Ion rapid transit

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Waterloo ION logo.svg
ION 506.jpg
Bombardier Flexity Freedom unit #506 approaches Fairway Station
OwnerRegion of Waterloo
LocaleKitchener and Waterloo, Ontario
Transit typeLight rail
Bus rapid transit
Number of lines1 LRT
Line number301 ION Light Rail
302 ION Bus [1]
Number of stations19 (6 of the 19 stations serve one direction only)[2]
Daily ridership25,000 (as of November 2020)[3]
Began operationJune 21, 2019 (2019-06-21)
Operator(s)Keolis, GrandLinq, Grand River Transit
Number of vehicles15 Flexity Freedom, 9 New Flyer Xcelsior[4]
System length19 km (12 mi)[5]
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in) standard gauge
Electrification750 V DC overhead
System map

ION LRT map.svg

Northfield Drive
Maintenance facility
Research and Technology
University of Waterloo
Laurier–Waterloo Park
Laurel Creek
Caroline Street
Waterloo Public Square
Willis Way
Grand River Hospital
Central Station
VIA Rail Canada simplified.svg GO Transit logo.svg Kitchener line GO logo.png
Charles Street
Kitchener City Hall
Victoria Park
Charles Street Transit Terminal
Grand River Transit
Duke Street/Frederick Street
Kitchener Market
Borden Avenue
Ottawa Street
Ottawa Street
Block Line

Ion, stylized as ION, is an integrated public transportation network in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo in Ontario, Canada.[6] It is operated by Keolis and is part of the Grand River Transit (GRT) system, partially replacing GRT's Route 200 iXpress bus service. The section of the bus route serving Cambridge has been renamed "Ion Bus", and renumbered as 302. The first phase commenced operations on June 21, 2019, between the north end of Waterloo and the south end of Kitchener.[7] A future extension of light rail to the downtown Galt area of Cambridge (Phase 2) is planned but construction may not begin on that line until 2025.[8]

In 2009, an Environmental Assessment (EA) began to create a proposal of electrically-powered light rail transit through Kitchener and Waterloo, and adapted bus rapid transit from Kitchener to Cambridge. On June 24, 2009, Regional Council voted to approve the project, subject to funding from higher levels of government, which was in turn approved by council on June 15, 2011. This was followed by a community building strategy to guide development, identify key destinations, and strengthen regional connections.[9] The strategy, led by Urban Strategies Inc. of Toronto, consulted hundreds of individuals and stakeholders from Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo.[10]

Construction began in August 2014 and service was expected to begin in late 2017;[11] however, because of delays in the manufacture and delivery of rolling stock, the introduction of the light rail service was significantly delayed.[12][13][14] The total cost of the system was estimated at $818 million, but in December 2017, the overruns were estimated to total approximately $50 million.[15] The Province was expected to provide $25 million of that amount.[16]


According to the Region of Waterloo, the Ion network is named after the atom, which it describes as being “always in motion”.[17]


In 2004, the Regional Municipality began an Individual Environmental Assessment to study the feasibility of constructing a rapid transit line to provide higher-order public transit service to the Region and to encourage more compact urban growth along the corridor.

The EA took a broader approach to studying possible routes and stations for the rapid transit line, examining several options such as utilizing existing tracks/roads and constructing new facilities. In keeping with legislation, the Environmental Assessment also examined ten possible transport technologies, including monorails and subways.

The EA as planned consisted of three phases:

Phase 1: Determine a preferred transportation strategy from options such as road expansion, improved conventional transit, and rapid transit. Phase 1 was completed in July 2006.

Phase 2:

Step 1: Determine a preferred route design (grade separated, dedicated on-road, dedicated off-road, etc.) and technology. The EA examined ten different technologies including light rail, bus rapid transit, monorail, and subway. Step 1, completed in February 2007, determined that light rail transit and bus rapid transit were best suited to meet the needs of the Regional Growth Management Strategy.
Step 2: Determined a short list of preferred routes and technologies for seven segments of a rapid transit system (completed in 2008).
Step 3: Proposed an overall preferred rapid transit system (completed June 2009)

Phase 3: Design an implementation plan for the rapid transit system.

In June 2008, the Province of Ontario announced a new expedited Transit Project Assessment Process (Ontario Regulation 231/08). In August 2008, the Region notified the Ministry of the Environment (MOE) to advise that it would transition from the Individual Environmental Assessment to the expedited process. For that reason, Phase 3 of the Individual EA would not be completed.[18]

On June 24, 2009, Regional Council approved the initiative and continued discussions with Provincial and Federal governments to obtain funding for the $790-million project. Light Rail Transit (LRT) was short-listed as the technology for the new rapid transit system. The Region decided on a staged approach, building light rail from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall, passing through Uptown Waterloo and Downtown Kitchener on the way. Adapted Bus Rapid Transit (aBRT) would be built from Fairview Park Mall to Ainslie Street terminal in Cambridge utilizing shoulder bypass lanes along Highways 8 and 401 during heavy traffic where speeds are often 40 km/h or less. As of June 2019, there is still no specific timeline for replacing the aBRT service to Cambridge with light rail.

Approved light rail system[edit]

On June 24, 2009, Regional Council approved LRT as the technology for rapid transit in Waterloo Region. Regional Council also approved a recommendation to implement the system in stages because ridership, development potential and capital and operating costs vary along the route.

