Grand River Transit will bring back late night bus loop in Waterloo's university district

Transit passengers get off a Grand River Transit bus at a stop at the Cambridge Centre. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)
Transit passengers get off a Grand River Transit bus at a stop at the Cambridge Centre. (Kate Bueckert/CBC - image credit)

Regional council have voted in favour of reinstating a late night bus loop in the university district after hearing from over a dozen delegations Wednesday night asking for the service to be brought back.

Grand River Transit will re-introduce route 91 before Sept. 2. and will run Thursday to Saturday through Waterloo's uptown area to student residences in the university district.

Fifteen delegates spoke about the impact of not having the service and the benefits of bringing it back.

"As a student, I went five years without night transit and this has been really needed, especially since life has gone back to relatively normal since the pandemic," Michelle Angkasa, a student at the University of Waterloo (UW), told councillors Wednesday night.

Angkasa is also the co-lead of the climate justice ecosystem group at the school, who have been campaigning to bring a late night bus to the area since March.

Rose Silivestru, also a student at UW, told councillors that bringing in a late night bus would allow more students to get home safely.

"Late nights mean walking home and walking home means, me, a small woman is going to be walking for an hour and 15 minutes from the university campus back home to my residence," said Silivestru, adding not having a late bus route has also affected her job.

Route 91 was axed in 2019, due to low ridership. It ran Thursday to Saturday from 12:30 a.m. to 2 a.m. Regional Coun. Colleen James introduced a motion Wednesday night asking staff to bring back Route 91 and 92, which was also discontinued.

Doug Spooner, director of transit services with the region, said it will cost $61,000 to run the service again annually.

He said bringing the service back in September will cost the region $20,000 for the rest of the year.

Introducing night service across network difficult

Cambridge Coun. Pam Wolf said though she supported the motion she wondered about transit equity and other areas that may or may not have late night service.

"When we're looking at expanding transit, again, it seems like Cambridge is second or third and so I am worried about the money we spend and where we spend it and the fact that it seems to be concentrated in Kitchener-Waterloo," she said.

Spooner said overall night transit is up for consideration in the GRT's business plan, adding the goal is to introduce night service across the network.

"To serve the education sector, the manufacturing sector, retail and restaurants and all the things that were rightly noted tonight," he said.

He said that introducing night service across the network will be a "significant operational challenge." A full night transit network, which would push the current 21-hour service to 24, would impact bus maintenance crews and network operation centres.

"We'd update our operating model for operations and maintenance, update our collective bargaining agreements and a number of other contracts, including security," he said.

"That's not what's in the motion today, but to move to full night transit while being a priority is one that will take significant investment."