The much-anticipated, long-awaited ION trains will finally begin transporting Waterloo residents through the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo.
Grand River Transit services will be offered for free from June 21 until Canada Day, allowing users an opportunity to ride the trains and buses for free as they adjust to the multitude of changes on the way.
While GRT users will experience a change on Friday, they can get online and do some exploring as things are set to change even more come Monday.
There will be 30 bus routes altered on Monday and between 600 and 800 stops changing along GRT routes, according to Peter Zinck, Waterloo Region’s director of transit services.
“That could be anything from a brand new stop to a stop removed to bus routes added or bus routes changed,” he said.
“We’ve put out notices at every bus stop which has been affected which are colour coded to describe what the change is,” Zinck said.
“They’re text and colour coded to highlight the type of change and that aligns to the information that we have on our website as well.”
He says that there is a trip planning service called My New Ride on GRT.ca. which allows users to plan their routes in advance of Monday’s realignment.
In addition, travellers can also call 519-585-7555 if they need some help.
Zinck says the ION launch will allow the city to realign its services to more of a grid network.
“We are trying to get to a grid network from a radial network and we are using ION as the backbone to that service,” he said.
“So this new service design is now aligning to ION stations, and services will connect to the ION stations, provide quick connections to other locations within Kitchener and Waterloo.”
This also means that the Charles Street Terminal will no longer be a focal point of service in Kitchener and Waterloo.
“Customers will end up seeing main transfers take place at locations such as (instead of Charles Street) the King-Benton stop areas and also King and Victoria at the ION stops at that area central station,” Zinck said.
Customers who purchased their tickets at the terminal will now be able to do so at vending machines at ION stops.
There will also be changes at Fairview Park Mall as the bus stops have been moved to be closer to the ION stop.
“We have constructed a new local platform with a park-and-ride lot which will be open next week,” Zinck said. “There’s a bus terminal with bus stopping areas immediately adjacent to the new ION Station as well.”
Zinck says GRT has done all it can to make people aware of the changes and he expects some people to be ready on Monday while others may be scrambling.
“Some people will do a great job of searching out the information,” he said. “Others may be last minute. Others may not do it at all.
“My recommendation is that people try to access the information that we have online. “
He says the changes will affect almost everyone within Waterloo region.
“We’ve tried to provide as much information as possible so people can prepare for this significant change because it will affect almost everybody in the region that uses transit, certainly in the Kitchener-Waterloo service area.”