As a relatively small city, expats will find it is quick and easy to get from one point to another in Waterloo. Unlike in larger metropolises such as Toronto, traffic is not much of a problem and, while it is not necessary to own a car in the city, it is an option that can be especially handy for those with children.
While Waterloo’s public transportation infrastructure is basic, it is well established, affordable and efficient. Waterloo is also cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly. In fact, walking is usually the fastest way to get about in the city centre.
Public transport in Waterloo
While public transport in Waterloo is somewhat limited in comparison to larger metropolises, Waterloo’s bus network is efficient and makes it easy for people to get around. In addition, there are rail connections from neighbouring Kitchener to a variety of destinations in Ontario.
Grand River Transit (GRT) is the public transport operator within the region of Waterloo, providing daily bus services in the cities of Waterloo, Kitchener and Cambridge. GRT buses operate along a number of routes, connecting the suburbs of Waterloo to the main points of interest in the city such as Conestoga Mall and the two universities.
Generally, buses run on schedule in Waterloo. However, service frequency to outlying suburbs is reduced during evenings and some routes do not operate on Sundays, so it is best to consult a schedule before a journey.
Coach Canada offers service from the Charles Street Terminal in Kitchener to McMaster University and Hamilton.
There is a railway station in nearby Kitchener that Waterloo residents can use to travel beyond the Tri-City area. Via Rail trains operate between Sarnia, on the southern shore of Lake Huron, and Toronto. There is also a regular GO train service between Kitchener and Toronto.
Driving in Waterloo
While it is possible to get by using public transport in Waterloo, most expats choose to get a car as it allows them greater freedom and independence when it comes to exploring the rest of Ontario.
It is relatively quick and easy to get almost anywhere in the Tri-City area as distances are short and traffic is never much of an issue. Canadian drivers tend to be courteous and road infrastructure in Waterloo is of a good standard.
King Street is the main thoroughfare that travels north-south through the downtown of Kitchener and Waterloo. The Conestoga Parkway and Highway 8 connect Waterloo and Kitchener to Cambridge, Hamilton and other regional cities.
There are on-street parking restrictions in operation during the evenings and drivers should make sure they are not in violation of these as rules are stringently enforced by the city authorities.
Cycling in Waterloo
Many Waterloo residents are avid cyclists and the city has taken steps to accommodate them. There are numerous cycle pathways and safe places to lock up bikes.
The Iron Horse Trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail and connects downtown Kitchener to uptown Waterloo and also links Victoria Park to Waterloo Park. Formerly a railway corridor, the trail became a reality when Kitchener and Waterloo formed a partnership to jointly purchase the abandoned rail line to preserve the corridor as an important part of the two cities' heritage and for use as a recreation and transportation trail linking the two cities.
Air travel from Waterloo
The nearest major airport is the Region of Waterloo International Airport, which has international and domestic flights from Kitchener and is 12 miles (19 km) from the centre of Waterloo.
Another major airport is the John C. Munro Hamilton International Airport, which operates domestic flights from Hamilton and is 45 miles (72 km) from Waterloo. Other airports within approximately 60 miles (100 km) of Waterloo include Toronto's Pearson International Airport, Toronto Island Airport and the London International Airport.