The light rail system was approved by Regional Council with a vote of 15–1. Cambridge mayor Doug Craig cast the dissenting vote. Other Cambridge-area representatives joined Craig in voting against subsequent motions on the service's staging, feeling that running only buses to that city does them a disservice.[19]

The Province of Ontario had promised to fund up to two thirds of the cost of the construction of a light rail or bus rapid transit system in Waterloo Region.[20] However, in the summer of 2010, actual funding commitments from higher levels of government for the combined LRT and aBRT system were announced: $300 million from the province of Ontario, and $265 million (or up to 1/3 of the full cost) from the federal government.[21] The provincial figure was disappointing to supporters, as the provincial government had previously promised to pay 2/3 of the cost.[22] Regional council debated funding the remaining $200–300 million required for the project to go ahead as planned.[23]

During public consultation for the project, concerns related to the light rail proposal focused on its relative service infrequency when compared with rapid transit systems in other cities (though it would still outperform the Region’s best bus services in its overall service capacity, and the frequency of many routes); the projected service frequency will be approximately 7.5 minutes. In addition, a light rail line would be limited by the narrow main streets of key downtown areas. A feasible proposal raised by the Region for dealing with this challenge would be to have light rail vehicles (LRVs) share space with traffic within core areas, somewhat resembling the traditional streetcar networks of many European cities, and of nearby Toronto. A bus rapid transit line would also face the challenge of the cramped core areas, and thus would also likely share space with traffic in core areas.[24]

In late 2011, planning was well underway and preparations were being made. In October, a property on Dutton Drive in Waterloo, bordering the rail-line corridor where the LRT is planned to be installed, was purchased to serve as a maintenance and storage yard for the system's LRVs.[25] The site, which was purchased for $6 million, will contain three buildings: the largest is 75,000 square feet (7,000 m2) and will house the operations centre and a repair shop; one will include a washing system; and the third is a 15,000 square feet (1,400 m2) wayside maintenance building that will house the repair truck fleet.[26]


Ion vehicle at Queen station during testing in August 2018

On July 10, 2013, it was reported that a deal was finalized with Metrolinx to join its contract with Bombardier Transportation for the purchase of 14 Flexity Freedom LRVs to form the system's initial fleet, with an option to purchase up to 14 more as the need arises.[27] A further report on July 12, 2013, stated that the region would be purchasing 14 LRVs, with an option to buy 16 more.[28]

The 14 vehicles are estimated to cost $92.4 million, an average of $6.6 million per vehicle. The cost breakdown is: [29]

  • vehicles – $61.1 million
  • spare parts – $6.5 million
  • tools and equipment, taxes, currency exchange – $7 million
  • contingencies – $11 million in contingencies.

Each 30-metre-long, 30-tonne vehicle has 56 seats and a standing capacity of 144 passengers. The body is constructed of five sections, in an accordion-like configuration to allow for sharp turns. It can be driven from either end. The top speed is 88 km/h but the average travel speed is unlikely to exceed 50 km/h.[14]

The vehicles are numbered with a three-digit unit number in the 5xx series beginning with 501. This fleet number is displayed prominently on the end modules of each vehicle followed by a single letter to denote which end module the fleet number is on (e.g. 503A, 507B). The vehicles are being used for testing at the maintenance facility and all 19 km of the completed track.

Vehicle delivery and testing[edit]

Interior of Ion vehicle 506

Production of the new vehicles was expected to begin in 2015 with the first to be delivered no later than August 2016 and all vehicles were to be received by the end of 2016.[29][30] On April 13, 2016, it was reported that Bombardier had informed the transit authority that delivery of the vehicles would be delayed.[31]

The region entered a joint agreement with Metrolinx and Bombardier in July 2013 for 14 LRVs, as well as an option to buy up to 14 more. Under the original agreement, the first vehicle was to be delivered no later than August 2016, and the final vehicle by December 2016.

On May 20, 2016, Bombardier announced that to avoid further delays it would shift construction of the vehicles for the Ion system from its Thunder Bay plant to another plant in Kingston, Ontario.[32]

The first vehicle, number 501 (its ends are labelled 501A and 501B), arrived in Waterloo Region on February 24, 2017.[33] However, it was not ready for testing as its operating software was incomplete.[34] By mid-March 2017, the second to fifth vehicles were seen by a CTV reporter as under construction in the Kingston plant.[35] Testing of vehicle 501 was scheduled to commence in May 2017 on the line between Northfield Drive and Silver Lake.[14]

In early April 2017, the Region expected to receive a second LRV in June or July, but that was postponed to late August or early September.[36] By the beginning of October 2017, the second LRV had arrived.[34] The schedule then called for delivery of another each 15 days, for a total of 14 by year end.[14] The year end target was missed.[37]

On November 7, 2017, unpowered vehicle testing began on the tracks between Northfield Drive and Erb Street. An LRV was towed to check track clearances including along station platforms and to ensure continuous pantograph contact with the overhead electrical wiring.[37][38]

On December 19, 2017, GrandLinq had its first successful test of a Flexity Freedom running under its own power at the Ion maintenance facility. The two-hour test was done at the speed of 10 km/h (6.2 mph) and "apparently went quite well", according to Coun. Tom Galloway.[39] In 2018, testing beyond the maintenance facility was scheduled to start. By this date, Waterloo Region had three LRVs on site,[40] which is the minimum number required to do an adequate test of the system.[41]

A CBC report on December 21, 2017, indicated that the fourth vehicle was expected to be delivered before year-end. Six others were in final production and four were still in the assembly process.[42] After the fourth vehicle was received in January, the first one was returned to Kingston for some additional work. At that time, five others were being tested by Bombardier.[43] According to the schedule, the fourteenth and last LRV was expected to be delivered in February 2018 with full LRT service expected to start in spring 2018;[37] however, this later became a June final delivery, with service start in December,[44] then later to June 21, 2019.[7] The final LRVs were delivered on December 6, 2018.

At a Regional council meeting on May 8, 2019, it was announced that the service would launch the following month, on June 21, 2019; service across all of Grand River Transit, both LRT and bus, was to be free of charge for 11 days, until Canada Day.[45]

In August 2020, it was confirmed that part of a compensation package from Bombardier to settle shipping delays would be a fifteenth unit, provided free of charge, for the Ion fleet.[46] It was delivered early March 2021.[47]


The Ion fleet is stored and maintained at the Ion Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility (OMSF) located on Dutton Drive in Waterloo.[48]

The design of each of the stops was focused on an 'anchor wall', a 4 metres (13 ft) square panel subdivided into smaller tiles of glass, ceramic or stone; each station has a unique wall design based on the surrounding architecture, landmarks and social character.[49][50]


The system's Operations, Maintenance and Storage Facility (OMSF)

Ion light rail vehicles are in service between 5 am and midnight daily with a frequency of every 10 minutes from 6 am to 10 pm on weekdays and 15 minutes at other times.[51] The route is properly known as 301 ION Light Rail.

