|Grand River Transit|
|Area served||Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo, St. Jacobs, Elmira, New Hamburg, Breslau|
|Number of lines||57 bus routes (48 local, 8 express); 1 light rail|
|Daily ridership||40,000 (69,000 weekday)|
|Headquarters||250 Strasburg Road|
|Operator(s)||Waterloo Region (buses), GrandLinq (light rail)|
|Number of vehicles||259 buses, 14 light rail vehicles|
Grand River Transit (GRT) is the public transport operator for the Regional Municipality 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 Kitchener Transit operated trolleybuses earlier in its history, but they were withdrawn from service during the 1970s, well before the systems were merged.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 King, which have frequent stops and heavy usage.
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
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 Voyago (formerly Voyageur Transportation Services) to operate the new route.
The Grand River area also had interurban railway service from 1894 to 1955 by various operators.
As of June 11, 2022, Grand River Transit operates BusPlus service for Breslau, which provides locations in Breslau, including Region of Waterloo International Airport. Connections with route 34 and 204 are also available for those needing a trip to Kitchener, Waterloo or Cambridge.
ION Rapid 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 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, the route also continued to Conestoga Mall in Waterloo (though not as rapid transit) with many stops along the way.[better source needed] Following Ion launch in Kitchener–Waterloo, GRT is continuing the remainder of the iXpress 200 service to the terminal at Fairview Park, renumbered as 302.
In order to increase ridership across the region and facilitate the expected growing population, the Region of Waterloo unveiled the Regional Transportation Master Plan in 2010, which consisted of seven iXpress-style routes that criss-cross the important secondary corridors along the region (with the proposed light rail serving the Central Transit Corridor), and where they are expecting the most growth to occur. These corridors include Fischer-Hallman, University, Highland/Victoria North, Ottawa, Homer Watson/Maple Grove, Coronation, and the Cambridge stubs centered around Cambridge Centre and Ainslie Street Terminal. The routes were to be phased in, with the last route being introduced in 2015. The plan was eventually scaled down in order to put more emphasis on the LRT proposal with the Cambridge stubs largely eliminated, and the timeline was also spread out, with all routes expected to be implemented by 2018.
There were different naming proposals for the new iXpress routes. During the public consultations in March 2011, the proposal was to name each iXpress route after a colour, with the letter X at the back. For example, Fischer-Hallman iXpress would be named Blue X, and the shelter would have blue stickers in order to identify each route. However, the plan was eventually dropped, and GRT decided to stick with the iXpress trademark, with route numbers being added to signify between the different iXpress routes.
Fischer-Hallman was chosen as the first corridor to have the new iXpress service, as the current route 12 serving this corridor is full during most times of the day, and residents wanted a faster service to Forest Glen, Highland Hills Mall, and the university area. During the public consultations, there were different routing proposals at the north end. Proposals ranged from having the route go all the way east on Columbia to King, south on King, west on University, and north on Phillip, to having the route go only as east as Phillip, then head south on Phillip, west on University, north on Seagram, and east on Ring Road to serve the current UW Davis Centre bus stop. Eventually, the suggested proposal was to have the route go east on Columbia, south on Phillip, east on University, and north on Hazel. This allows equal access to the north end of the University of Waterloo campus, the RIM offices along Columbia, and Wilfrid Laurier University.
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. The 205 Ottawa iXpress opened on April 30, 2018, which primarily served norther Ottawa Street. and the 206 Coronation iXpress launched September 2, 2019, partially replacing route 52. 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. 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; unlimited transfers are available for 90 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 September 5, 2022. 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||Division||Destinations||Other major transit interchanges||Notes|
|301||ION||Dutton||N||Conestoga||S||Fairway||Conestoga to Fairway (all Ion stations)||Light rail transit|
|302||ION Bus||Conestoga||N||Fairway||S||Ainslie||Fairway, Sportsworld, Pinebush, Cambridge Centre, Can-Amera, Delta, Ainslie||Via Hespeler, Hwy 8, Hwy 401|
|201||Fisher-Hallman||Strasburg||N||Conestoga||S||Conestoga College||Conestoga, University of Waterloo, Block Line, Conestoga College||iXpress route|
|202||University||Waterloo||E||Conestoga||W||The Boardwalk Station||The Boardwalk station, Conestoga||Via Erb, Bridge
