Grand River Transit
A region with over half a million residents needs to have effective ways of getting those residents around. Sure, bikes are nice, walking is certainly good exercise, cars can save time, and horses are gallant gallopers – but that’s not enough.
Accessible, wide-ranging public transit is one of the keys to a great place to live. And the Regional Municipality of Waterloo has some great options in this regard. So let’s get ready for a thorough examination of Grand River Transit (or, as you’ll usually see it written, GRT).
Is it a coincidence that GRT is just two letters away from ‘GREAT?’ Well, I’m not saying it is, but I’m definitely not saying it isn’t. Let’s take a look!
As the communities of Cambridge, Waterloo, and Berlin (Kitchener’s original name) began to grow and prosper, privately-run transportation options became available. The Grand Trunk Railway came to Berlin in the 1850s, then came the Galt, Preston and Hespeler electric railway, the Berlin and Waterloo Street Railway Company (streetcars tugged along by horses, like in the Isle of Man), and the Grand River Railway – the inspiration for the current service’s name.
Grand River Transit has served the Region of Waterloo since January 2000, when the routes of Kitchener Transit and Cambridge Transit were combined. As the year progressed, buses running between Cambridge and Kitchener became synchronized, which made it much easier to travel between the two cities.
The TriCities had never been so connected: bus service became more popular in Cambridge, and Kitchener-Waterloo had more diverse routes available. Most Ontario cities offer bus service, but the GRT is unique in that it’s a service that fully incorporates three different cities, and stretches into the Townships beyond (the 21 line serves St.
Jacobs and Elmira, and the 77 line serves Wilmot; special arrangements for mobility-impaired residents can be made with MobilityPLUS-North Dumfries for residents there, or Kiwanis Transit for residents of Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich).
With increased ridership, the GRT was able to expand service to feature more late evening options, and more service on Sundays. All of the GRT’s buses are fully accessible: they feature wheelchair lifts, and priority seating toward the front of the bus.
Buses also have bicycle racks located on the front grille, for those who really want to do their part to fight pollution. The GRT also has a fleet of smaller buses running specialized services like MobilityPLUS – door-to-door service for passengers with specific travel needs (read here to find out specific details, and eligibility requirements).
Overall, the GRT does everything it can to make each passenger’s trip pleasant.
The GRT has two central stations (in downtown Kitchener on Charles Street, and at Ainslie Street in downtown Galt [Cambridge]), but it also has several satellite stations and transfer points where several bus routes converge. Spots like the Sportsworld Transit Hub, and the station outside Fairview Park Mall, are convenient and good to be aware of; check them out here.
In most neighbourhood articles, we’ve mentioned if (and which) iXpress routes are available for those particular neighbourhoods. This is because the iXpress service is great; it’s a really convenient way for TriCity residents to get to the most popular parts of the Region.
There’s a lot that’s great about the iXpress service: for one thing, the lines have fancy shelters at the stops along their route; these shelters have real-time displays showing the arrival times for buses at that stop (Incredible! what is this, Switzerland?).
The iXpress service also has fewer stops between major destinations, meaning their arrival times are more predictable, and they get from point A to point B more quickly. There are currently 5 iXpress routes (200 – 204), though the LRT will replace Route 200’s service between Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener.
The GRT website has some very handy features. The real-time map allows you to check and see where each bus line operates, where the buses currently are, and where each stop is along each line (check it out here).
The GRT easy Go service provides a Trip Planner – simply put your starting place, and where you want to go, and it’ll figure everything out for you; access it here. If you just want to take a look at the System Maps as a whole, you can access both the Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge system maps here.
The GRT has truly risen to the task of providing excellent public transportation to Kitchener-Waterloo, Cambridge, and the regions beyond. The biggest recent news for the GRT is, of course, the LRT. Before too long, the rapid ION trains will be zipping back and forth between Kitchener and Waterloo, and they will continue over to Cambridge not too long after that.
Written by Will Kummer