The maximum operating speed of Ion light rail vehicles is 50 km/h (31 mph) along city streets and 70 km/h (43 mph) along railway rights of way.[40] However, in areas where there is high pedestrian traffic, the operating speed will be as low as 20–25 km/h (12–16 mph). The 19-kilometre (12 mi) trip from Conestoga Mall to Fairview Park Mall is scheduled take about 46 minutes for an average speed of about 25 km/h (16 mph).[52] As a comparison, the average speed of Toronto's light rail Line 5 Eglinton will be 28 kilometres per hour (17 mph) and the average speed of subway Line 2 Bloor–Danforth is 32 kilometres per hour (20 mph). Note that while Ion operates completely on the surface, Line 5 is half underground, and Line 2 is completely road-separated.[53]

At street intersections, Ion light rail vehicles do not use the traditional automotive green-yellow-red traffic signals for road traffic, but rather the traditional two-aspect transit signals that show a vertical white bar for "go" and a horizontal white bar for "stop".[54] Ion light rail vehicles have transit signal priority at intersections.[51]

Where a street crosses the Ion tracks located either along a railway right of way or along the side of a cross road, the crossing is protected by traditional railway crossing signals: drop gates, flashing red lights and a bell. Crossings so protected are (from north to south) at Northfield Drive, Bearinger Road, Columbia Street, University Avenue, Seagram Drive and Erb Street in Waterloo, and at Ottawa Street, Mill Street, Hayward Avenue, Block Line Road, Courtland Avenue and Wilson Avenue in Kitchener.[55]

Freight trains[edit]

Canadian National Railway freight trains use the shared portion of the Waterloo Spur between 11 pm and 5 am.[56] After crossing King Street, the northbound freight train joins the northbound Ion track at Caroline Street, cross over to the southbound Ion track just north of Erb Street and then continue north on the southbound track until just south of Northfield Drive. This train typically heads north just after 11pm while Ion service is still running. Northbound Ion LRVs wait at Waterloo Public Square and southbound Ion LRVs wait at Northfield for the freight train to pass. The southbound return trip takes the reverse path and must return before Ion service starts at 5 am or they will have to wait until the next evening. This trip usually occurs Monday and Thursday nights but as with most freight schedules it can sometimes vary.[57] Since freight cars are wider than the LRVs, there are gauntlet tracks at the southbound track of Ion stations along the Waterloo Spur to keep freight trains from striking the station platforms.[58] To further protect station platforms and also to protect the Ion catenary system, there is a safety system to detect oversized freight cars and automatically stop the train using derailers. The detectors are located at Willow Street and just north of Northfield Drive.[59]


Waterloo Spur just south of University Avenue in April 2014, before construction started
Construction work on Waterloo Spur in April 2015
Electrification work near University of Waterloo campus in April 2016

The route approved by Regional Council travels in a mix of on-road and off-road (in various existing rights-of-way) configurations. On December 2, 2017, the Kitchener-Waterloo Record reported the local economy had already been stimulated through the construction of new buildings near the route, in both Kitchener–Waterloo and Cambridge.[60]

Phase 1[edit]

  • On-road from Conestoga stop in Waterloo, the route follows King Street then west on Northfield Drive, using its existing bridge to cross the Conestoga Parkway, to the Region-owned rail spur line at Northfield stop.
  • Off-road, it then follows the Region-owned rail spur line (also known as the Waterloo Spur) from Northfield Drive, passing the Research and Technology, University of Waterloo and Laurier - Waterloo Park stops to Uptown Waterloo, replacing the existing tracks. This line is used by the Waterloo Central Railway and CN, and remains open to freight traffic outside of transit service hours.[56]
  • On-road in Uptown Waterloo, it splits into a one-way system going north on King Street (location of the Waterloo Public Square stop) and south on Caroline Street (Willis Way stop), and along Allen Street to rejoin as a two-way system along King Street past Allen and Grand River Hospital stops. In Downtown Kitchener, the route splits at the Central Station stop (home to the future Transit Hub) into a one-way system going north on Duke and Frederick Streets (including Kitchener City Hall and Frederick stops) and south on Charles Street (Victoria Park and Queen), and back to a two-way system on Charles Street at Benton Street. From downtown Kitchener, the route follows Charles Street past Kitchener Market and Borden stops, then turns southwesternly taking a one-way system using Ottawa Street northbound and Borden Street southbound to Mill stop.
  • Off-road, it then travels two-way along the CN rail right-of-way (alongside existing tracks to allow full freight access), under the Conestoga Parkway in a dedicated tunnel, beside Hayward Avenue, beside Courtland Avenue (past Block Line stop) and through the hydro corridor adjacent to Fairway Road, to Fairway stop.

Phase 2[edit]

  • Off-road From Fairview Park Mall the route then parallels the CPR rail line under Highway 8, over the Grand River, past Sportsworld station, under Highway 401, over the Speed River, to Eagle Street in Preston at Preston station.
  • On-road on Eagle Street to Hespeler/Eagle station, then along Hespeler Road past Cambridge Centre and Can-Amera stations to Delta station, and on Water Street into Downtown Cambridge to the Ainslie Terminal station.[61]

On-road sections keep the LRVs in dedicated lanes that do not mix with general traffic.

In February 2017, after limitations in the original route design came to light, a new preliminary preferred route plan was published.[62] This would no longer use the CPR line south of Fairway; instead, it would travel to the east of it, along the River Rd extension and across Hwy 8; along King St into the Sportsworld area and under Hwy 401; along Shantz Hill Rd into Preston, and crossing the Speed River on a dedicated bridge.

