As we all know, Waterloo Street, between Breithaupt Street and Victoria, has been closed for some time and will never reopen. This is because of the future Transit Hub.
Regional report P-14-061 of May 27, 2014, identifies this portion of Waterloo Street as a “main entrance from the Breithaupt Block and the residential area north of the Transit Hub” that will “form a strong pedestrian connection through the Hub site”.
The City of Kitchener handed over this part of Waterloo Street to the Region in the name of progress and the future of transit and added the caveat that it be “used primarily for pedestrian or vehicular movement”. While everyone hopes for the best, and we believe in the rosy future of transit, the Region and GrandLinq do not always have our neighbourhood interests at heart. In fact, it is mainly through the diligent research of local resident Bryan Smith that we even know some of their plans.
Since the Region is cutting off one of our streets, which was a convenient access to downtown Kitchener, we expected them to uphold their promise to make it a “strong pedestrian connection”. Yet a couple of years ago (at one of the final public meetings) planners indicated they were considering putting in stairs and an elevator. When we objected and said cyclists would want a clear path with no stairs, they claimed that would be too expensive because of the infrastructure that needed to be moved. We are still trying to monitor this issue.
We in the neighbourhood have tried to follow the Transit Hub plans but his has been difficult because things are very quiet now while the LRT construction takes over as the biggest concern in our area.
However, an LRT issue has unexpectedly become very important to the Waterloo Street “corridor”. There will be a transit station at the corner of Victoria and King and all stations need a “Traction Power Sub-Station” (TPSS). Originally this structure was going to be located behind the School of Pharmacy where it would not interfere with pedestrians or traffic.
Here is an generic image of a TPSS:
However, apparently some contamination of the area was discovered and GrandLinq decided to relocate this structure to Waterloo street! From the documentation we have managed to acquire it seems the Region, and their private partner GrandLinq, believe this relocation is a formality. They have made no attempt to inform anyone about it.
The TPSS building itself measures 13 feet by 42 feet and with a yard and the heavy duty fence surrounding it, the total area is estimated to be 31 feet by 92 feet. This would sit on a lot occupying 39 feet by 128 feet: larger than many lots in the neighbourhood! Here is another example of a TPSS:
It would be a huge eyesore on this grand pedestrian entrance to the Transit Hub and would take up the majority of the street. This portion of Waterloo Street descends towards Victoria. The lot would be filled to the Breithaupt Street level with a retaining wall down the west side six to eight feet high toward the tracks.
Additionally, there is a loading area off Waterloo Street and into the back part of the Breithaupt Block. This is used daily by trucks delivering food to Google workers and for other deliveries. The TPSS would significantly reduce the room on the street and, combined with the loading dock activity, pedestrian and cyclist traffic would be impeded.
The proposed relocation of the TPSS raises several questions:
1. Why does public consultation seem to be a lost art? At the same time the City of Kitchener is moving to embrace neighbourhoods and give us more ownership, the Region and its private partner GrandLinq, seem to ignore neighbourhoods.
2. Whatever contamination is present around the School of Pharmacy did not prevent it and the social work and medical school structures from being built. Why should it stand in the way of a TPSS? Why does government (and GrandLinq) run away from contamination? Would they not prove themselves to be more community minded if they cleaned it up?
3. Why does it take hours of work by private citizens to unearth obscure documents to find out some simple truths? Did none of the planners ask themselves basic questions like “how will this look?” and “would I like to live around this area?”
So far the LRT folks have not asked the city for permission to relocate their TPSS. At some point they will and they expect it to be approved without any real consideration.
Here is a diagram showing the size of the TPSS in relation to the street: