid transit. No firm estimates had been published as to the possible start of (Stage 2) light rail service to Cambridge but a report in early July 2017 suggested that construction would not begin until 2025.
The stations have been built to be the length of two LRVs; however, as only single vehicles are anticipated to be required initially, the major station facilities were only built for a single vehicle length at start. This consists of a cantilevered glass canopy over a mostly open waiting area; enclosures were built at most stations to provide some shelter. Each station is also recognizable by a 'feature wall', a 3-metre (9.8 ft) square installation near the end of the platform that carries a distinct colour scheme and pattern. The wall face is a series of large tiles in glass, ceramic or stone; at some stations, all tiles are the same, while others feature a unique pattern. Each wall features illuminated Ion and GRT logos, as well as the station's name set in Clearview. A second wall and canopy can be installed at the opposite end of each platform, and are planned to be erected when two light rail vehicle cars become the norm.
There are ten public art installations within the Ion corridor with artworks at Conestoga, Research and Technology, Grand River Hospital, Kitchener Market, Mill, Block Line and Fairway. A further piece, Fabric of Place by Lilly Otasevic consisting of a panel with imaging representing the fabric of the community, is used as a barrier along the Ion track in Waterloo behind the Albert McCormick Community Centre, on Parkside Drive. Waterloo Region budgeted $875,000 for the artworks.
Station Location Notes Coords
The project has attracted vocal support and opposition.
In May 2009, a Facebook group named "I Support Light Rail Transit in the Region of Waterloo" was created, and boasted over 1,600 members. Shortly after its creation, the group creator and other LRT supporters formed the "Tri-Cities Transport Action Group" (TriTAG). According to its website, TriTAG supports LRT as a needed method of shaping development, meeting future capacity needs, protecting the environment, and providing the most economical solution for transportation in the Region. Six months after founding, TriTAG launched an email campaign to allow supporters of LRT to email their MPs, MPPs, and other government officials such as the federal and provincial Ministers of Transportation. Within a few days, thousands of emails had been sent. For the 2010 Regional Budget, TriTAG and its supporters presented to the Regional Budget Committee regarding various areas of transportation funding. While the focus was not on LRT, the delegates spoke about the importance of proper transportation infrastructure (pedestrian, cycling, transit) on a successful LRT system. TriTAG has continued their support of the project into the bid stage in 2014; a notable contribution is a video outlining the landmarks and amenities that the route will access. Proponents have asserted that the region's plans for rapid transit will be an essential component of planning and rationally controlling the Region's growth.
A report in late 2017 indicated that the new Ion system was responsible in part for a predicted building boom in the core of Kitchener, much of it located near LRT stations. An estimated $1.2 billion in building permits for 20 new developments was expected by March 2018, adding 1,000 apartments and 1,800 condominium units. According to the City, the anticipated development was a "mixture of high-density residential buildings with ground-floor retail, and office buildings with ground-floor retail". Half of the projects would be extensive in size. A report in the Waterloo Region Record of December 29, 2017 indicated that "since Ion was approved in 2009, the region has issued $2.4 billion in building permits within the LRT corridor." Rod Regier, Commissioner of Planning, Development and Legislative Services for Waterloo Region, commented on the increase in building permits. "My back-of-the-envelope estimate is that the private sector developers have invested almost double the full cost of the Ion itself in the transit corridor. That for me is really astonishing," he said.
A group opposed to the rapid transit proposal, called "Taxpayers for Sensible Transit" (T4ST), was formed in June 2009. According to its website, T4ST opposes LRT as being a proposal too big and too expensive for the region, which will hurt businesses and the local economy. Taxpayers for Sensible Transit did not present a position regarding transportation and transit funding for the 2010 Regional Budget.
In September 2013 Doug Craig, the mayor of Cambridge, called for the examining the cost of cancelling the light rail line. He justified this examination due to doubts by Toronto politicians over its light rail line.
On November 19, 2013, it was reported that Craig was working to "extricate" Cambridge from any obligation to pay for the line connecting it to Kitchener, while, at the same time, trying to argue for connecting Cambridge to Toronto, via a GO line.
The first candidate to announce his run for Mayor of the City of Waterloo in the 2014 election, local media personality Dave MacDonald, was running on a primarily anti-LRT platform.
In March 2014, just as the Region was preparing to give final approval to the construction contract, a group titled "Coalition Stop Waterloo LRT" filed a legal injunction against the project, claiming it did not meet planning guidelines and should be stopped. A court decision on March 18 dismissed the motion, but did not rule out further legal review. It later emerged that the only citizen directly associated with the filing coalition was local businessman Jay Aissa. Ann Tucker of the Ontario Superior Court dismissed the suit on March 19, 2014.
In July, Aissa announced that he was dropping further legal challenges, and instead would take a political option to oppose the project, running against incumbent Regional chairman Ken Seiling. Seiling was re-elected Chairman with 58.4% of the vote.
After publication of the February 2017 route plan, some citizens of Cambridge, particularly in the Preston area, were strongly objecting to the route, especially the section planned for Shantz hill and certain residential areas. City Council particularly objected to the Shantz Hill Road to Hespeler Road section and passed a motion in early July 2017 instructing staff to advise the Region of this and to request that alternatives be explored
Owner: Region of Waterloo
Locale: Kitchener and Waterloo, Ontario
Transit type: Light rail
Bus rapid transit
Number of lines: 1 LRT
Line number 301 ION Light Rail
302 ION Bus
Number of stations: 19 (6 of the 19 stations serve one direction only)
Daily ridership: 25,000 (as of November 2020)
Began operation: June 21, 2019
Operator(s): Keolis, GrandLinq, Grand River Transit
Number of vehicles: 14 Flexity Freedom, 9 New Flyer Xcelsior
System length: 19 km (12 mi)
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge
Electrification: 750 V DC overhead
Ion System Map
Highway 85 (Conestoga Parkway)
Research and Technology
University of Waterloo
Waterloo Public Square
Grand River Hospital
Central Station VIA Rail Canada
Kitchener City Hall
Charles Street Transit Terminal
Duke Street/Frederick Street
Highway 7 / Highway 8
Ion aBRT to Cambridge