After five years of construction, the ION Light Rail Transit (LRT) official launch date was confirmed for Jun. 21, 2019.
“There were times I thought this day may not come,” Tom Galloway, chair of the planning and works committee said.
The Grand Opening Ceremony will commence at 10:30 a.m., just an hour and a half shy of missing the spring launch promised last November. During the following 11 days the region will allow free transit on the LRT, Mobility Plus, iON buses, and Grand River Transit (GRT) buses.
The train will make travel between Kitchener and Waterloo easier than ever for those who rely on public transit.
“I’ve never been to Fairview Mall since I don’t have a car, so if they have the LRT then I will definitely consider going to [these],” Chen Jin, a UW student said.
Most of the work left consists of fine-tuning the electric and computing systems on the trains, as well as performing 600 kilometers (or about three days) of testing per train to ensure the vehicles are safe.
“When these vehicles come they still need a lot of attention, a lot of work, a lot of modifications,” Galloway said.
The LRT runs between Conestoga and Fairway with stops at the University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier, Kitchener City Hall, and more hot spots around the Waterloo region. Passengers can expect to see a train at each stop every eight minutes during the morning and afternoon rush hour, and every 10–15 minutes for the rest of the day.
According to the Region of Waterloo website, each vehicle has 60 seats and can comfortably hold 200 standing people. To ensure ease of transfer between different transit services without extra cost, the LRT will accept the GRT EasyGo Fare Card as payment for service. The trains take approximately 46 minutes to travel from end to end.
The Waterloo Region plans to continue with phase two of the LRT, extending the railway from its current end at Fairway all the way to the Ainslie Street Terminal in Cambridge. This extension to the LRT will replace the existing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system connecting Kitchener to Cambridge. Plans for phase two have undergone many public consultations in Cambridge due to concerns of the original plan to run the route through a residential area in Preston, but the Region has recently proposed a new route running parallel to Highway 8 to solve the concerns.