ON: Rapid Transit Backers Holding Weekend Rally

Rapid transit supporters are holding a rally Saturday, days in advance of regional council's crucial vote on the controversial issue.

Council votes Wednesday on the $818-million transit plan that would see light rail trains running from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo to Fairview Park mall in Kitchener, with rapid buses running to the Ainslie Street transit terminal in Cambridge.

"It's a chance for LRT supporters to come together one last time to remind regional councillors why they support LRT," said Tim Mollison, a spokesperson for the Tri-Cities Transport Action Group.

"If we want to grow up in a responsible, sustainable manner, rather than growing out in a sprawling manner, then we really need to build light rail now."

William Saunders, a member of the board of directors for the student-run Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, is encouraging people to attend.

"It's very important," said the 22-year-old University of Waterloo computer science student.

"We're actually seeing regional politicians stepping up and trying to put through something that is visionary, that is transformative and that tries to not just accept the status quo."

About 200 people are expected to attend Saturday's hour-long Rally for Rails II at Speakers' Corner ar King St. E. and Frederick St. in Kitchener beginning at noon.

The group will be handing out brochures and encouraging people to spread the word about the pros of light rail to friends and neighbours. Computers will also be set up so residents can email regional councillors to voice their support.

About 10 speakers, possibly a few regional councillors, are expected to address the crowd.

"People have the option afterwards to go to a downtown business for lunch and remind those owners that throughout the entire construction phase they will continue to support them," Mollison said.

A new group called Citizens for Informed, Engaged Democracy is also planning a rapid transit rally at King and Frederick streets on Saturday afternoon.

Although spokesperson Jeffrey Beckner said the group isn't against rapid transit, "we are definitely opposed to what's proposed right now. There are major problems that affect the citizenry," he said.

"What we're about is getting the fuller picture out there," he said. "We want to make sure people have reasonable input into the process."

Beckner said details on the rally's starting time were still being worked out.

jbrown@therecord.com

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