It is an inescapable irony that the man leading the delivery of Waterloo Region’s ION LRT commutes every day from Brampton, a city that recently rejected a provincially funded LRT down its main street. When Darshpreet Bhatti isn’t obsessing over the details of light rail, he is dreaming of the heavy rail that would transform […]
It is an inescapable irony that the man leading the delivery of Waterloo Region’s ION LRT commutes every day from Brampton, a city that recently rejected a provincially funded LRT down its main street.
When Darshpreet Bhatti isn’t obsessing over the details of light rail, he is dreaming of the heavy rail that would transform his daily trip to work.
He can’t wait until the province delivers the two-way, all-day GO service that would free him from the daily drive between his home and the region offices in Kitchener.
It will be a few years before GO trains are running there in the morning. But given that Bhatti’s wife teaches at a school walking distance from their home, he doesn’t expect to be moving closer to the office any time soon.
His commute ranges from 70 minutes in the summer to upwards of two hours in winter. A lot of that car time is spent on the phone — hands-free, of course — catching up with colleagues, particularly now that he’s so often out on the LRT route checking the construction that precedes the laying of rails.
“Keeping everyone focused is perhaps the biggest challenge,” he says of his role as rapid transit director.
“Big projects, you always have ups and downs and I have to make sure the staff that are working diligently on this — more than the average job — are fully focused, are passionate about it, are motivated to do it day in and day out until the project is done,” he said.
Just because he drives a car to work, doesn’t mean Bhatti, 36, can’t relate to those who, by choice or necessity, use transit.
He remembers relying on Mississauga’s bus system to get to the subway at Islington Station when he was studying engineering at U of T. It instilled in him the belief that reliability — followed by frequency — trumps all other attributes when it comes to transit.
“As a student you’re not always as punctual so you know you’re late for your lecture. But if the bus doesn’t come on time you’ll definitely miss it,” he said.
The same applies whether you’re a worker or just running an errand, said Bhatti. Cost and comfort are important but they are secondary.
“You want a system that you can rely on. If it says five minutes you want the bus to be there in five minutes or you want the train to be there in five minutes,” he said.
Bhatti has already been involved in the planning and execution of virtually every mode of transportation, from bike lanes and widening highways to light rail.
Before joining Waterloo in 2008, he worked as a consultant on projects around the Toronto region including with the Toronto Waterfront Revitalization Corp., the TTC on the St. Clair streetcar right-of-way and the first Ottawa LRT plan that was subsequently killed by that city.
After consulting, Bhatti was hired by Oshawa where he worked on the widening of Highway 401 and options for moving the GO line to the north side of the 401 — something that hasn’t happened.
Leading the ION project has been a long series of highs and lows, he says — from the uncertainty of approvals by four levels of government to the victory of winning over a skeptical public.
“We went through years of discussing what is the right choice for this project in terms of technology. Getting consensus from the public at large — saying this is the right project and supporting the work you have done — is a pretty major milestone in my mind.”
Five things to know about the LRT
1. Each stop on the ION LRT will have a unique identifying piece of art or feature wall using different treatments and finishes that reflect the neighbourhood.
2. The light rail vehicles will operate in their own lane, separated from car and truck traffic for enhanced reliability.
3. LRT stops will be integrated with new and existing development wherever possible to encourage riders to choose transit and reward nearby businesses with foot traffic.
4. Stops will be well lit with canopies to shelter riders, and will include route and next vehicle arrival information.
5. A perforated yellow strip along the platforms will help guide and protect riders with visual disabilities.
~ Source: thestar.com