The excitement of exploring campus often comes in conjunction with the challenge of navigating the Kitchener-Waterloo (KW) region. Like many who come from the suburbs, places with poor public transit, or are simply new to KW, when entering my first year of university I had little experience with its transit systems. Since then, hopping on the ION or taking the bus to classes has become an integral part of my routine.
Whether your priority is to find something that is affordable, easy to access, or eco-friendly, KW offers various transit options in whatever category most important to you.
For the greatest ease of access
GRT Bus: With over 2500 stops around the KW region, the bus system is accessible for those looking to travel locally. The proximity of many bus stops near campus is also useful, with numerous stops along Columbia Street, Ring Road, and University Avenue.
ION Light Rail: For travelling quickly around the city, the ION provides frequent and predictable service. Stations with proximity to campus and Uptown Waterloo, including Laurier-Waterloo Park, University of Waterloo Station, Waterloo Public Square, and Willis Way.
E-Bike and Scooter Rentals: Did you know that you can use the orange bikes and scooters around the city? In order to rent them you will need to download the Neuron Mobility app first and add a payment method. From there, you will be able to use the app to scan the QR code on the bike or scooter you wish to rent. The current cost is $1.15 to unlock plus $0.35 a minute; for regular use, day and monthly passes can be purchased via the app.
For a smaller carbon footprint:
Trails: There are many trails that you can use to travel around Waterloo, which is a fairly walkable city. Laurel Trail is closest to the university, running from Columbia Lake to right behind Claudette Millar Hall and Uptown Waterloo.
Bike Rentals: Those looking for traditional bike rentals have other options on campus. UW Bike Centre, located in the basement of SLC, provides bicycle repairs and offers a rental program where students can rent by the month or by the term.
For longer journeys
GO Bus: If you are looking for connections between Waterloo and the Greater Toronto Area, the GO Bus is one option. There are a few routes from the University of Waterloo Terminal, which takes you to Guelph (route 17), Hamilton (route 17), Mississauga (route 25 or the express 25C), Brampton (route 30), and other cities nearby.
GO Trains: If you are looking to travel to the Greater Toronto Area more quickly, then the train may be another option with GO. The nearest GO Train is located in Kitchener, and shared with VIA Rail.
VIA Trains: If you are looking to travel to some of the major cities not serviced by GO, then VIA Rail’s train service may be the option for you. There is a station at 126 Weber St. in Kitchener, which you can use a GRT bus to travel to.
The hub of many transit options for students is in the University of Waterloo terminal. The terminal is situated across from DC and next to E7, servicing a few providers. This includes the GO Bus, GRT Bus, and the ION light rail. The terminal serves as a useful spot for arrival and departure when looking to stay nearby campus.
When considering your transit options, you also want to factor in costs. If you are a full-time student, a U-Pass is included in your tuition. The U-Pass allows students to use the ION and GRT bus for free with their WatCard. For the ION, simply tap at the station you are departing from. For the GRT bus, tap on every bus you enter. For non-GRT transit services, you can often find student discounts with details online on the GO Transit or VIA Rail website. Tickets and transit cards can also be bought at the Turnkey Desk in SLC.
We all need to navigate the city — it’s time to make the most of the transportation options it has to offer.