The subsequent plan, rejected by Cambridge City Council in July 2017,[63] indicated that the track would take Eagle St toward Hespeler, but to avoid conflicts with rail corridors and reduce traffic impacts at Eagle/Pinebush, would travel along the freight spur to Hespeler Rd. As previously, Hespeler Rd would be followed toward the Delta intersection, but to avoid traffic impacts it would veer east along the rail corridor behind Norfolk Ave, then transition to an abandoned railway corridor behind Grantham and Beverly Sts, before coming into downtown Galt near the Ainslie Terminal.[64] (At least one journalist has pointed out the similarity between this plan and the electric Grand River Railway of the early 1900s.)[65] More detailed rendering of the route became available in October 2019, indicating elevated sections would be used to cross Fairway Road, the Grand River, Fountain Street and the Speed River, and the CP Rail line by Eagle Street.[66]


Stage 2
Preston Station
Eagle Street
Cambridge Centre
Water Street

The Region approved a staged implementation plan for its rapid transit system:

Stage 1 – Implementation of LRT north of Fairview Park Mall and adapted Bus Rapid Transit south of Fairview Park Mall, including:

  • LRT from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener;
  • Adapted Bus Rapid Transit (aBRT) from Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener to Ainslie Street Terminal in downtown Cambridge
  • Re-aligned Grand River Transit (GRT) bus service to provide an expanded level of service to the rapid transit stations along primary feeder corridors;
  • Express bus service, modelled after the current iXpress service, to high ridership centres throughout the Region (i.e., Wilfrid Laurier University, Conestoga College, etc.);
  • Connections to intercity transit such as GO Transit, Greyhound, and Via Rail.

The stage 1 route is 19 kilometres (12 mi) long.[29]

Stage 2 – Completion of a light rail transit system from Fairview Park in Kitchener to Ainslie Street in Cambridge. Commencement of Stage 2 to follow completion of Stage 1 as closely as possible.


Out of the seven groups that showed an interest in the project, by December 18, 2013, three consortiums had submitted bids to design, build, finance, operate and maintain the Ion system:[67][68]

The winning bid was selected at a committee meeting on March 4, 2014.[69] GrandLinq is the preferred bidder.[70] The final approval of the GrandLinq bid came at a full council meeting on March 19,[71] and financial close was made May 9.[72]


Willis Way station under construction in December 2015; both the embedded track and station platform have been poured
  • Utility relocation and other associated work began in late 2013. Construction officially started with a groundbreaking event on August 21, 2014.[73]
  • The first sections of the route scheduled for work were Borden Avenue in Kitchener, and Caroline Street in Waterloo.[74] In early 2015, work shifted to Charles Street and King Street in Kitchener, and within the railway corridors. In March, under a stretch of King Street, GrandLinq reported finding wooden rail ties from the streetcar line, abandoned in the 1950s, unearthed during excavation.[75]
  • By late 2015, many stretches of track were installed and some stations had their concrete pads poured.
  • By the end of 2016, system construction was 90% complete, including full completion of the maintenance facility and all underground utility work.[76]
  • In late February 2017, Bombardier Transportation had delivered a single sample-only LRV for testing.

[77] The Region reiterated that Stage 1 rail service would start in "early" 2018.[78]

  • At that time, plans for Stage 2 were still in the very early stage. Public consultation was to start soon, but in mid 2017, that process was postponed to 2018.[8] Some routes and stops had been agreed upon in 2011, but the final plan was scheduled for completion in mid 2017.[79][80]

Shuttle Services[edit]

GRT Ion bus used on BRT service.

Because Stage 2 was still years away in March 2017, Grand River Transit was providing rapid transit between Fairview Park Mall and the Ainslie Street Transit Terminal (in the "downtown Galt" area) using iXpress buses. Adapted versions would become available in the near future for the Ion bus. Other stops are at Hespeler Road at the Delta, Can-Amera, Cambridge Centre, Pinebush, and Sportsworld. The rapid transit vehicles use bus-only lanes at Pinebush, Munch and Coronation to minimize slowdowns at times of heavy traffic. Following the launch of light rail stage 1, the Ion bus provides a direct link to that system.[81][82] This bus route is properly known as 302 Ion Bus. That service, termed "adapted bus rapid transit" runs in shared traffic lanes for most of the route, and fares are collected on board. It therefore does not meet the BRT Standard definition of bus rapid transit. No firm estimates had been published as to the possible start of (Stage 2) light rail service to Cambridge but a report in early July 2017 suggested that construction would not begin until 2025.[8]


Laurier–Waterloo Park Station, in October 2017, showing the canopy structure and stone-tile feature wall

The stations have been built to be the length of two LRVs; however, as only single vehicles are anticipated to be required initially, the major station facilities were only built for a single vehicle length at start. This consists of a cantilevered glass canopy over a mostly open waiting area; enclosures were built at most stations to provide some shelter.[citation needed] Each station is also recognizable by a 'feature wall', a 3-metre (9.8 ft) square installation near the end of the platform that carries a distinct colour scheme and pattern. The wall face is a series of large tiles in glass, ceramic or stone; at some stations, all tiles are the same, while others feature a unique pattern.[citation needed] Each wall features illuminated Ion and GRT logos, as well as the station's name set in Clearview. A second wall and canopy can be installed at the opposite end of each platform, and are planned to be erected when two light rail vehicle cars become the norm.[citation needed]

Fabric of Place

There are ten public art installations within the Ion corridor with artworks at Conestoga, Research and Technology, Grand River Hospital, Kitchener Market, Mill, Block Line and Fairway.[83] A further piece, Fabric of Place by Lilly Otasevic consisting of a panel with imaging representing the fabric of the community, is used as a barrier along the Ion track in Waterloo behind the Albert McCormick Community Centre, on Parkside Drive. Waterloo Region budgeted $875,000 for the artworks.[83]


