Grand River Transit
|Owner||Region of Waterloo|
|Area served||Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, St. Jacobs, Elmira, New Hamburg|
|Transit type||Bus service, Light rail, Paratransit|
|Number of lines||57 bus routes served by 259 buses (52 Local, 5 Express); one light rail line served by 14 LRVs|
|Daily ridership||40,000, (69,000 Weekday)|
|Headquarters||250 Strasburg Rd., Kitchener, ON|
|Operator(s)||Region of Waterloo (buses), GrandLinq (light rail)|
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.
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.
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 Kitchener Transit operated trolleybuses earlier in its history, but they were withdrawn from service during the 1970s, well before the systems were merged.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.
Grand River Transit has six diesel-hybrid buses which began service in late August 2008. To get the best use of their powertrain, these buses run on routes like Route 7 Mainline, which have frequent stops and heavy usage.
With the launch of Ion rapid transit in June 2019, GRT's bus services were majorly 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
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
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. (At least one journalist has pointed out the similarity between this plan and the electric Grand River Railway system of the early 1900s.) 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. 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, and was finally accomplished on June 21, 2019.
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. The public consultation process for Cambridge was postponed to 2018.
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. At that time, a report indicated that construction of Stage 2 would not begin until 2025. 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. Following Ion launch in Kitchener–Waterloo, GRT is continuing the remainder of the 200 service to the terminal at Fairview Park, renumbered as 302.
The iXpress express bus service is operated by GRT consisting of four routes along main corridors in Kitchener–Waterloo and Cambridge. The first route, designated route 200 after the expansion of iXpress service, was launched in September 2005 and runs 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 Forest Glen Terminal 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. 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.
On April 2017 it was announced that the Ion and iXpress services would be closely integrated into a single system. 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.
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.
The new EasyGO system on electronic fare cards was first made available on March 1, 2019, in anticipation of the Ion light rail launch. At Ion launch, this fully replaced an old system of paper passes (and accompanying photo ID) and paper tickets.
Routes are listed effective June 24, 2019. The following is a general summary of route services; for details, consult the 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.
|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|
|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|
|51 Hespeler||Ainslie, Cambridge Centre, Pinebush, Hespeler||North to Baldwin (51A) or east to Townline (51B)|
|52 Coronation||Fairway, Sportsworld, Ainslie||Via either Cherry Blossom or Preston Parkway|
|53 Franklin||Ainslie, Cambridge Centre|
|54 Lisbon Pines||Ainslie||Southeast to Lisbon Pines/Myers|
|55 St. Andrews||Ainslie||Southwest to Oak Hill|
|56 Dunbar||Cambridge Centre||South to Westminster/King|
|57 Blair||Ainslie||North to Princess/Westcliff; south to Hillcrest/Churchill|
|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|
|62 Woodside||Ainslie||West to Salisbury/Kent|
|63 Champlain||Ainslie||East to Dundas/Franklin|
|64 Langs||Cambridge Centre||West to Rose/Westminster|
|67 Lovell Industrial||Cambridge Centre||Northeast to Pinebush/Thompson|
|72 Cherry Blossom +||Sportsworld||East to Boxwood/Maple Grove|
|73 Northlake +||Northfield||West to Conservation/Rideau River|
|75 Saginaw||Cambridge Centre||East to Saginaw/Townline|
|76 Doon South +||Conestoga College||North to Pioneer/Homer Watson|
|77 Wilmot +||Boardwalk||East to New Hamburg via Baden|
Grand River Transit has over 250 buses and 35 MobilityPLUS vehicles in its fleet.
Major transit terminals are operated and staffed in both Downtown Kitchener (Charles Street Terminal; this no longer serves GRT buses, but maintains customer service functions for now) and the Ainslie St. Transit Terminal at Galt City Centre in Cambridge.
All Ion statons 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 and plans are also in place for a terminal at Sunrise Centre. GRT customer service functions will move from Charles Terminal to a location at 105 King Street East in July 2019.
Other significant transfer points include King Street/University Avenue, Holiday Inn Drive/Hespeler, Conestoga College-Doon Campus, and the Preston Town 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.
Ion trains are based at an Operations, Maintenance and Storage facility on Dutton Drive in Waterloo.
- "Ready to ride ION". Grand River Transit. 7 June 2019. Retrieved 9 June 2019.
- "University of Waterloo students get onboard with UPASS" (Press release). Region of Waterloo. 2007-08-30. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
- "Green transportation initiatives can fast run out of gas". Waterloo Region Record. 2007-11-17. Retrieved 2010-09-04.
- "Rail plan passes". TheRecord. 2011-06-15. Retrieved 2012-02-20.
- "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.
- Desmond, Paige (23 December 2016). "LRT construction 90 per cent complete". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved 25 March 2017.
- "Mark your calendars! LRT officially launches June 21, region says". CBC News. May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- 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.
- Sharkey, Jackie (February 2017). "Stage 2 ION: Light Rail Transit (LRT)" (PDF). Region of Waterloo. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
- "Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment Phase 2, Step 3b – Preferred Rapid Transit System Option and Staging Plan" (PDF). Retrieved 9 April 2015.
- "ION Bus Rapid Transit - Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on 25 March 2017. Retrieved 24 March 2017.
- "Grand River Transit Schedules". grt.ca. Retrieved 27 April 2017.
- "Where's my bus? Big changes in GRT schedule include new iXpress". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
- "ION and iXpress map, circa 2018, released". CBC News. Retrieved 2017-04-19.
- "Fares". Grand River Transit. Retrieved 24 April 2018.
- "EasyGO fare card available March 1". Grand River Transit. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved 21 February 2019.
- About GRT
- "Big changes coming to Conestoga College". Grand River Transit. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved 27 August 2018.
- "Charles Street Terminal". Grand River Transit. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
- Desmond, Paige (Jul 2, 2014). "Region to spend $73M for new Grand River Transit garage". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
Media related to Grand River Transit at Wikimedia Commons