Grand River Transit

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Grand River Transit
Grt nova bus.png
Ion Flexity Freedom 514 service livery.jpg
GRT's fleet consists of low-floor buses such as this Nova LFS, and Flexity Freedom light rail vehicles
OwnerRegion of Waterloo
Area servedCambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, St. Jacobs, Elmira, New Hamburg
Transit typeBus service, light rail, Paratransit
Number of lines54 bus routes (48 local, 6 express); 1 light rail[1]
Daily ridership40,000, (69,000 Weekday)[1]
Headquarters250 Strasburg Rd., Kitchener, ON
Began operation2000
Operator(s)Region of Waterloo (buses), GrandLinq (light rail)
Number of vehicles259 buses, 14 light rail vehicles

Grand River Transit (GRT) is the public transport operator for the Region of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. It operates daily bus services in the region, primarily in the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge, alongside the Ion rapid transit light rail system which began service on June 21, 2019.[2]

It was named for the Grand River, which flows through the Region; the naming also echoes the Grand River Railway, a former electric railway which served the area in the early twentieth century. GRT is a member of the Canadian Urban Transit Association.


On January 1, 2000, the Region of Waterloo created GRT by assuming the operations of the former Kitchener Transit (which also served Waterloo) and Cambridge Transit. By the end of that year, operations had been fully synchronized and buses began running between Cambridge and Kitchener; as a result, ridership in Cambridge improved dramatically, and there have been increases in service, including Sundays and late evenings Monday-Saturday.

Grand River Transit has consistently purchased low-floor, wheelchair-accessible buses, principally from Nova Bus, Orion, and New Flyer, and these now form the entirety of the standard fleet. Most operating buses are less than twenty years old, though a few older buses are used primarily for high-school special runs. GRT has installed bicycle racks on the front of its buses in order to encourage the use of sustainable transport; all buses now have these racks. Bicycles are also allowed on-board Ion trains.

Service to less dense areas is provided by the busPLUS system, large vans which take regular fares on scheduled routes to new neighbourhoods and more remote facilities; if ridership is sufficiently high, these services can later be replaced with regular buses, as happened with the 71 Melran route in Cambridge.

GRT also operates MobilityPLUS, which provides specialized transit for disabled patrons using minibuses equipped with wheelchair lifts.

The GRT fleet consists entirely of motor buses. Kitchener Transit operated trolleybuses earlier in its history, but they were withdrawn from service during the 1970s, well before the systems were merged. GRT continued operating 23 compressed natural gas-driven buses inherited from Kitchener Transit but did not expand this fleet; these buses were retired before the end of 2009. Until the 1950s, the area was served by electric passenger and freight trains run by the Grand River Railway, which even earlier in the 20th century had run streetcars on city streets before the separated railway lines were built.

Since September 1, 2007, all undergraduate students at the University of Waterloo have purchased a non-refundable four-month U-Pass as part of their tuition fees for less than a quarter of the equivalent adult monthly pass.[3]

Grand River Transit has six diesel-hybrid buses which began service in late August 2008.[4] To get the best use of their powertrain, these buses run on routes like Route 7 Mainline, which have frequent stops and heavy usage.[citation needed]

With the launch of Ion rapid transit in June 2019, GRT's bus services were substantially reorganized. The greatest effect was in decentralizing the network in Kitchener–Waterloo by no longer using the Charles Street terminal as a service hub; the affected routes now connect with Ion trains at their stations, forming a centralized spine.


Public transit in the Grand River area began with private operators and slowly gave way to municipal run service. Interurban and streetcar service were the earlier modes and by the mid-20th century, bus transit became the norm.


  • Berlin Gas Company 1888–1894 horsecar
  • Berlin Street Railway 1894–1906 - electric car
  • Berlin and Bridgeport Railway Company 1904–1906
  • Berlin Public Utilities Commission 1906–1916
  • Kitchener Public Utilities Commission 1916–1973; operated streetcars, buses and trolley cars
  • Kitchener Transit 1973–2000
  • Grand River Transit 2000–present
  • Ion light rail 2019–present


Public transit was provided to Galt and Preston before Cambridge was formed.

  • Grand River Railway Company 1919–1957; bus and interurban electric service
  • Galt, Preston City and Suburban Transit Co. 1921–1929; transit bus service
  • Dominion Power and Transmission Company 1929–?; transit and interurban bus service
  • Canada Coach Lines 1950–1962; transit bus service
  • Galt Public Service Commission 1962–1973; transit bus service
  • Cambridge Transit 1973–2000; transit bus service


Elmira had bus service to Kitchener that ended in 1997. Route 21 now travels to Elmira from Conestoga Mall in north Waterloo. Riders can then transfer to another bus to get to Kitchener.

