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Rapid transit debate begins anew

The region is preparing for Round Two in the debate over rapid transit.

A report due at committee on February 15th will provide an analysis of bus rapid transit versus light rail transit and a series of public consultations will be triggered once that report is tabled.

Regional council expects to make a decision on the preferred technology in June and unveil details of a rapid transit plan by October.

While aggressive, the timeline is appealing to the region’s Barnraisers’ Council. That council, a branch of the Prosperity Council which represents some 3400 local businesses, is anxious to see progress on rapid transit plans lest the money promised by upper levels of government disappears.

And while regional council is confident it can stick to its aggressive timetable, one Cambridge city councillor says he doesn’t need to hear the debate again.

Ward 8 representative Nicholas Ermeta has written to regional chair Ken Seiling and the rest of council, encouraging them to choose buses over trains.

“By going with buses we can have a rapid transit system for all three cities in the region,” Ermeta says in an interview with 570 News. “So we’re not picking K-W over Cambridge but we’re giving something that’s equal for all three cities.

Ermeta’s letter, a copy of which has been obtained by 570 News, goes on to argue in favour of the flexibility of buses and against the idea that a rail system is required to encourage downtown development.

Ermeta is also dismissive of claims that trains will carry more passengers.

“You can have articulated, or long buses, as well as double-decker buses,” Ermeta says, in making his case for the carrying capacity of buses. “There are also buses that have a look and feel similar to trains.”

Ermeta does not have a seat on regional council but is hoping his letter holds weight in the debate.

Regional staff reported today that without some sort of rapid transit system, the region would be forced to spend about $1.5-billion on roads in the years ahead.