|203||Maple Grove||Conestoga||N||Sportsworld||S||Cambridge Centre||Cambridge Centre, Hespeler, Sportsworld||iXpress route|
|204||Highland-Victoria||Strasburg||E||Lackner||W||The Boardwalk Station||The Boardwalk station, Frederick, Kitchener City Hall, Central Station||iXpress route|
|205||Ottawa||Strasburg||E||Lackner||W||Sunrise Centre||Borden, Mill, Sunrise Centre||iXpress route|
|N||Fairway||S||Southwood||Fairway, Sportsworld, Delta, Ainslie||iXpress route|
|110||College Express||Strasburg||N||Fairway||S||Conestoga College||Fairway, Conestoga College||Nonstop shuttle|
|1||Queen-River||Strasburg||N||The Boardwalk Station||S||Fairway||The Boardwalk Station, Queen, Frederick, Fairway|
|3||Ottawa South||Strasburg||E||Frederick||W||Sunrise Centre||Frederick, Queen, Mill, Sunrise Centre|
|4||Glasgow-Margaret||Strasburg||E||Frederick||W||The Boardwalk Station||Queen, Frederick, Grand River Hospital, The Boardwalk Station|
|5||Erb||Strasburg||E||Daniel/Bloomingdale||W||The Boardwalk Station||The Boardwalk station, Willis Way, Waterloo Public Square||West via Bridgeport Road.|
|6||Bridge-Courtland||Northfield||N||Conestoga||S||Fairway||Conestoga, Central Station, Queen, Frederick, Block Line, Fairway||Via Lancaster|
|7||King||Northfield||N||Conestoga||S||Fairway||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||Northfield||N||University/King||S||Fairway||Fairway, Frederick, Central Station|
|9||Lakeshore||Northfield||E||Conestoga||W||University of Waterloo||University of Waterloo, Research and Technology, Northfield, Conestoga|
|10||Pioneer||Strasburg||N||Fairway||S||Conestoga College||Fairway, Conestoga College|
|10A||Via Old Carriage|
|13||Laurelwood||Northfield||E||University of Waterloo||W||The Boardwalk station||University of Waterloo, The Boardwalk station||Via Columbia, Erbsville/Ira needles|
|16||Strasburg-Belmont||Strasburg||N||Willis Way||S||Conestoga College||Conestoga College, Grand River Hospital, Waterloo Public Square, Willis Way|
|19||Hazel||Northfield||S||University of Waterloo||University of Waterloo,||Via Weber|
|19A||N||St. Jacobs||University of Waterloo, St. Jacobs Market|
|19B||W||University of Waterloo||University of Waterloo, Northfield Station||Via Weber, Randall/Kumpf|
|20||Victoria-Frederick||Strasburg||E||Stanley Park Mall||W||The Boardwalk station||The Boardwalk station, Central Station, Stanley Park Mall|
|21||Elmira||Northfield||N||Arthur/Church (Elmira)||S||Conestoga||Conestoga, St. Jacobs Market|
|Strasburg||E||Block Line||W||Sunrise Centre||Block Line, Sunrise Centre|
|23||Idlewood||Strasburg||N||Stanley Park Mall||S||Fairway||Fairway, Stanley Park Mall|
|26||Trillium||Strasburg||S||Trillium/Washburn||N||Block Line||Block Line|
|N||Fairway||S||Chicopee Ski Club||Fairway|
|28||Franklin North||Strasburg||N||Stanley Park Mall||S||Fairway||Fairway, Stanley Park Mall|
|29||Keats-University||Northfield||E||Conestoga||W||The Boardwalk Station||The Boardwalk Station, Conestoga||Via Lincoln, Weber|
|30||Ring Road||Northfield||E||U.W Station||W||U.W station||University of Waterloo station||Loops Ring Road Eastbound to U.W station|
|31||Columbia||Northfield||E||Conestoga Station||W||Columbia/Sundew||Conestoga, University of Waterloo||Via New Bedford|
|33||Huron||Strasburg||N||Sunrise Centre||S||Blockline||Sunrise Centre, Block Line|
|34||Bingemans||Strasburg||E||Victoria/Shirley||W||Central Station||Central Station|
|35||Greenbrook||Strasburg||E||Central Station||W||Sunrise Centre station||Central Station, Kitchener Market, Sunrise Centre|
|36||Thomas Slee||Strasburg||E||Conestoga College||W||Robert Ferrie/Forest Creek||Conestoga College|
|50||Dundas-Myers||Conestoga||N||Cambridge Centre||S||Ainslie||Cambridge Centre, Delta, Ainslie|
|51||Hespeler||Conestoga||S||Ainslie||Ainslie, Cambridge Centre, Pinebush, Hespeler|
|51A||N||East Hespler||Via Melran|
|51B||Silver Heights||Via Winston|
|53||Franklin||Conestoga||N||Cambridge Centre||S||Ainslie||Ainslie, Cambridge Centre|
|55||Grand Ridge||Conestoga||N||Ainslie||S||West Galt||Ainslie||Loop route|
|56||Langs||Conestoga||N||Cambridge Centre||S||Westminister/King||Cambridge Centre|
|57||Blair||Conestoga||N||Conestoga College||S||Ainslie||Ainslie, Conestoga College|
|58||Elgin||Conestoga||S||Ainslie||N||Cambridge Centre||Ainslie, Cambridge Centre|
|60||Burnett||Conestoga||W||Cambridge Centre||E||Burnett/Glenvalley||Cambridge Centre||Loop route|
|61||Fountain||Conestoga||N||Conestoga College||S||Cambridge Centre||Conestoga College, Cambridge Centre||via Preston, Bishop|
|65||Saginaw||Conestoga||W||Cambridge Centre||E||Can-Amera/Baintree||Cambridge Centre|
|67||Eagle-Pinebush||Conestoga||W||Sportsworld||E||Cambridge Centre||Cambridge Centre, Pinebush, Sportsworld|
|72+||Boxwood||Strasburg||W||Sportsworld||E||Boxwood/Maple Grove||Sportsworld||Main route|
|Toyota Cambridge||Flex route|
|Loblaws Distribution Centre||Flex route|
|76+||Doon Mills||Strasburg||W||Conestoga College||E||Pioneer/Homer Watson||Conestoga College|
|77+||Wilmot||Strasburg||W||New Hamburg||E||The Boardwalk||The Boardwalk Station||East to New Hamburg via Baden|
|79+||Breslau||Strasburg||Locations around Breslau.||Victoria at Lackner||East to locations in and around Breslau|
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. 
