Some ION stations are unsafe and inaccessible, accessibility consultant says

Grand River Accessibility Committee member Paula Saunders says more safety features are needed in and round ION stations but those repairs will take months, according to the Region of Waterloo.

Region has 'a long list' of suggested improvements for ION network

Four LRT trains were set aside for members of the public to ride on before the service officially launched. Dozens of people attended the opening ceremony for a chance to ride on the LRT. (Carmen Ponciano/CBC)

The ION light rail trains have been getting riders to Fairview Park Mall for a month now ⁠— sort of.

Currently, there's no crosswalk or signage directing people from the station to the shopping mall. The trip is slightly longer than what GRT passengers are used to when taking the bus, and requires pedestrians to cross the roadway.

Paula Saunders, a representative of the Grand River Accessibility Committee, recalls visiting the station for the first time after the ION launch.

"I sat for a while [at the Fairview station] and found that where I was sitting there was traffic coming in five different directions," Saunders said.

Saunders said the crossing is not only a safety concern, but inaccessible for people with limited mobility. 

"I mean, it's take some paint and paint a designated crosswalk for pedestrians. I'm not just talking about those of us with disabilities," Saunders said, "I'm talking the elderly that walk slower, the parents with baby buggies, kids trying to cross over to the mall safely."

Changes will take months

A crosswalk at Fairview Park is in the works said Peter Zinck, the Region of Waterloo's director of transit services, but it's going to take a couple months. In the meantime, way-finding signs will be installed to direct pedestrian traffic.

"We are listening to feedback that we've received from our customers," Zinck said, "Whether they're informational sources, accessibility issues, service issues, connection schedules. There's a long list of suggested things that we could make better."

On that to-do list are more accessibility features, such as adding tactile paving to help individuals with visual impairments find the ticket validation stations. 

It's a much larger issue than just the stations themselves.- Paula Saunders

Community co-operation needed

Saunders said she would have hoped these features would be installed before the launch, but overall Saunders said her experience consulting for the region on the ION network has been positive.

Fairview Park is only one of two stations she did not get a chance to visit ahead of the service start date.

"The difficulty is that each station is built obviously at a different location. Each location has different issues," she said.

Saunders believes the region can resolve some concerns, but others are out of their control. This is either because of environmental factors or stations being built close to privately owned property. Even when stations are fitted to be accessible, travelling to and from them can still be difficult.

"It's a much larger issue than just the stations themselves," Saunders said. 

"It's working with the community as a learning process for all of us as to what is the best way to get to the station safely."


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