Station Location Notes Coords
Conestoga West of Conestoga Mall Major transit interchange with connections to GRT and iXpress bus services 43°29′54″N 80°31′46″W / 43.49829°N 80.52951°W / 43.49829; -80.52951
Northfield Rail corridor at Northfield Dr 43°29′50″N 80°32′36″W / 43.49722°N 80.54333°W / 43.49722; -80.54333
Research and Technology Rail corridor near bend in Wes Graham Way Near the David Johnston Research and Technology Park 43°28′53″N 80°32′43″W / 43.48136°N 80.54527°W / 43.48136; -80.54527
University of Waterloo University of Waterloo main campus across from Davis Centre along Ring Road / Laurel Trail 43°28′23″N 80°32′28″W / 43.47312°N 80.54107°W / 43.47312; -80.54107
Laurier–Waterloo Park Rail corridor at Seagram Drive Near Wilfrid Laurier University and Waterloo Park 43°28′08″N 80°32′04″W / 43.46899°N 80.53450°W / 43.46899; -80.53450
Waterloo Public Square Rail corridor at King St Northbound only 43°27′51″N 80°31′22″W / 43.46414°N 80.52289°W / 43.46414; -80.52289
Willis Way Caroline St south of Willis Way Southbound only 43°27′44″N 80°31′25″W / 43.46228°N 80.52354°W / 43.46228; -80.52354
Allen King St at Allen St 43°27′37″N 80°31′08″W / 43.46015°N 80.51886°W / 43.46015; -80.51886
Grand River Hospital King St at Pine St In front of Grand River Hospital; near Kitchener–Waterloo Collegiate 43°27′26″N 80°30′44″W / 43.45730°N 80.51217°W / 43.45730; -80.51217
Central Station King St at Victoria St Transit hub will provide connections to GO Transit, Via Rail, Greyhound and Coach Canada services 43°27′11″N 80°29′55″W / 43.45304°N 80.49874°W / 43.45304; -80.49874
Kitchener City Hall Duke St at Young St Northbound only; near Kitchener City Hall 43°27′07″N 80°29′28″W / 43.45202°N 80.49104°W / 43.45202; -80.49104
Victoria Park Charles St at Gaukel St Southbound only; near Victoria Park 43°27′01″N 80°29′37″W / 43.45016°N 80.49354°W / 43.45016; -80.49354
Frederick Frederick St at King St Northbound only 43°26′58″N 80°29′15″W / 43.44938°N 80.48748°W / 43.44938; -80.48748
Queen Charles St at Queen St Southbound only 43°26′55″N 80°29′23″W / 43.44871°N 80.48961°W / 43.44871; -80.48961
Kitchener Market Charles St at Cedar St Near the Kitchener Farmer's Market and Cameron Heights Collegiate Institute 43°26′47″N 80°29′02″W / 43.44648°N 80.48396°W / 43.44648; -80.48396
Borden Charles St at Borden Ave 43°26′32″N 80°28′30″W / 43.44228°N 80.47501°W / 43.44228; -80.47501
Mill On the rail line by Ottawa St at Mill St 43°26′02″N 80°28′42″W / 43.43395°N 80.47839°W / 43.43395; -80.47839
Block Line Courtland Ave at Block Line Rd Near St. Mary's High School 43°25′21″N 80°27′45″W / 43.42260°N 80.46263°W / 43.42260; -80.46263
Fairway West of CF Fairview Park Southern terminus linked by Bus Rapid Transit to the Ainslie St. Transit Terminal; Park and Ride facility 43°25′20″N 80°26′31″W / 43.42236°N 80.44194°W / 43.42236; -80.44194
Map all coordinates using: OpenStreetMap 
Download coordinates as: KML


The project has attracted vocal support and opposition.


In May 2009, a Facebook group named "I Support Light Rail Transit in the Region of Waterloo" was created, and boasted over 1,600 members.[84] Shortly after its creation, the group creator and other LRT supporters formed the "Tri-Cities Transport Action Group" (TriTAG).[85] According to its website, TriTAG supports LRT as a needed method of shaping development, meeting future capacity needs, protecting the environment, and providing the most economical solution for transportation in the Region.[86] Six months after founding, TriTAG launched an email campaign to allow supporters of LRT to email their MPs, MPPs, and other government officials such as the federal and provincial Ministers of Transportation. Within a few days, thousands of emails had been sent.[87] For the 2010 Regional Budget, TriTAG and its supporters presented to the Regional Budget Committee regarding various areas of transportation funding. While the focus was not on LRT, the delegates spoke about the importance of proper transportation infrastructure (pedestrian, cycling, transit) on a successful LRT system.[88][89] TriTAG has continued their support of the project into the bid stage in 2014; a notable contribution is a video outlining the landmarks and amenities that the route will access.[90] Proponents have asserted that the region's plans for rapid transit will be an essential component of planning and rationally controlling the Region's growth.[91]

A report in late 2017 indicated that the new Ion system was responsible in part for a predicted building boom in the core of Kitchener, much of it located near LRT stations. An estimated $1.2 billion in building permits for 20 new developments was expected by March 2018, adding 1,000 apartments and 1,800 condominium units. According to the City, the anticipated development was a "mixture of high-density residential buildings with ground-floor retail, and office buildings with ground-floor retail". Half of the projects would be extensive in size. A report in the Waterloo Region Record of December 29, 2017 indicated that "since Ion was approved in 2009, the region has issued $2.4 billion in building permits within the LRT corridor." Rod Regier, Commissioner of Planning, Development and Legislative Services for Waterloo Region, commented on the increase in building permits. "My back-of-the-envelope estimate is that the private sector developers have invested almost double the full cost of the Ion itself in the transit corridor. That for me is really astonishing," he said.[92]


A group opposed to the rapid transit proposal, called "Taxpayers for Sensible Transit" (T4ST), was formed in June 2009. According to its website, T4ST opposes LRT as being a proposal too big and too expensive for the region, which will hurt businesses and the local economy.[93] Taxpayers for Sensible Transit did not present a position regarding transportation and transit funding for the 2010 Regional Budget.