  • Elmira-Kitchener Bus Lines 1922–1929
  • Lishman Coach Lines Limited 1929–1979
  • United Trails Incorporated 1975–1997

New Hamburg[edit]

On April 25, 2016, Grand River Transit began operating route 77 which connects The Boardwalk and the Wilmot Township (Petersburg, Baden and New Hamburg) during the AM and PM peak periods. This route is a BusPlus route and because of the length of the route, route 77 operates every 75 minutes. GRT is using Voyager Transportation Services to operate the new route.

The Grand River area also had interurban railway service from 1894 to 1955 by various operators.

Light rail transit[edit]

The first light-rail vehicle on public display in April 2017
LRT vehicle in line testing in 2018

In June 2011, Waterloo Region council approved a plan for a light rail transit line, powered by electricity, between Conestoga Mall in north Waterloo and Fairview Park Mall in south Kitchener. At first, rapid buses would run from the south end of Kitchener to the "downtown Galt" area of Cambridge but eventually, the LRT would be expanded to that city.[5] (At least one journalist has pointed out the similarity between this plan and the electric Grand River Railway system of the early 1900s.)[6] In Stage 1, the Ion rapid transit train runs between Fairview Park Mall and Conestoga Mall by way of the central districts of Kitchener and Waterloo.

Construction on the light rail system, now named Ion, began in August 2014 and the Stage 1 service was expected to begin in 2017. Most of the rails had been installed by the end of 2016; the maintenance facility and all underground utility work had been completed.[7] The start date of service was postponed to early 2018, and then to December 2018, however, because of delays in the manufacture and delivery of the vehicles by Bombardier Transportation. Bombardier was to deliver all 14 vehicles by December 14; that was postponed to December 2017 and then to June 2018. In April 2018, the planned start of Ion service was postponed to December,[8] and was finally accomplished on June 21, 2019.[9]

In late February 2017, plans for the Stage 2 (Cambridge section) of the Ion rail service were still in the very early stage but a proposed route with map had been published.[10][11][12] The public consultation process for Cambridge was postponed to 2018.[10]

In early July 2017, Cambridge City Council expressed an objection to parts of the route planned for that city and requested the Region to consider alternatives.[13][14] At that time, a report indicated that construction of Stage 2 would not begin until 2025.[13] Until LRT service arrives in Cambridge, GRT will offer rapid transit with adapted iXpress buses to Fairview Park Mall using bus-only lanes at Pinebush, Munch and Coronation to minimize slowdowns at times of heavy traffic. In 2017, this bus is also continuing on to Conestoga Mall in Waterloo (though not as rapid transit) with many stops along the way.[15] Following Ion launch in Kitchener–Waterloo, GRT is continuing the remainder of the 200 service to the terminal at Fairview Park, renumbered as 302.[16][17]


An iXpress bus
GRT Ion bus used on BRT service.

The iXpress express bus service is operated by GRT consisting of six routes[18] along main corridors in Kitchener–Waterloo and Cambridge. The first (and now defunct) route, designated route 200 after the expansion of iXpress service, was launched in September 2005 and ran from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and Ainslie St. Transit Terminal in Cambridge primarily along King Street in Kitchener and Waterloo and Hespeler Road in Cambridge, utilizing a short section of Highway 401. The second route, route 201, runs from Conestoga College Doon Campus Door 6 in Kitchener to Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, primarily along Fischer-Hallman Road in both cities. The third, route 202, runs in a crosstown fashion through Waterloo, primarily along University Avenue, between the Boardwalk shopping centre and Conestoga Mall. The fourth iXpress route, route 203, opened on April 28, 2014. It runs from Cambridge Centre to Sportsworld Terminal. An extension of the 203 to Conestoga College is made during the AM and PM peak periods when classes are in session. The fifth iXpress route, route 204, began service in September 2015. The 204 iXpress runs from Ottawa and Lackner to the Boardwalk via Victoria Street, Highland Road, Ira Needles Boulevard and Downtown Kitchener.[19] The 205 Ottawa iXpress opened on April 30, 2018,[20] and the 206 Coronation iXpress launched September 2, 2019, partially replacing route 52.[21] The 200 was discontinued upon the launch of Ion service; the bus portion not converted to light rail now runs on route 302, branded as Ion Bus.

In April 2017, it was announced that the Ion and iXpress services would be closely integrated into a single system.[22] In March 2018, nine new Ion buses were unveiled; initially they were used on local routes in Cambridge. They now operate from Fairway Station in Kitchener to the Ainslie Street terminal in Cambridge. These vehicles offer new features, such as more comfortable, high-back seats, free Wi-Fi and USB charging ports.[8][23]


Buses and Ion fare machines accept cash and the EasyGo smart card; transfers are available for 100 minutes of travel following payment of a single-use fare. Monthly passes or a stored fare balance are loaded on the EasyGo card; this can be done online, at customer service desks, or at ticket machines. Specialized passes for corporate or school purposes are loaded on specialized smart cards.[24]

The new EasyGO system on electronic fare cards was first made available on March 1, 2019, in anticipation of the Ion light rail launch.[25] At Ion launch, this fully replaced an old system of paper passes (and accompanying photo ID) and paper tickets.


