On June 21st, Grand River Transit’s (GRT) ION light rail transit began operations, carrying passengers along a dedicated track between Fairway Station in Kitchener and Conestoga Station in Waterloo.
Other notable stops along the route are Downtown Kitchener, Grand River Hospital, Uptown Waterloo, and of course, UW.
With a train scheduled to arrive every 10 minutes on weekdays between 7am and 7pm — and every 15 minutes on weekends, this higher-order transit service provides an unprecedented opportunity for students to explore all their new community has to offer.
University of Waterloo Station: University of Waterloo Station is nestled between Davis Centre and Engineering 5.
The highlight of the area is the University Plaza shops.
The University plaza is a sprawling commercial lot with quick-eat options, as well as bars, bubble tea shops, convenience stores, and a pharmacy — anything a student might need in the fleeting breaks between classes.
A recent addition to check out is Sweet Jesus, the Instagrammable ice cream chain from Toronto with a variety of intriguing flavours, now located next to Mongolian Grill.
Also steps from this station is a hidden gem — the UW Art Gallery —located at 1239, East Campus Hall, directly east of the station, past the parking lot.
This gallery features artwork from Fine Arts students of UW, as well as other Canadian and International artists.
Open 12 p.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday. All are welcome at the gallery.
Research & Technology Park Station: A business park built by a partnership between UW, Federal, Provincial, and Local governments, Research &Technology Park is home to leading Information technology companies.
Many of these companies stem from UW’s entrepreneurial culture and the Accelerator Centre which is also located inside the park.
Next to the station is Evolvi, Canada’s first zero carbon building.
It is home to Borealis AI and TextNow, as well as Sustainable Waterloo Region and even has some space for UW’s Faculty of Environment and the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change, making this a building worthy of checking out.
Matter of Taste coffee bar is steps from this station, on the opposite side of the tracks from Evolvi.
Located in one of the old Blackberry buildings, this coffee shop has a high-end, but cozy and relaxing atmosphere, away from the crowds at the university coffee shops.
Following the sidewalks past Evolvi leads to a charming network of trails and bridges between there and Columbia Lake.
Laurel Creek and the collection of stormwater management ponds in this area create a surprisingly peaceful and a natural oasis away from the chaos and crowds of campus.
Laurier-Waterloo Park Station: The closest station to the UWP residence complex, this stop is located south of campus, north of Waterloo Park and west of WLU.
The Eby Farmstead Animal Farm is closer to the station as well.
Here, common farm animals like pigs and goats, and also some exotic animals like peacocks and llamas live in close proximity.
Next to the station is WLU Stadium, where the “Battle of Waterloo” events—facedowns between UW and WLU, in a variety of sports like soccer and rugby take place.
For a pleasant stroll, walk along the boardwalk and enjoy the serenity of Silver Lake.
Just on the other side of the tracks are some winding forested trails, passing over Laurel Creek on the way to the Waterloo Skate Park, an attractive and modern recreation area and playground.
Just like GRT’s buses, full time UW students ride for free with the the student card, WatCard.
To validate your trip, tap your card at the readers at each station before boarding the train, just like the readers on the buses.
It may seem pointless since students ride free anyway but doing so allows GRT to collect valuable ridership data and may save you trouble with fare enforcers.
There is lots more in Kitchener-Waterloo than what’s on campus. ION is undoubtedly an easy, convenient, and free way to see what this community has to offer.