Waterloo Region Record
By Johanna Weidner
March 16, 2017
KITCHENER — Waterloo Region is getting $15.1 million in federal funding for improvements to the bus system, including new vehicles and equipment upgrades.
“That’s 18 brand new buses on the streets of our community,” said Waterloo MP Bardish Chagger, Minister of Small Business and Tourism, at the announcement in Kitchener on Thursday.
The seven approved projects will ensure “safe, reliable and modern transit,” Chagger told the gathering in regional headquarters.
Along with buying new buses for the Grand River Transit fleet, money is earmarked for the installation of voice radio equipment and replacement of on-board cameras on transit vehicles, and improvements near stops including lighting and walkways to bolster safety and accessibility.
“We’ve already had significant support on the rapid transit side,” said Coun. Tom Galloway, chair of the regional planning and works committee. “Here we have significant support for conventional transit.”
This is the second part of a federal funding commitment to public transit in the region through the Canada-Ontario Public Transit Infrastructure Fund. The first part, announced last August, focused primarily on the region’s new light rail system. In total, the investment is worth $35 million.
“The two work very much together,” Galloway said. “It is one fare, one system.”
Both rapid and conventional transit are essential in the region’s efforts to manage population growth and limit urban sprawl, he said.
“We decided transit was a big part of the solution,” Galloway said.
The new buses will be for iXpress routes that will connect with the light rail system. Trains are expected to start travelling the route from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park mall early next year, after some delays.
The federal funding is good news for taxpayers, Galloway said, since the region already had most of the projects in the capital budget forecast.
“Pretty well all these projects were on that list,” he said. “We’re very pleased.”
Mike Murray, chief administrative officer, said the region is building “a world-class transit system.”
He said the transit system is key for both residents to participate in the community, and for growth management.
“And that has to be a fully integrated system,” Murray said. “That’s really what we’re trying to build, so that is serves the whole community.”