Routes are listed effective September 2, 2019. The following is a general summary of route services; for details, consult the official website. Routes numbered below 100 are local services, in the 200s are express service with the iXpress brand, and in the 300s are full rapid transit with the Ion brand. Routes marked + use smaller BusPLUS vehicles.

Route Stations Notes
301 Ion Conestoga to Fairway (all Ion stations) Light rail transit
302 Ion bus Fairway, Sportsworld, Pinebush, Cambridge Centre, Can-Amera, Delta, Ainslie Adapted bus rapid transit
201 Fischer–Hallman Conestoga, University of Waterloo, Block Line, Conestoga College
202 University Boardwalk, Conestoga Via Erb, Bridge
203 Maple Grove Cambridge Centre, Hespeler, Sportsworld
204 Highland–Victoria Boardwalk, Frederick, Kitchener City Hall, Central Station East to Lackner
205 Ottawa Borden, Mill, Sunrise East to Lackner
206 Coronation Fairway, Sportsworld, Delta, Ainslie Southwest to Southwood
110 College Express Fairway, Conestoga College Nonstop shuttle
1 Queen–River Boardwalk, Queen, Frederick, Fairway
2 Stirling Borden, Stanley Park Mall West to Forest Heights
3 Ottawa South Frederick, Queen, Mill, Sunrise
4 Glasgow–Margaret Queen, Frederick, Grand River Hospital, Boardwalk
5 Erb Boardwalk, Willis Way, Waterloo Public Square East to Bridgeport
6 Bridge–Courtland Conestoga, Central Station, Queen, Frederick, Block Line, Fairway
7 King Conestoga, Waterloo Public Square, Allen, Grand River Hospital, Central Station, Queen, Frederick, Fairway Some peak trips to Conestoga short turn via Willis Way
8 Weber Fairway, Frederick, Central Station North to King/University
9 Lakeshore University of Waterloo, Research and Technology, Northfield, Conestoga
10 Pioneer Fairway, Conestoga College 10A branch travels via Old Carriage for some trips
12 Westmount Fairway To University/King via Bleams, Westmount
13 Laurelwood University of Waterloo, Boardwalk
14 Bathurst Conestoga North to industrial district
16 Strasburg–Belmont Conestoga College, Grand River Hospital, Waterloo Public Square, Willis Way
19 Hazel University of Waterloo, Northfield North to either St. Jacobs Market (19A) or Randall/Kumpf (19B)
20 Victoria–Frederick Boardwalk, Central Station, Stanley Park Mall
21 Elmira Conestoga North to Elmira via St. Jacobs Market
22 Laurentian West Block Line, Sunrise
23 Idlewood Fairway, Stanley Park Mall
26 Trillium Block Line Southwest to Trillium/Washburn
27 Chicopee Fairway Southeast to Chicopee Ski Club
28 Franklin North Fairway, Stanley Park Mall
29 Keats–University Boardwalk, Conestoga
31 Columbia Conestoga, University of Waterloo East to New Bedford, west to Sundew
33 Huron Sunrise, Block Line
34 Bingemans Central Station East to Victoria/Shirley
36 Thomas Slee Conestoga College West to Robert Ferrie/Forest Creek
50 Dundas Cambridge Centre, Delta South to Wesley/Fitzgerald
51 Hespeler Ainslie, Cambridge Centre, Pinebush, Hespeler North to Baldwin (51A) or east to Townline (51B)
53 Franklin Ainslie, Cambridge Centre
54 Lisbon Pines Ainslie Southeast to Lisbon Pines/Myers
55 Grand Ridge Ainslie Southwest through West Galt
56 Dunbar Cambridge Centre South to Westminster/King
57 Blair Ainslie, Conestoga College
58 Elmwood Ainslie North to Elgin/Avenue
59 Christopher Ainslie Southeast to Myers/Franklin
60 Northview Acres Cambridge Centre East to Burnett/Saginaw
61 Fountain Conestoga College, Cambridge Centre via Preston
63 Champlain Ainslie East to Dundas/Franklin
64 Langs Cambridge Centre West to Rose/Westminster
67 Eagle-Pinebush Cambridge Centre, Pinebush, Sportsworld
72 Flex Boxwood + Sportsworld East to Boxwood/Maple Grove
73 Northlake + Northfield West to Conservation/Rideau River
75 Saginaw Cambridge Centre East to Saginaw/Townline
76 Doon Mills + Conestoga College North to Pioneer/Homer Watson
77 Wilmot + Boardwalk East to New Hamburg via Baden

Vehicle fleet[edit]

Grand River Transit has over 250 buses and 35 MobilityPLUS vehicles in its fleet.[26] The fleet is a mix of Nova Bus LFS series and New Flyer Industries XD-40 buses.