In September 2013 Doug Craig, the mayor of Cambridge, called for examining the cost of cancelling the light rail line.[94] He justified this examination due to doubts by Toronto politicians over its light rail line.

On November 19, 2013, it was reported that Craig was working to "extricate" Cambridge from any obligation to pay for the line connecting it to Kitchener, while, at the same time, trying to argue for connecting Cambridge to Toronto, via a GO line.[95]

The first candidate to announce his run for Mayor of the City of Waterloo in the 2014 election, local media personality Dave MacDonald, was running on a primarily anti-LRT platform.[96]

In March 2014, just as the Region was preparing to give final approval to the construction contract, a group titled "Coalition Stop Waterloo LRT" filed a legal injunction against the project, claiming it did not meet planning guidelines and should be stopped. A court decision on March 18 dismissed the motion, but did not rule out further legal review.[97] It later emerged that the only citizen directly associated with the filing coalition was local businessman Jay Aissa.[98] Ann Tucker of the Ontario Superior Court dismissed the suit on March 19, 2014.[99]

In July, Aissa announced that he was dropping further legal challenges, and instead would take a political option to oppose the project, running against incumbent Regional chairman Ken Seiling. Seiling was re-elected Chairman with 58.4% of the vote.[100]

After publication of the February 2017 route plan, some citizens of Cambridge, particularly in the Preston area, were strongly objecting to the route, especially the section planned for Shantz hill and certain residential areas. City Council particularly objected to the Shantz Hill Road to Hespeler Road section and passed a motion in early July 2017 instructing staff to advise the Region of this and to request that alternatives be explored.[8][63]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Schedules". August 9, 2021.
  2. ^ "Ion". official site. 2015. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  3. ^ "Public transit numbers on the rise since Ion launch in June". Keolis. November 18, 2020. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  4. ^
  5. ^ "What is Ion?". official site. 2015. Archived from the original on June 18, 2015. Retrieved June 15, 2015.
  6. ^ "Ion approved as name for Waterloo Region LRT". Waterloo Region Record. April 30, 2013. Retrieved April 30, 2013.
  7. ^ a b "Ion launch date set for June 21". Waterloo Region Record. May 8, 2019. Retrieved May 14, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d Anam Latif (July 5, 2017). "Cambridge council opposes proposed LRT route through Preston". Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Cambridge. Retrieved December 3, 2017. Preston residents have resisted the region's proposed route since it was made public earlier this year. It connects Kitchener to Cambridge through Preston by travelling down Shantz Hill Road then Eagle Street and Hespeler Road before it moves further south.
  9. ^
  10. ^ "Central Transit Corridor Community Building Strategy » Project Team". Archived from the original on June 10, 2012.
  11. ^ "Waterloo Region's Rapid Transit System to Shape Growth, Development". Metro Magazine. October 13, 2014. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  12. ^ "LRT rollout delayed, Bombardier blamed". Waterloo Region Record. May 24, 2016. Retrieved May 24, 2016.
  13. ^ Sharkey, Jackie (February 2017). "Stage 2 ION: Light Rail Transit (LRT)" (PDF). Region of Waterloo. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  14. ^ a b c d Pender, Terry (April 10, 2017). "First of the Ion trains wows thousands". Waterloo Region Record. Kitchener. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  15. ^ "Ion construction costs run $50 million over budget". December 11, 2017.
  16. ^ "Residents keep up pressure to alter Stage 2 LRT route". December 15, 2017.
  17. ^ "Common Questions - General - What does ION mean?". Ion. Kitchener, Ontario: Region of Waterloo. December 7, 2018. Archived from the original on June 21, 2019. Retrieved June 21, 2019.
  18. ^ Region of Waterloo report E-08-070
  19. ^ Barrick, Frances (June 25, 2009). "Region approves rail plan: Council votes 15-1 in favour of bringing electric trains to region". Waterloo Region Record. Archived from the original on June 27, 2009. Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  20. ^ "Ontario Budget 2008: Chapter I, Section B". Archived from the original on October 13, 2008. Retrieved July 2, 2009.
  21. ^ "GLOBE EDITORIAL: No desire for this Waterloo streetcar". The Globe and Mail. August 1, 2010. Retrieved March 13, 2017. For an area with such a reputation for intelligence and education, however, the region's train plan is a surprisingly poor idea. And an issue of national significance.
  22. ^ Outhit, Jeff (June 21, 2019). "For Waterloo regional council, LRT was 17 years in the making — and manoeuvring". Retrieved June 22, 2019.
  23. ^ "Margaret Avenue bridge now history as demolition continues in Kitchener". Waterloo Region Record. November 7, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  24. ^ "Homepage - Rapid Transit" (PDF). July 12, 2013. Archived from the original (PDF) on February 18, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2013.
  25. ^ Outhit, Jeff (October 27, 2011). "Rail yard purchased for rapid transit". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
  26. ^ Swayze, Kevin (July 19, 2015). "Light rail headquarters taking shape in Waterloo". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  27. ^ Desmond, Paige (July 11, 2013). "Region approves purchase of Bombardier LRT trains". Waterloo Region Record. Archived from the original on July 13, 2013. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  28. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (July 12, 2013). "Waterloo opts for Bombardier LRVs". International Railway Journal. Archived from the original on July 13, 2013. Retrieved July 13, 2013. The first of the Flexity Freedom LRV are due to be delivered in mid-2016, and will be used on the 19km, 16-station line from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener. The $C 92.4m ($US 89.2m) contract will include an option for 16 additional vehicles.
  29. ^ a b c "Waterloo Regional Council approves purchase of Bombardier LRT vehicles". The Globe and Mail. July 10, 2013. Retrieved July 10, 2013.
