Waterloo Region cities pitch all-day GO service to GTA

A consortium including the cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph along with the Region of Waterloo and Communitech are requesting the provincial and federal government invest in establishing more frequent GO Train service between the GTA and Waterloo Region.

Consortium likens corridor to Silicon Valley

No final cost for the project has been announced, but the consortium believes that installing a second track for two-way service along the Kitchener Line would cost $396 million. (J.P. Moczulski/The Canadian Press)

The cities of Kitchener, Waterloo and Guelph, along with the Region of Waterloo and Communitech, are joining forces to ask the province for improved GO Train service to and from the Greater Toronto Area along the Kitchener line.

"This is about getting people off the 401," Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr told The Morning Edition host Craig Norris Monday. "There's a compelling business case that has been put together."

"It has a lot of research going into it and in fact I believe 'why wouldn't we do it?' is the question the province would have to ask at this point," he said. 

The newly released business plan developed by the consortium looks to sell the new two-way rail link to the provincial government by focusing on the economic benefits of a full-day, two-way GO Train service, saying it would bring an additional 37,600 jobs and generate $838 million in annual personal income tax. 

The report also argues that improvements to commuter rail service would transform the GTA, Guelph and Waterloo Region into a tech super cluster capable of competing directly with Silicon Valley.

John Baker, the CEO of Desire2Learn, a Kitchener-based firm that creates e-learning infrastructure, says improvements to GO service would be extremely beneficial to many tech companies both in Waterloo Region and the GTA.

"It's critical not only in attracting new employees but also to retain those employees," he said.

Baker noted many of his employees currently commute daily from Toronto, and members of his senior management team are in often in Toronto's downtown core for meetings.

“We would be able to attract the right people, the right investment, the right talent, to really be able to help lift both of these communities up," said Baker.

Cost of 2nd track estimated at $396M

Kitchener Mayor Carl Zehr said having more frequent and reliable commuter train service should help shorten travel time and relieve highway congestion between the cities.

“This is as much a economic development project as it is a transit strategy,” said Zehr.

The consortium is requesting that 10 years of funding for the project be allocated in the 2014 provincial and federal capital budgets.

The city of Cambridge is not part of the consortium. Mayor Doug Craig has said that he wants GO train service to Cambridge, rather than Kitchener.

There is no word yet of a total cost for the proposed project. However, the consortium estimates that installing a second track for two-way service along the Kitchener line would be at least $396 million, based on a 2009 environmental assessment. 

The consortium says there are a number of similarities between the corridor linking the GTA to Waterloo Region and Silicon Valley.

About 4.3 million people reside in the 90-kilometre stretch between San Francisco, the communities of Silicon Valley and San Jose. An estimated 387,000 people in that area work in tech fields.

Comparatively, Waterloo Region, Guelph and the GTA are separated by a distance of about 110 kilometres. An estimated 6.2 million people live there, 200,000 of whom work in tech.