A chat with a friend who is very active in TriTAG undermined that notion, as he believes there will be an opportunity to refine the plan before it goes into the final accelerated EA phase. TriTAG have posted their thoughts on station placement and while I was already familiar with their ideas for Uptown Waterloo, the points they make about stops in the University area are extremely compelling because I realize that as a non-student commuter I will be directly affected by them.
It prompted me to pitch an email at the Rapid Transit team, which I'll repost here as it speaks for itself.
Dear Rapid Transit Team,
I've just read TriTAG's comments on station placement and I really have to add my voice to theirs. Previously my attitude has been that the LRT plan, as it stands, is more valuable than a better plan that takes longer to put in place. However, TriTAG makes some compelling points, specifically about station placement in the University/Columbia/Tech park areas.
The placement of a station at Seagram Drive and on Ring Road at UW has the benefit of serving Laurier (marginally) and UW (well). It does not, however, serve a grid-based network that everyone not going to those two locations will require.
Take my situation. I currently commute to Northfield and Bridge from my home near Grand River Hospital. Currently I accomplish this using the 35, a substantial walk followed by a direct but extremely slow and infrequent bus. Door to door is about 45 minutes, vs. 20 for car. As such I only take transit two or three days a week.
With Rapid Transit in place, as well as GRT's proposed new routes, this will be a classic connection from RT to express that transit advocates have been pointing to as why RT benefits more than just those traveling along it. With 15 minute timings on the express route and a frequent RT (train, hopefully), I could connect at University from one to the other and have a trip time that is a lot more competitive.
...except it wouldn't work! The RT stops completely fail to connect at University Avenue. Instead it throws in a 400 metre disconnection from either Seagram or University. According to TriTAG, WLU is insisting on a Seagram stop, whereas a stop right at University is virtually the same distance by foot, and also connects to many buses that would provide a quick hop to/from WLU. To accommodate Seagram, grid connection possibilities at University, at Columbia and at Bearinger are all knocked out of kilter.
I have a term for this: snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Please reconsider your station options to promote the transit system as a whole, and not simply to cherry pick a few key spots at the expense of general usability.