First Ion vehicle worth getting excited about

Opinion Feb 22, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

The excitement over the imminent arrival of Waterloo Region’s first LRT vehicle is remarkable.

The Region of Waterloo set up a page on its website to track the delivery of the first Ion train from Bombardier’s plant in Thunder Bay over the rail network to the Ion’s maintenance facility in northern Waterloo.

People have been following this tracker the same way an Apple enthusiast follows the UPS online shipping updates on their new laptop. As I type this, the Ion vehicle is in Sudbury and is scheduled to depart later this evening. By the time you read this, the vehicle may have been delivered.

This highlights the enthusiasm the Ion LRT project continues to generate, despite controversy and construction pain. The Facebook group “I Support Light Rail in the Region of Waterloo” still has more than 2,000 members.

They have become more than just grass roots supporters for the concept of LRT in Waterloo Region; they have been doggedly following the construction, snapping every detail and development.

They are excited because the Ion LRT is going to accelerate the transformation of the region into a new and diverse centre of industry that stands out from the shadow of the Greater Toronto Area.

We have come a long way from the 1990s when unemployment was high, our tech sector was in its infancy, and our downtowns were ailing. I still remember the incidents of arson that hollowed out blocks and contributed to the sense of a city on the wane.

Some might think the LRT project is revolutionary — after all, we will be the smallest community in Canada with an LRT line when it opens in 2018. However, it is not. It is supporting change that planners and civic leaders have been striving for decades to achieve, and the transformation is another in Waterloo Region’s continuing adaptation to stay on the cutting edge of the economy.

Many of the buildings in downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo are adapted from different uses when this region was a national leader in other industries. Kitchener used to be the button capitol of Canada, then the shirt capital, and then the furniture capital.

These industries all left their mark on the character of Waterloo Region, but if we didn’t adapt we would have fallen into a familiar story of an aging, ailing community suffering from industrial decline. We would be another rust belt town.

We have changed and we have adapted, encouraging the growth of educational institutions in the region; not just universities but think tanks like the Perimeter Institute and CIGI. We’ve reused the empty buildings in our downtown to bring in residents and generate economic activity. We’ve developed a healthy tech sector, which is bringing jobs and making a name for our region throughout the world.

And we have turned away from supporting unbridled urban sprawl and development which favours the automobile alone as the means to get around. The LRT supports this.

These are connected. Embracing urban sprawl and turning away from a more diverse urban development would have changed us into a bedroom community for the Greater Toronto Area. We would have eroded our rural character, had little to celebrate in our downtown and it would have subsumed our identity.

Now, although we are smaller than Toronto, we have an economic heft behind us that belies our size, and this is only going to grow.

The people tracking the Ion LRT delivery are tracking the delivery of our future. It is something to celebrate.

First Ion vehicle worth getting excited about

Opinion Feb 22, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

The excitement over the imminent arrival of Waterloo Region’s first LRT vehicle is remarkable.

The Region of Waterloo set up a page on its website to track the delivery of the first Ion train from Bombardier’s plant in Thunder Bay over the rail network to the Ion’s maintenance facility in northern Waterloo.

People have been following this tracker the same way an Apple enthusiast follows the UPS online shipping updates on their new laptop. As I type this, the Ion vehicle is in Sudbury and is scheduled to depart later this evening. By the time you read this, the vehicle may have been delivered.

This highlights the enthusiasm the Ion LRT project continues to generate, despite controversy and construction pain. The Facebook group “I Support Light Rail in the Region of Waterloo” still has more than 2,000 members.

They have become more than just grass roots supporters for the concept of LRT in Waterloo Region; they have been doggedly following the construction, snapping every detail and development.

They are excited because the Ion LRT is going to accelerate the transformation of the region into a new and diverse centre of industry that stands out from the shadow of the Greater Toronto Area.

We have come a long way from the 1990s when unemployment was high, our tech sector was in its infancy, and our downtowns were ailing. I still remember the incidents of arson that hollowed out blocks and contributed to the sense of a city on the wane.

Some might think the LRT project is revolutionary — after all, we will be the smallest community in Canada with an LRT line when it opens in 2018. However, it is not. It is supporting change that planners and civic leaders have been striving for decades to achieve, and the transformation is another in Waterloo Region’s continuing adaptation to stay on the cutting edge of the economy.