For Ion light rail, fourteen Flexity Freedom LRVs are in place.[27]


Ainslie St. Transit Terminal, the main Cambridge station
Kitchener customer service centre, at King and Benton streets

One major transit terminal is operated and staffed, the Ainslie St. Transit Terminal at Galt City Centre in Cambridge. In downtown Kitchener, customer service functions come from an office at 105 King Street East, near Frederick station. No GRT services remain at the Charles Street Transit Terminal.[28]

All Ion stations have customer help points and ticket machines; most are major transfer points, with Waterloo’s Conestoga Mall, Kitchener’s Fairview Park Mall, and (in future) the University of Waterloo station also having off-street bus terminals. Unstaffed off-road satellite terminals are also in place at The Boardwalk, Stanley Park Mall, Sportsworld, and Cambridge Centre. An additional terminal at the Conestoga College Doon Campus is planned by September 2019[29] and plans are also in place for a terminal at Sunrise Centre.[30] Other significant transfer points include King Street/University Avenue, Holiday Inn Drive/Hespeler, Conestoga College-Doon Campus, and the Preston Towne Centre.

Grand River Transit has two garages:

  • Strasburg Road Transit Operations Centre / North Division at 250 Strasburg Road - indoor garage built in 1976 stores 167 buses in the Kitchener–Waterloo fleet, and all central operations and GRT headquarters (across from the Laurentian Power Centre)
  • Conestoga Boulevard Transit Operations Centre / South Division at 460 Conestoga Boulevard - 64 bus garage for Cambridge fleet (behind the Cambridge Centre).

A third garage site is planned on Northfield Drive in Waterloo.[31]

Ion trains are based at an Operations, Maintenance and Storage facility on Dutton Drive in Waterloo.


  1. ^ a b
  2. ^ "Ready to ride ION". Grand River Transit. 7 June 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
  3. ^ "University of Waterloo students get onboard with UPASS" (Press release). Region of Waterloo. 2007-08-30. Archived from the original on 2011-06-03. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  4. ^ "Green transportation initiatives can fast run out of gas". Waterloo Region Record. 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
  5. ^ "Rail plan passes". TheRecord. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
  6. ^ "Cambridge and its influence on Waterloo Region's light rail transit". Waterloo Region. Waterloo Region. 19 January 2017. Retrieved 10 March 2017. the first electric line running up Water and King Streets from Galt to the Mineral Springs Hotel across the Speed River in Preston ... Next, the train line extended north of Kitchener and a spur line ran into Hespeler.
  7. ^ Desmond, Paige (23 December 2016). "LRT construction 90 per cent complete". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
  8. ^ a b
  9. ^ "Mark your calendars! LRT officially launches June 21, region says". CBC News. May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  10. ^ a b
  11. ^ Sharkey, Jackie (8 February 2017). "There's still wiggle room in the Region of Waterloo's LRT plans for Cambridge". CBC. CBC. Retrieved 10 March 2017.
  12. ^ Sharkey, Jackie (February 2017). "Stage 2 ION: Light Rail Transit (LRT)" (PDF). Region of Waterloo. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  13. ^ a b
  14. ^
  15. ^
  16. ^ "Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment Phase 2, Step 3b – Preferred Rapid Transit System Option and Staging Plan" (PDF). Retrieved 9 April 2015.
  17. ^ "ION Bus Rapid Transit - Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on 25 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
  18. ^ "Grand River Transit Schedules". Retrieved 27 September 2019.
  19. ^ "Where's my bus? Big changes in GRT schedule include new iXpress". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  20. ^ "205 Ottawa iXpress". 13 May 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
  21. ^ "2019 service improvements". Retrieved September 1, 2019.
  22. ^ "ION and iXpress map, circa 2018, released". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Fares". Grand River Transit. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
  25. ^ "EasyGO fare card available March 1". Grand River Transit. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
  26. ^ About GRT
  27. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (July 12, 2013). "Waterloo opts for Bombardier LRVs". International Railway Journal.
  28. ^ "Charles Street Terminal". Grand River Transit. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
  29. ^ "Big changes coming to Conestoga College". Grand River Transit. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ Desmond, Paige (Jul 2, 2014). "Region to spend $73M for new Grand River Transit garage". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved 7 July 2014.

External links[edit]

Media related to Grand River Transit at Wikimedia Commons