The Region of Waterloo is a regional municipality in Southwestern Ontario. It was created in 1973 in a reorganization of the local governments of the area. It consists of seven municipalities: three cities, Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo, and four townships, North Dumfries Township, Wilmot Township, Woolwich Township, and Wellesley Township.
Ontario's main east-west expressway, the 401, runs through Waterloo Region, separating the cities of Kitchener and Cambridge. Highway 8 runs from the 401 into Kitchener, highway 7 runs from Guelph to Stratford, straight through Kitchener, also serving the towns to the east and west of Kitchener, the Conestoga Parkway runs from highway 8, through Kitchener and Waterloo to the towns to the north. Hespeler Road (also known as highway 24) runs from the 401 through Cambridge.
Via Rail runs trains from Kitchener to Toronto in the east and London and Sarnia in the west. Trains run three times a day in each direction to a small station on the north-east corner of downtown Kitchener.
Greyhound Canada runs regular buses from Kitchener to Toronto, stopping at the site of the former Sportsworld amusement park at the border of Kitchener and Cambridge. The main bus terminal in Kitchener is located in the centre of downtown, one block from city hall. Buses also run to the University of Waterloo and Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo.
Waterloo Region is generally a car-centric community, and it's usually straightforward to drive from one point to another. Parking is usually free and abundant, except around the University of Waterloo and at some special events.
By public transportationEdit
Grand River Transit is the public transit authority in the region. It operates over 50 routes that serve many different areas of Cambridge, Kitchener, and Waterloo. Major destinations, such as Downtown Kitchener, Uptown Waterloo, major malls and the two universities, are well-served by bus, and traveling between these locations by bus is often reasonably fast and convenient. However, travelling by bus between other locations is generally much slower than driving. There are two major transit centres in the region:
- 1 Charles Street Transit Terminal, 15 Charles St W, Kitchener.
- 2 Ainslie Street Transit Terminal, Ainslie St S, Cambridge.
Buses usually operate on 30-minute schedules, but service may be more frequent during rush hour, or less frequent during off-peak hours or weekends (many routes have no Sunday service). So, schedules are useful; online schedules are available. Printed schedules can be obtained at the bus terminals and at the universities, or acquired piecemeal on buses. Each bus stop sign also lists a phone number that can be called to get an automated message giving the next arrival times. A detailed map of all routes in Kitchener, Waterloo and Cambridge can be purchased at a variety of locations for $2 or downloaded for free from Grand River Transit.
The public transit system can reach most centrally located sights in the twin cities of Kitchener and Waterloo. Bus route 7 is the twin cities' main line and comes every 7 - 10 minutes. The 7 can be taken from almost anywhere on King St. south of the intersection of King and University Ave. in Waterloo. Something that can be confusing is that there are three different 7 routes, the 7c, 7d, 7e; they all run the same route until the intersection of King and University, the 7c runs to Conestoga Mall at the north end of Waterloo, the 7d travels to the University of Waterloo through the most direct route, along University and the 7e runs to the University of Waterloo along Columbia, on the north end of the campus. To the south, all 7s run to Fairview Park Mall, no matter the letter.
For long-distance travel around the region, consider taking the iXpress, a limited-stop express bus that travels between Conestoga Mall in Waterloo and the Ainslie Street terminal in Cambridge (Galt). There is also a limited-stop Express service between Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge known as the 200 iXpress. It runs a similar route to that of the 7, beginning at Conestoga Mall and stopping at the University of Waterloo, Uptown Waterloo, Downtown Kitchener, Fairview Park Mall, Cambridge Centre Mall and Downtown Galt among other places.
In spring 2019, the Ion light rail line will open as part of the Grand River Transit system. It will run from Fairway Park Mall in southern Kitchener, through Downtown Kitchener and Uptown Waterloo, past the University of Waterloo to end at Conestoga Mall in northern Waterloo (city). Once it opens, there will be changes to the bus routes described above.
Cash fares are $3.25 (July 2018), children 4 and under free. Discount tickets (5 for $13.80) are a good value if you're going to be taking the bus at least a few times. Day passes ($8) are also available for a single adult on weekdays or for families (up to 5 people, maximum 2 adults) on weekends and holidays. They can be purchased at many locations around the region. When paying your fare, you may request a transfer which allows you to transfer to any bus route within 90 minutes of paying your fare. You can use a transfer to enable you to pay only a single fare while making long-distance one-way trips or shorter round trips.
Students of University of Waterloo and/or Wilfrid Laurier University do not need to pay cash fare if they flash their University-issued Student ID (WatCard for University of Waterloo; OneCard for Wilfrid Laurier,) as long as the expiry date on the card has not elapsed. These students have already paid for bus services through non-refundable fees on their fees statement.
- 1 Castle Kilbride, 60 Snyder's Road West, Baden, ☎ , toll-free: . The 1877 home of "Flax King" James Livingston, the castle has been restored as a museum. Of particular note are the ceiling and wall murals, painted using the trompe-l'oeil technique.
- Prime Ministers Path (in a park next to Castle Kilbride). The path is lined with 22 bronze statues of Canadian prime ministers, often depicted in rather casual poses.
- 2 West Montrose Covered Bridge (Kissing Bridge), Covered Bridge Drive, West Montrose (south of Line 86 in West Montrose). Built in 1880–1881, the West Montrose Covered Bridge (also known as the Kissing Bridge), is Ontario's only covered bridge (excluding recent construction such as the timberframe pedestrian covered bridge in Guelph).
- The Elmira Maple Syrup Festival, annually in early April, attracts 60,000 visitors, and is the largest one-day maple syrup festival in the world.
- The Wellesley Apple Butter and Cheese Festival, annually in late September, attracts 40,000 visitors, and is the largest one-day Apple Butter and Cheese festival in Canada.
Safety is definitely not a problem in the Waterloo Region. Certain areas may be avoidable at nights due to muggings and weapons, but they are a rare occurrence and generally not dangerous to residents, never mind travellers. A lot of the student housing in Waterloo is known to have parties, and fights can break out and escalate. Downtown - as opposed to the Uptown in Waterloo or River Front in Cambridge - can be worrisome at night, as the majority of crime takes place in this area. Crack and heroin is often sold on the streets, prostitution is common in certain areas, and fights can break out. Typical city smarts are recommended. Overall, the Waterloo Region has a very low crime rate for the area, and in all of Canada.