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 the University of Waterloo station also having off-street bus terminals. Unstaffed off-road satellite terminals are also in place at The Boardwalk Station, Stanley Park Mall, Sportsworld, Sunrise Centre, and Cambridge Centre. An additional terminal at the Conestoga College Doon Campus is planned. 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 4 garages:
|Strasburg Road Transit Operations Centre||1976||250 Strasburg Road||Storage facility for up to 250 buses||Stores the Kitchener/Central bus fleet|
|Conestoga Boulevard Transit Operations Centre||1967||460 Conestoga Boulevard||Storage facility for up to 50 buses||Stores the Cambridge/South bus fleet.|
|Northfield Drive Maintenance facility||2022||300 Northfield Drive||Storage for 200 buses, 25 dedicated repair stations (22 repair bays, 3 inspection bays) and 2 bus wash stations||Stores the Waterloo/North bus fleet|
|ION LRT Operation Maintenance Storage Facility||2017||518 Dutton Drive||Main yard for ION LRVs.||Stores all ION LRVs. Operated by GrandLinq.|
- "Schedules". Grand River Transit. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
- "Ready to ride ION". Grand River Transit. June 7, 2019. Retrieved June 9, 2019.
- "University of Waterloo students get onboard with UPASS" (Press release). Region of Waterloo. August 30, 2007. Archived from the original on June 3, 2011. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
- "Green transportation initiatives can fast run out of gas". Waterloo Region Record. November 17, 2007. Retrieved September 4, 2010.
- "Rail plan passes". TheRecord. June 15, 2011. Retrieved February 20, 2012.
- "Cambridge and its influence on Waterloo Region's light rail transit". Waterloo Region. Waterloo Region. January 19, 2017. Retrieved March 10, 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 (December 23, 2016). "LRT construction 90 per cent complete". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved March 25, 2017.
- Weidner, Johanna (April 13, 2018). "No LRT service until December". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
- "Mark your calendars! LRT officially launches June 21, region says". CBC News. May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
- "LRT Cambridge proposed route announced". CBC News. February 10, 2017. Retrieved January 9, 2021.
- Sharkey, Jackie (February 8, 2017). "There's still wiggle room in the Region of Waterloo's LRT plans for Cambridge". CBC. CBC. Retrieved March 10, 2017.
- Sharkey, Jackie (February 2017). "Stage 2 ION: Light Rail Transit (LRT)" (PDF). Region of Waterloo. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
- Latif, Anam (July 5, 2017). "Cambridge council opposes proposed LRT route through Preston". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
- Draaisma, Muriel (July 6, 2017). "Cambridge city council opposes proposed LRT route through part of city". CBC News. Retrieved January 10, 2021.
- "Grand River Transit - Customer Trip Planner". web.grt.ca.
- "Rapid Transit Environmental Assessment Phase 2, Step 3b – Preferred Rapid Transit System Option and Staging Plan" (PDF). Retrieved April 9, 2015.
- "ION Bus Rapid Transit - Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on March 25, 2017.
- "Grand River Transit Schedules". grt.ca. Retrieved September 27, 2019.
- "IXpress - CPTDB Wiki". cptdb.ca. Retrieved September 13, 2023.
- "Where's my bus? Big changes in GRT schedule include new iXpress". CBC News. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- "205 Ottawa iXpress". grt.ca. May 13, 2019. Retrieved June 24, 2019.
- "2019 service improvements". grt.ca. Retrieved September 1, 2019.
- "ION and iXpress map, circa 2018, released". CBC News. Retrieved April 19, 2017.
- "Region launches ION buses in Cambridge".
- "Fares". Grand River Transit. Retrieved April 24, 2018.
- "EasyGO fare card available March 1". Grand River Transit. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved February 21, 2019.
- "GO Train Riders". GRT.ca. March 31, 2023. Retrieved May 14, 2023.
- Nielsen, Kevin (June 30, 2022). "Electric buses to join Grand River Transit fleet next spring: Waterloo Region". Global News. Retrieved December 24, 2022.
- "Charles Street Terminal". Grand River Transit. Retrieved June 12, 2019.
- "Big changes coming to Conestoga College". Grand River Transit. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved August 27, 2018.
- Desmond, Paige (July 2, 2014). "Region to spend $73M for new Grand River Transit garage". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved July 7, 2014.
Media related to Grand River Transit at Wikimedia Commons