Kitchener-Waterloo

Father and son from NYC first in line to ride ION as service launches

Gary Grahl and his son, Andrew, travelled from New York City for the opening day of the ION LRT. At 8 a.m., they were first and second in line to ride the first train later Friday morning.
Andrew Grahl, left, and his father Gary travelled from New York City to be at the launch of the ION LRT on Friday morning. The two regularly travel around North America to visit new transit systems when they launch. They were in line at 8 a.m. to be on the first LRT train. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Gary Grahl and his son, Andrew, travelled from New York City and were first in line to ride the ION LRT from the Fairway Station Friday morning.

"We're interested in new forms of transportation and this is one of them," Gary said. "We travel all over North America to try to … ride on the first day of operation. That's today."

They were in Toronto last year, and visited Waterloo region hoping the system would be up and running. They've also visited Montreal and Vancouver to ride, observe and compare transit systems.

In 1950s, Gary was also on the Yonge Street subway when it opened.

Andrew Grahl, who works for his city's transit system, said without having been on it yet, the ION LRT seemed like a nice system.

He was surprised at how restrictive the opening ceremonies were. He and his father were lined up closer to the mall and would need to remain there until the first train went into service. The ceremony will take place on the train platform further away.

In Cincinnati and Milwaukee, he says he was able to walk around the trains and take pictures.

"This is crowd control. I'm sure they're expecting a lot of people," Andrew Grahl said.

Ceremony at 10:30 a.m.

The gates opened at 8 a.m. and regional staff were putting the finishing touches on the ceremony site. LRT trains were pulled into the station ahead of the ceremony.

By 8:30 a.m. there were about 10 people in line for the first ride on the LRT and about 50 more members of the public milling around the area, picking up LRT swag including a squishy blue moose similar to stress balls and new LRT maps.

The ceremony to launch the LRT begins at 10:30 a.m.

Brendon Simon is the senior project manager for the ION LRT. He said Friday he's excited to see service get underway and he reminded people to be patient as platforms and trains are expected to be busy this weekend. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

Free rides until Canada Day

As the LRT service launches, ION senior project manager Brendon Simon reminded people to pack their patience in the coming days if they plan to ride it. They expect platforms and trains to be very busy on opening weekend.

The rides will be free for 11 days. People don't need an EasyGO Pass, but people will need to wait in line, Simon said.

The trains will run on a special event schedule for the weekend. That is:

  • Friday until 8 p.m.
  • Saturday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.
  • Sunday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

On Monday, the bus system changes to mesh with the ION LRT stations. Simon recommended people go online and map out their route.

"We're changing about 800 bus stops so it's going to be a big day. A lot of new routes going in grid pattern," he said, adding staff will be at the stations to help riders get where they need to go.

He also reminded drivers to be vigilant when driving near LRT tracks.

"Make sure you look for those no-turn signs, those blank-out signs and please, please, please follow them, especially over this weekend," Simon said.

Chairs were ready and regional staff were putting the finishing touches on the Fairway Station ahead of the opening ceremony on Friday. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

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