  30. ^ Johanna Weidner (June 20, 2017). "Delivery of second Ion train delayed". Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Retrieved December 3, 2017. Delivery of the region's second light rail vehicle has been delayed by a couple of months to give Bombardier extra time to work on the train at its Kingston plant.
  31. ^ Paige Desmond (April 13, 2016). "Bombardier LRT vehicles delayed". Waterloo Region Record. Archived from the original on April 13, 2016. After months of saying troubles at Bombardier would not impact the region's LRVs, officials now say at least two trains will be late.
  32. ^ Paige Desmond (May 20, 2016). "Bombardier moves LRT train production to Kingston to keep project on track". Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Retrieved May 22, 2016. Marc-André Lefebvre, head of communications with Bombardier Canada, said five of the region's 14 LRVs will be completed in Thunder Bay and the rest will be made in Kingston starting in 2017.
  33. ^ Jeff Hicks (February 25, 2017). "Waterloo Region LRT: One train down, 13 to go". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  34. ^ a b "Second Ion train arrives in Waterloo Region". Cambridge Times. October 2, 2017. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  35. ^ "Construction on LRT vehicles in full swing at Bombardier plant". CTV Kitchener. Bell Media. March 15, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  36. ^ Andrea Bellemare (June 20, 2017). "Second LRT vehicle delivery delayed to late August at earliest: Vehicle was scheduled to arrive in June, will now arrive in late August or early September". CBC News. Retrieved December 3, 2017. "The community was told we were going to get our second vehicle at the end of June. Well, we could've gotten our second vehicle at the end of June, it would've come in at much better shape than the first vehicle, but it's better that it stays in Kingston until August, September and comes to us at a higher level of functionality," Galloway said in an interview with CBC News.
  37. ^ a b c "'Everything was positive,' ION light rail car completes first testing". Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. November 7, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  38. ^ Keith Barrow (November 2, 2017). "Testing begins on Waterloo LRT". International Rail Journal. Retrieved December 3, 2017. CONSTRUCTION of the initial phase of the Ion light rail network in the Canadian city of Waterloo reached a milestone on November 7, when LRV testing began on a section of line close to the depot on Dutton Drive.
  39. ^ "'Everything was positive,' ION light rail car completes first testing | CBC News".
  40. ^ a b Weidner, Johanna (December 19, 2017). "First powered Ion testing performed". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  41. ^ Jackson, Adam (October 13, 2017). "Testing of LRVs on tracks expected this week". Waterloo Chronicle. Retrieved December 26, 2017.
  42. ^ "Toronto's new Bombardier contract could benefit Waterloo Region's LRT". December 21, 2017.
  43. ^ "One Ion delivered, one sent back for work". January 9, 2018.
  44. ^ Weidner, Johanna (April 13, 2018). "No LRT service until December". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved April 13, 2018.
  45. ^ "ION light rail starts June 21, 2019!". Grand River Transit on Twitter. Twitter. Retrieved May 8, 2019.
  46. ^ Weidner, Johanna (August 21, 2020). "Region settling with Bombardier for $2.2M, free Ion train". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  47. ^ "Free ION train arrives in Waterloo Region courtesy of Bombardier". CTV Kitchener. Retrieved March 12, 2021.
  48. ^ "Construction is starting at the ION Operations, Maintenance, and Storage Facility at 518 Dutton in Waterloo" (PDF). Region of Waterloo. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  49. ^ "Meet the Brampton commuter behind Waterloo's LRT project". Toronto Star. December 10, 2015. Archived from the original on December 11, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015. Each stop on the ION LRT will have a unique identifying piece of art or feature wall using different treatments and finishes that reflect the neighbourhood.
  50. ^ "ION Stop Anchor Wall Designs" (PDF). Region of Waterloo. Retrieved May 5, 2015.
  51. ^ a b "ION Light Rail schedule" (PDF). Grand River Transit. 2021. Retrieved February 27, 2021.
  52. ^ "Common Questions / Rapid Transit in Waterloo Region". Region of Waterloo. Retrieved January 2, 2018.
  53. ^ "Light Rail Transit Facts". Metrolinx. July 2014. Retrieved January 2, 2018. The average speed of the Eglinton Crosstown is 28km/hr; the Bloor-Danforth subway is 32km/hr.
  54. ^ "ION light rail vehicle signals" (PDF). Grand River Transit. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  55. ^ "GrandLinq testing Ion train control signals". Waterloo Region Record. August 20, 2017. Retrieved December 27, 2017.
  56. ^ a b "Popular Waterloo tourist train route cut short by LRT plan". CBC News. March 11, 2013. Retrieved December 4, 2014.
  57. ^ "ION light rail freight testing - December 10, 2017". rideION. December 10, 2017. Archived from the original on November 22, 2019. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  58. ^ Karl Morant (May 19, 1916). "Gauntlet Track, Waterloo, Ontario, Canada". Missing or empty |url= (help)
  59. ^ Weidner, Johanna (June 26, 2017). "Derail switches installed to protect Ion infrastructure from oversized freight trains". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved January 1, 2018.
  60. ^ "Light rail, the game-changer". Kitchener-Waterloo Record. December 2, 2017. Retrieved December 3, 2017. There's a building boom along the LRT line between north Waterloo and south Kitchener and extending to the transit corridor that runs into Cambridge.
  61. ^ "Home/ION Information/Maps/System". Region of Waterloo Rapid Transit Division. Retrieved October 25, 2014.
  62. ^ "LRT Cambridge proposed route announced | CBC News".
  63. ^ a b Andrea Bellemare (February 10, 2017). "LRT Cambridge proposed route announced: Briefing session mid-day Friday by Region, Ion officials". CBC News. Retrieved December 3, 2017. Sawicki said staff picked the preferred route after comparing alternate routes and seeing how well they performed in a number of categories, including how each route would impact the social and cultural atmosphere, the natural environment and the economy.
  64. ^ "Stage 2 ION: Public Consultation Centre No. 2" (PDF). Region of Waterloo Rapid Transit Division. Retrieved February 10, 2017.