Many of the buildings in downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo are adapted from different uses when this region was a national leader in other industries. Kitchener used to be the button capitol of Canada, then the shirt capital, and then the furniture capital.

These industries all left their mark on the character of Waterloo Region, but if we didn’t adapt we would have fallen into a familiar story of an aging, ailing community suffering from industrial decline. We would be another rust belt town.

We have changed and we have adapted, encouraging the growth of educational institutions in the region; not just universities but think tanks like the Perimeter Institute and CIGI. We’ve reused the empty buildings in our downtown to bring in residents and generate economic activity. We’ve developed a healthy tech sector, which is bringing jobs and making a name for our region throughout the world.

And we have turned away from supporting unbridled urban sprawl and development which favours the automobile alone as the means to get around. The LRT supports this.

These are connected. Embracing urban sprawl and turning away from a more diverse urban development would have changed us into a bedroom community for the Greater Toronto Area. We would have eroded our rural character, had little to celebrate in our downtown and it would have subsumed our identity.

Now, although we are smaller than Toronto, we have an economic heft behind us that belies our size, and this is only going to grow.

The people tracking the Ion LRT delivery are tracking the delivery of our future. It is something to celebrate.

First Ion vehicle worth getting excited about

Opinion Feb 22, 2017 by James Bow Kitchener Post

The excitement over the imminent arrival of Waterloo Region’s first LRT vehicle is remarkable.

The Region of Waterloo set up a page on its website to track the delivery of the first Ion train from Bombardier’s plant in Thunder Bay over the rail network to the Ion’s maintenance facility in northern Waterloo.

People have been following this tracker the same way an Apple enthusiast follows the UPS online shipping updates on their new laptop. As I type this, the Ion vehicle is in Sudbury and is scheduled to depart later this evening. By the time you read this, the vehicle may have been delivered.

This highlights the enthusiasm the Ion LRT project continues to generate, despite controversy and construction pain. The Facebook group “I Support Light Rail in the Region of Waterloo” still has more than 2,000 members.

They have become more than just grass roots supporters for the concept of LRT in Waterloo Region; they have been doggedly following the construction, snapping every detail and development.

They are excited because the Ion LRT is going to accelerate the transformation of the region into a new and diverse centre of industry that stands out from the shadow of the Greater Toronto Area.

We have come a long way from the 1990s when unemployment was high, our tech sector was in its infancy, and our downtowns were ailing. I still remember the incidents of arson that hollowed out blocks and contributed to the sense of a city on the wane.

Some might think the LRT project is revolutionary — after all, we will be the smallest community in Canada with an LRT line when it opens in 2018. However, it is not. It is supporting change that planners and civic leaders have been striving for decades to achieve, and the transformation is another in Waterloo Region’s continuing adaptation to stay on the cutting edge of the economy.

Many of the buildings in downtown Kitchener and uptown Waterloo are adapted from different uses when this region was a national leader in other industries. Kitchener used to be the button capitol of Canada, then the shirt capital, and then the furniture capital.

These industries all left their mark on the character of Waterloo Region, but if we didn’t adapt we would have fallen into a familiar story of an aging, ailing community suffering from industrial decline. We would be another rust belt town.

We have changed and we have adapted, encouraging the growth of educational institutions in the region; not just universities but think tanks like the Perimeter Institute and CIGI. We’ve reused the empty buildings in our downtown to bring in residents and generate economic activity. We’ve developed a healthy tech sector, which is bringing jobs and making a name for our region throughout the world.

And we have turned away from supporting unbridled urban sprawl and development which favours the automobile alone as the means to get around. The LRT supports this.

These are connected. Embracing urban sprawl and turning away from a more diverse urban development would have changed us into a bedroom community for the Greater Toronto Area. We would have eroded our rural character, had little to celebrate in our downtown and it would have subsumed our identity.

Now, although we are smaller than Toronto, we have an economic heft behind us that belies our size, and this is only going to grow.

The people tracking the Ion LRT delivery are tracking the delivery of our future. It is something to celebrate.