All aboard! Waterloo welcomes light rail transit

When the Region of Waterloo first began testing its new light rail transit (LRT) system, students lucky enough to catch a rare glimpse of a train jumped on social media to post pictures and videos.

Now the trains regularly glide through campus. The rapid transit network known as ION stretches along a 19-kilometre path from Conestoga Mall in Waterloo, through the University of Waterloo campus, and down to Fairview Park in Kitchener. With 19 stops, the route connects cities, neighbourhoods and services across Kitchener and Waterloo. It also connects the Waterloo main campus with Velocity and the School of Pharmacy. Plans are already in the works to expand the train to Cambridge.

When the Region first considered a light rail system to move its growing population and stimulate more sustainable urban densification, it didn’t have to go far to find talented transit experts to help make the project a reality.

Waterloo’s top-rated School of Planning offered a deep pool of local talent with the interdisciplinary skill to get the project done right on a technical and social level.

Reid Fulton (MA ’08) had his pick of planning jobs when he graduated from Waterloo in 2008, but opted to stay in the region to work on its pioneering LRT project. As the principal transit planner for the Region of Waterloo, he was a central force in keeping the project on track.

With the construction phase of the ION now complete, Fulton has taken on a new challenge as project manager for transit integration at Grand River Transit, where he’ll coordinate planning for the launch of ION.

Since construction on the roughly $1 billion project started, more than $2 billion in ION-related investments have sprouted condominium developments along its route, transforming Kitchener-Waterloo’s skyline.

“As an alumnus of Waterloo I’m proud to play a small part in something so huge,” says Fulton. “ION LRT will be a new way of travelling to campus from the community for students and staff.”

New evolv1 building

Bringing together exciting Waterloo partnerships in urban sustainability

ribbon cutting ceremony at evolve1

Located in the David Johnston Research + Technology Park adjacent to campus, evolv1 is one of the most energy- efficient office buildings in the country. The net-positive energy building opened in January 2019 with 100,000 square feet of space for growing tech and professional services companies, as well as some of Waterloo’s top academic programs and research centres. The University’s Economic Development Program is now based there, along with two research centres: the Interdisciplinary Centre on Climate Change (IC3) and the Waterloo Institute for Sustainable Energy (WISE).

More plant-based and local options on campus

In September 2018, UW Food Services launched the FRSH Vegan counter in Applied Health Sciences, offering a fully customizable plant-based menu including smoothies, flatbreads, salads and rice and noodle bowls. Students can choose from more than 50 items – like pulled jackfruit, eggplant bacon, candied tempeh and smoked tofu – to create a personalized meal. Most of these items are locally sourced and all are prepared in-house.