  65. ^ "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.
  66. ^ "•Public Consultation Centre 5 Preliminary Design" (PDF). Stage 2 ION Public Consultation Centre (PCC) Documents. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved November 1, 2019.
  67. ^
  68. ^ Kieth Barrow (December 18, 2013). "Three bidders vie for Waterloo LRT contract". International Railway Journal. Archived from the original on December 19, 2013. Retrieved December 18, 2013. THREE consortia have submitted bids to the Regional Municipality of Waterloo, Ontario, for the $C 536m ($US 505m) PPP contract to design, build, operate, and maintain the city's first light rail line.
  69. ^ Lynch, Pat (February 27, 2014). "Why Waterloo Must Embrace Light Rail Transit To Survive". Huffington Post. Archived from the original on February 28, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014. In an election year, anything goes: While Waterloo Region council convenes on March 4 to vote on a $550-million contract for the work and materials for the project (which has technically already started), the first candidate to file his nomination papers for October's Waterloo mayoral contest has decided to run on an anti-LRT platform...and he's finding supporters.
  70. ^ Desmond, Paige (February 28, 2014). "Top LRT bid comes in under budget". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  71. ^ Desmond, Paige (March 20, 2014). "Cambridge won't get break on share of LRT costs". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved March 20, 2014.
  72. ^ "Region finalizes agreement with GrandLinq for ION Stage 1 LRT". Region of Waterloo. Retrieved May 9, 2014.
  73. ^ "ION ground-breaking ceremony set for August 21". Region of Waterloo. Retrieved August 8, 2014.
  74. ^ Desmond, Paige. "Caroline, Borden first sites for LRT work". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved August 7, 2014.
  75. ^ Kevin Swayze (March 27, 2015). "Century-old streetcar line found under LRT construction". Kitchener, Ontario: Kitchener-Waterloo Record. Archived from the original on March 30, 2015. Retrieved March 28, 2015. Evidence of a century-old streetcar line between Kitchener and Waterloo has been uncovered as work starts on a new light rail transit system along King Street. A path of about 300 metres of rotten wooden ties down the middle of King near Wellington Street marks the old railway route, where the rails were removed in the 1950s.
  76. ^ Desmond, Paige (December 23, 2016). "LRT construction 90 per cent complete". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved December 26, 2016.
  77. ^ Sharkey, Jackie (February 24, 2017). "First ION LRT car has arrived in Waterloo Region: Take a look". CTV News. Bell Media. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  78. ^ Flanagan, Ryan (February 24, 2017). "Bombardier '100% committed' to delivering Ion vehicles by end of 2017". CTV News. Bell Media. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  79. ^ 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.
  80. ^ Sharkey, Jackie (February 2017). "Stage 2 ION: Light Rail Transit (LRT)" (PDF). Region of Waterloo. Region of Waterloo. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  82. ^ "ION Bus Rapid Transit - Frequently Asked Questions". Archived from the original on March 25, 2017. Retrieved March 24, 2017.
  83. ^ a b Beattie, Samantha (February 16, 2017). "Ion public art costs more than anticipated but will make region "friendlier"". Waterloo Region Record. Retrieved January 3, 2018.
  84. ^ "I Support Light Rail Transit in the Region of Waterloo". Retrieved November 7, 2013.
  85. ^ "TriTAG". Tri-Cities Transport Action Group.
  86. ^ "Why Light Rail?". Tri-Cities Transport Action Group/.
  87. ^ "Tri-Cities Transport Action Group Counters T4ST Misinformation With New Website". Exchange. Waterloo Region: 1. November 6, 2009. Retrieved January 30, 2010.
  88. ^ "TriTAG's presentation to the Regional budget committee". Tri-Cities Transport Action Group.
  89. ^ "Budget Committee - November 25, 2009 Public Input Minutes". Council Chambers, 2nd Floor, 150 Frederick Street, Kitchener, Ontario: The Region of Waterloo. November 25, 2009. Archived from the original on January 19, 2011. Retrieved January 30, 2010.CS1 maint: location (link)
  90. ^ "VIDEO: Where will ION Light Rail Transit take you?". Tri-Cities Transport Action Group. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  91. ^ Kalinowski, Tess (December 10, 2015). "While GTA crawls ahead, Waterloo Region leads way on light rail". Toronto Star. Archived from the original on December 11, 2015. Retrieved December 11, 2015. At one point Bhatti says he could count 21 construction cranes along the LRT route as developers have embraced the project with new highrise condos and offices springing up along the line.
  92. ^ "Boom time: $1.2 billion in building permits expected for downtown Kitchener |".
  93. ^ "Main Page - Wiki". Taxpayers for Sensible Transit.
  94. ^ "Cambridge mayor wants to look at cost of cancelling LRT: Doug Craig favours bus rapid transit". CBC News. August 20, 2013. Retrieved September 16, 2013. While Craig called for examining the cost of the potential cancellation of the LRT, he stopped short of providing what would constitute a reasonable price tag, saying instead that he believed the region could easily opt out of its current plan in favour of something else, even though construction on light rail had already started.
  95. ^ Martin, Ray (November 19, 2013). "Mayor wants Cambridge exempt from paying for Light Rail Transit in Kitchener, Waterloo". Waterloo Region Record. Archived from the original on October 11, 2014. Retrieved November 20, 2013.
  96. ^ "Broadcaster to run for Waterloo mayor on anti-LRT platform". CBC News. Retrieved January 14, 2014.
  97. ^ "Judge dismisses motion to stop LRT construction". CBC News. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  98. ^ Grant, Amanda. "Twitter / amandamgrant". Twitter. Retrieved March 19, 2014. Only Jay Aissa is listed.
  99. ^ Bowen, Douglas John (March 19, 2014). "Judge dismisses challenge to Waterloo LRT". Railway Age. Archived from the original on March 19, 2014. Ontario Superior Court Judge Ann Tucker rejected a challenge by a businessman to delay the project. Tucker's ruling on Tuesday, March 18, 2014, in part noted the plaintiff "is not a ratepayer of this region".
  100. ^ Ken Seiling remains Waterloo Region chair, winning by comfortable margin

External links[edit]