Waterloo is becoming a big city, and every big city needs transit, so why not just put it in now? This is the one and only credible argument I have heard for putting in the LRT. That even though driving will continue to be faster for many years to come, and therefore ridership will initially be low, that one day, ONE DAY, driving will be slow enough for the LRT to start to make sense. And when that day comes, ten or even twenty years from now, we’ll all look back and say thank goodness we put in that LRT so many years ago.
Logically, this actually makes a lot of sense to me. That we have this unsolvable problem before us, so let’s just do what everyone else does and put in some transit, and then sit back and wait for our congested and miserable future to appear.
But Waterloo, I think we can do better. Cities are transitioning to the post car era. An era where the world is getting more crowded, and roads are getting too expensive to expand and maintain. The simple solution would be to look around and say what did everyone else do? Buses suck, and we can’t afford subways, so the only option left is to put in trains.
But where would our city be if UW took that approach, building just another university without co-op? Or if RIM did, building just another PDA without wireless email? Quite simply, our city wouldn’t exist.
The world is changing, and we have the brand, momentum, and space to go back to fundamentals and design our city almost completely from scratch. A city that doesn’t ask you to choose between stop and go traffic and crowded trains, but a city designed from the ground up to make it most convenient to walk. A city designed to give you the freedom and comfort of a car, without the cost and congestion.
This is our opportunity. To go back to the root problem. To envision something unique, and then to build something bold. To design a city from the ground up for the post car era. Because otherwise I worry we could fall from our current path to greatness, and become just another mediocre city like all the rest.