It’s budget season! Municipalities are starting to release draft operating and capital budgets for the 2020 fiscal year. We’ll be posting our analysis of both the 2019 budgets and the draft 2020 budgets for Waterloo Region municipalities as they’re released. Find them all on our Budget Advocacy page.
In recent years, Waterloo’s cycling infrastructure has been ahead of the rest of the Region with the Laurel Trail, Forwell Trail, the Central Promenade through Waterloo Park, their own sections of the Iron Horse and Spurline Trails and more. With the near-completion of the Region-funded protected cycling pilot in Waterloo, that trend has continued even though Kitchener has been giving them a run for their money in the past year.
Read on to see how cycling fared in Waterloo’s 2019 budget and what’s coming up in the 2020 budget.
Waterloo’s 2019 budget
It has been difficult to discern the cycling-dedicated spending in Waterloo’s 2019 budget. The election pledge called for $961,940 in spending per year. What we saw in the budget was anywhere from $651,000 to $2.6 million. The latter figure is what the city quoted for “multi-modal transportation” but the former figure is what we can find that is unambiguously investment in cycling.
|Trails and Bikeways Master Plan implementation||$555,000|
|Subtotal: definitely cycling-related||$651,000|
|Road widenings and intersection improvements||$42,000|
|Active Waterloo report||$12,000|
|Station area planning||$1.3 million|
Without a doubt, the most significant improvement of the past year in Waterloo was the signalized crossing of Bridgeport by the Forwell Trail, but this was a Regional project. Second, was the new refuge island where the Spurline Trail crosses Union—a big improvement until Union Street is reconstructed in 2021 when we hope for a better solution. We also saw improvements to the trail in Moser Springer Park and the addition of a small pump track (fun!). Multi-use trail construction was planned on Colby Drive, Lexington Court, and Dutton Drive.
We haven’t been able to determine in more detail what has been actually spent or accomplished in 2019, partly because a recent retirement left Waterloo short-staffed in active transportation. We are encouraged by the attitudes of the Council towards cycling and active transportation expressed in the discussions about the upcoming Transportation Master Plan.
Waterloo’s 2020-2022 budget
The City of Waterloo uses a one-year/three-year budget cycle where 2019 was for one year and now the budget is for three years. So, it is even more important that it reflects our priorities.
|Trails & Bikeways Master Plan Implementation1||$400k||$400k||$400k|
|Hydro Corridor Trail – South of Columbia St||$68k||$500k|
|Trail connecting King to Weber on former Waterloo Inn Lands||$1.535M|
|Market Trail (along Parkside from Bearinger to Northfield)||$670k||$330k|
|Active Waterloo report||$12k|
|Crossing of Highway 85 (location TBD)||$200k|
|Trails in New Development Areas – NW Waterloo||$250k||$250k||$250k|
|Total: definitely cycling-related||$2.818 million||$2.146 milllion||$1.119 million|
|Station area planning implementation2||$3.017M||$2.063M||$2.063M|
1. Down from $555k in 2019!
2. Unclear how much of this will benefit cycling.
3. Some of these will likely benefit cyclists.
The total spending for 2020 is impressive and well above the election pledge. It includes some exciting projects such as the brand new trail connecting King Street to Weber on the former Waterloo Inn lands—this will be a welcome addition for those who cycle in this area. We love the attention that Waterloo pays to the details like bike parking and signage (although $486,000 seems like a steep price to improve already very good signage).
We are concerned about the cutback in spending to implement the Cycling Master Plan, particularly when other capital spending drops off in 2022. Our recommendation would be to increase 2022 spending to similar levels as prior years, either by increasing the funding for implementing the Trails and Bikeways Master Plan or by bringing forward projects now planned for 2023–24.
What you can do to help get adequate funding for cycling infrastructure in Waterloo:
- Fill out the Waterloo budget survey on EngageWR before January 11.
- Send a thank you message to your city councillor to let them know you appreciate the investments in cycling and trails!
- Join our mailing list to ensure you get calls to action in 2020 such as showing up at council for important decisions.
- If you don’t live in Waterloo, but bike through the city, you can still email council to let them know you appreciate the work that’s being done or send an email of thanks to the mayor (email@example.com).
Stay tuned for our analysis of the rest of the Waterloo Region municipalities as they release their budgets over the next month. Think we missed something? Send your comments and feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org.