Where are the Waterloo Region LRTs?

We’re all used to the news about LRT delivery delays in Kitchener-Waterloo – the better part of a year has passed since the original date by which all Bombardier promised all vehicles would be delivered. So what is Waterloo Area waiting for, and what’s taking Bombardier so long? There has been a number of LRT development issues along the way, and we’re not out of the woods yet. Let’s look at the public transit delays, and where that has left us.

The initial plan for ION rapid transit was broken down into stages. Stage 1 is accounts for LRT between Kitchener and Waterloo, as well as rapid bus transit to Cambridge, while Stage 2 will include expanded transit options to Cambridge. Stage 2 is still in planning, with no hard goals or deadlines.

Stage 1 is where we’ve run into problems. The original timeline would have seen all 14 LRT vehicles delivered by December 2016. A “disconnect in communications” between the manufacturing plant and final assembly plant resulted in misaligned bolt-holes, and delayed delivery. The new production schedule would see the final car delivered in October 2017

“But May 2017 was a few months ago,” you might correctly point out. So where are the LRTs?

The second delay occurred this summer, when regional staff went to oversee testing of the second LRT car, which was supposed to be delivered in June. Due to concerns of inadequate functionality in key areas such as braking and management systems, the Waterloo Region committee responsible has rejected delivery until the final kinks have been worked out. The car, which has seating for 56 and space for up to 200 people, will remain in Kingston for further testing.

According to a representative for the committee, train 2 could have been delivered, but it would not have performed adequately. The decision to hold off on accepting the LRT vehicles should ensure that they arrive fully functional, and safe to ride and operate.

What does that mean for you? Nothing, just yet. Even once we accept the LRT cars, there is still construction to be finished on the infrastructure itself. The cars themselves also require a burn-in period of 600 kilometres before they can enter public use, so we still have to be patient for a while longer. The good news is that the LRT system should still begin operation in spring of 2018, which means this new delay doesn’t change the operation schedule any further.

If everything goes according to plan, you’ll soon be able to take fast trips around the Kitchener-Waterloo area on a fleet of modern LRT vehicles, or cruise to Cambridge on rapid bus transit routes. Stage 2 of ION will bring even more developments in the region, further connecting the region with faster LRT, but don’t let the excitement make you forget common sense safety advice.

While the LRT vehicles are separate from the road, they aren’t as cordoned off as you might expect. LRT tracks are built slightly above road level, but unlike a subway track venturing above ground, LRT tracks don’t exist behind layers of fences. LRT is like streetcars with their own, raised lane in the middle of the road. They’re separate from traffic, but you can still be injured if you make a wrong turn, or cross the street at the wrong moment.

As LRT systems are introduced into Waterloo Region, keep your wits about you and remember that these new vehicles can travel up to 80km/hr. Keep clear of the tracks and be cognisant of the changes in traffic behaviour. Drivers may take time to acclimatize to this new imposition on their routine, so take extra caution on roadways and intersections that have LRT tracks.

If you’ve had an accident on or around public transit, contact Harris Law to find out how you can get the restitution you deserve. Our team is ready to provide a free, one-hour consultation to show you the way forward.