ON: Chambers of Commerce Split on Rapid Transit

The region's two chambers of commerce have entered the rapid transit debate - with very different positions.

The board of directors at the Cambridge Chamber of Commerce wants regional council to adopt a rapid bus system from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to the Ainslie Street terminal in Cambridge, calling it "fair and equitable among participating communities." The Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber of Commerce, however, is conditionally supporting the region's preferred option of a light rail system.

The board in Cambridge said rapid buses still keep the option open for any type of hybrid system to be implemented "when the time is right and the taxpayers can afford it."

But the board also identified two alternate options. The first asks regional council to defer any action until staff has investigated all current and emerging transit technologies, and reports on the feasibility of creating public-private funding partnerships. The board also asked that any recommended proposal be accompanied by a process to gather broader public opinion - the chamber's position did not specifically mention a referendum.

The second option would see regional council assign the cost of the light rail proposal to the "benefitting municipalities" of Kitchener and Waterloo.

While supporting light rail transit as "the appropriate technology to meet future Region of Waterloo transportation requirements" and asking the region to "expeditiously move forward on a transit system that will facilitate economic and population growth," the Greater Kitchener Waterloo Chamber still said a number of issues must be addressed before construction can begin.

Among their areas of concern are potential impacts on residential and business property taxes, public-private partnership options for risk-sharing, future increases in development charges, compensation for businesses impacted by construction, and establishing a detailed timeline and costing plan for light rail service to Cambridge.


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