The History of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge Merging Together
As you may know, we at WRX focus primarily on real estate (and related topics) within and around Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, and Guelph, and today is no exception. Today we’ll be looking at three cities that are near and dear to our hearts; three cities that are nestled on the banks of the mighty Grand River: Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge.
You’ll often see this stretch of cities referred to as the Tri-Cities, or TriCities, and sometimes even Kitchener-Waterloo-Cambridge (though that name’s a bit more cumbersome). As time marches on, the cities have begun to form one contiguous unit. They are still individual cities, certainly, but they are connected in many ways. True amalgamation of the TriCities, and the Region of Waterloo, has come up in the past. The model for this process is Toronto: in 1954, Ontario’s provincial government merged Toronto with its 12 surrounding communities into a two-tiered metropolitan government (similarly, five municipalities surrounding Toronto were dissolved and amalgamated into the City of Toronto in 1998). This hasn’t happened in the Waterloo Region, and there are many voices opposed to official amalgamation – different areas have different needs, for example – but the TriCities are nonetheless bound in numerous ways. Since 1997, the Waterloo Region has been governed by a 16 member Waterloo Regional Council, consisting of the Mayors of each city and Township, a Regional Chair, and additional councillors from each of the TriCities. Additionally, public transit between Kitchener-Waterloo and Cambridge was combined in 2000 (more on that shortly).
The TriCities are interconnected by roadways, the Grand River, and their shared public transit service. To start with the first, Kitchener-Waterloo shares numerous arterial roads, and getting from one city to the other is incredibly easy. Indeed, sometimes you won’t even notice when you’ve crossed the dividing line between them. Cambridge is a bit more geographically separate from its fellow TriCities, but it’s still incredibly close and easy to get to. Just to give you an idea, you can start taking King Street East in northwest Cambridge (specifically, downtown Preston) into Kitchener, passing through the bustling Sportsworld Crossing area and beyond without ever needing to change lanes. The TriCities really feel interconnected, and this connection is bolstered in no small part by the Conestoga Parkway. The Conestoga Parkway encompasses three connected highways: Highway 8 runs northwest from Cambridge into Kitchener and serves the lower part of the city; Highway 7 runs from Kitchener up to Waterloo (and east toward Guelph); and Highway 85 runs from southern Waterloo up to Woolwich Township beyond. The Conestoga Parkway makes navigating between the disparate parts of the TriCities quick and easy.
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Another major way the TriCities are connected is through their forward-thinking public transit operator. Grand River Transit (GRT) serves all of the TriCities, with lines running from north of Waterloo (including service up to the famous St. Jacobs Farmers’ Market) down to southern Galt (the southernmost part of Cambridge). You can take a bus from anywhere in the TriCities, get a transfer, and head anywhere else within the TriCities easily with just one fare. There are direct routes between Kitchener and Cambridge, and Kitchener and Waterloo, and a variety of iXpress Routes that provide rapid service between some of the TriCities’ most popular spots. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, GRT will soon be opening a brand new rapid transit service (LRT, or Light Rail Transit) in the TriCities. It will be called ION, and its first phase will run between northern Waterloo (Conestoga Mall) and Fairview Park Mall in Kitchener; there are future plans to extend the LRT to southern Cambridge, with express-service buses running in the meantime. To reiterate: the TriCities are connected!
As of the 2016 Census, the TriCities have a cumulative population of 468,128 (Kitchener with 233,222, Cambridge with 129,920, and Waterloo with 104,986). The figure you’ll often see for the area, however, is 535,154; this number is in reference to the broader Regional Municipality of Waterloo. Included in the Regional Municipality of Waterloo are the TriCities along with the Townships of North Dumfries, Wellesley, Wilmot, and Woolwich (and their various, constituent communities). In any case, one thing is clear: there are a lot of people living together in this one region. In fact, the Regional Municipality of Waterloo is presently the tenth largest Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) in all of Canada (the TriCities on their own would be the twelfth largest). And on top of this, the Waterloo Region (and especially the TriCities) has consistently ranked as one of the most rapidly growing areas in all of Southern Ontario. By 2030, the region is projected to have over 700,000 people living within it! So there are the facts and figures… Now let’s look into what they mean.
There are three major factors driving the growth of the TriCities:
1. They’re quite close to the Greater Toronto Area
2. They’re a major hub of technological innovation
3. They’ve got great educational opportunities
Let’s dissect these points a little further. In terms of proximity to Toronto, each of the TriCities is around an hour and a half’s drive away from downtown Toronto (of course, traffic can vary during rush hour). There are also public transportation options like weekday GO Train service and Mega Bus routes. The fastest commute time is provided by FlyGTA’s service from the Region of Waterloo International Airport – less than 20 minutes from take-off to touchdown! So commuters, businesses with ties to Toronto, and people who love to visit the big city but not live there can all benefit from settling in the TriCities, while still having access to the GTA.
In terms of tech, the TriCities have a well-earned reputation as Canada’s leading light in the tech industry. This reputation is driven by downtown Kitchener’s transformation into an innovation hub (Google has a bustling headquarters here, as well as the massive Communitech presence in the converted Tannery building), the overall startup culture pervading the TriCities, the proliferation of brand new neighbourhoods to support new residents and expanding families (Hespeler, in Cambridge, and southwest Kitchener are two examples of rapid growth), and the University of Waterloo (UW).
Speaking of UW… The TriCities abound with opportunities in education. As a growing region, the two major school boards have a lot of resources to work with, in order to provide a great educational environment. Both the Waterloo Region District School Board (WRDSB) and the Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSB) have many fantastic elementary and secondary schools spread throughout the TriCities, making this area a great place for families. And as a rapidly growing school board, it’s also a great place for jobs in education (teachers, support staff, and beyond). There’s even some overlap with the tech aspect: the WRDSB recently launched the Chromebook 1:1 Initiative, in which students entering Grade 9 will be given their very own Chromebook until graduation. Chromebooks are small, highly portable, battery-efficient laptops that run Google’s Chrome OS, and make use of the various Google applications (such as Google Docs) and cloud storage (Google Drive). There are also three excellent post-secondary education opportunities in the TriCities: University of Waterloo, Wilfrid Laurier University, and Conestoga College. Each of these institutions has a sterling reputation, and each excels in specific fields – they also serve the entire Region (for example, Conestoga has major campuses in Kitchener, Cambridge, and Waterloo). You can find out more in our articles about them!
The great thing about the TriCities is that they all have access to each of these benefits, yet they’re all distinct enough that you can pick the one that suits you best. You can easily live in Cambridge, go to school in Waterloo, and work in downtown Kitchener if that’s what you want. And if you’re looking to buy a home in Kitchener, Waterloo, or Cambridge, there’s one other service uniting all three: WRX Property Group! Whichever of the TriCities you choose to call home, we’d be happy to help you on your real estate journey.
Written by Will Kummer