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Region hears latest plans for Toronto-Waterloo corridor

Last Updated Apr 16, 2016 at 10:07 am EDT

Photo: Martin Bauman - 570 News

Whatever you call it — the Toronto-Waterloo Innovation Corridor, the Toronto-Waterloo Corridor, the Innovation Corridor — it’s getting a lot of buzz at the Region of Waterloo’s headquarters.

The collaboration is there; the startups are there; all that’s missing is getting the word out — that, and an improved transit service.

“Canadians who left a long time ago don’t understand what’s changed,” says Berry Vrbanovic, Mayor of Kitchener.

“In fact, if you left more than probably 18 months ago, you don’t get how much [Waterloo] Region, and Toronto, and the whole corridor have changed.”

As leaders in Waterloo Region are quick to point out, the tech scene continues to thrive.

From the longstanding presence of BlackBerry, OpenText, D2L, and Christie; to the emergence of companies like Kik, Bridgit, and Vidyard; to the arrival of global players like Google and Electronic Arts, one needn’t look far to see evidence of the way technology companies have embraced the area — nor to see the entrepreneurial talent emerging from its universities, colleges, and incubators like Velocity and Communitech.

It’s something the Mayors of Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge say they heard continually while meeting with industry leaders in San Francisco and Silicon Valley earlier in April.

The remaining challenge for local leaders is getting faster and more frequent transit service between Waterloo Region and Toronto — a goal they look to achieve with all-day two-way GO Transit service.

The latest plans, as told to Regional Council, could include two separate lines connecting Waterloo Region and Toronto.

“You’d have the Northern Line that runs into the City of Kitchener, and the Southern Line that would run into Cambridge, connected through the iON and a [bus rapid transit] program in the City of Cambridge,” says Gary Dyke, chief administrative office for the City of Cambridge.

“So you’d have a complete transportation link that connects the Region, as well as into the Innovation Corridor itself.”

Even more ambitious plans call for a look into the viability of high-speed rail service between Waterloo Region and Toronto — something Jeff Willmer, chief administrative office for the City of Kitchener, calls a “game changer.”

“If you could get 45 minute travel time from Kitchener to Union [Station], people are going to want to use that,” says Willmer.

There’s no timeline on when these plans might come to fruition; however, Regional leaders are encouraged by the commitment seen by municipal partners along the corridor, including Toronto.

“A couple of years ago, we were talking about [the corridor] on our end, [but] we weren’t sure that anybody in Toronto was paying attention to it,” says Willmer.

“Now they are, and that’s happened organically.”