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Light rail transit connects Waterloo’s innovation ecosystem

The ION light rail transit system is the physical connection to all the places people live, shop and play in Waterloo.

We like to talk about the innovation hubs, exciting startups, thriving scale-ups, successful multinational companies and world-class academic institutions that are crucial to Waterloo’s success.

But what links these key pieces of Waterloo’s vaunted innovation ecosystem? Answer: the ION light rail.

We are the smallest community in North America to launch a light rail transit project, and since its inception in 2019, the ION has successfully supported our rich ecosystem. Waterloo’s light rail transit system cost $818 million in capital costs and runs on a rapid route alongside regular traffic. It increases sustainable mobility and is the physical connection to all the places people live, shop and play in Waterloo.

Let’s take a trip together through Waterloo, as seen from a window seat on the ION. Swipe your EasyGo fare card, or pay for a one-time ticket, and hop aboard with us for a few stops:

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Stop 1: North Waterloo

The ION takes off at the north end of Waterloo, starting at Conestoga Mall. Nearby, you’ll find exciting startups and scale-ups, like Darwin AI and Clearpath Robotics, alongside manufacturing innovators like Viessmann and Systematix.


Stop 2: The David Johnston Research + Technology Park

Your next stop takes you to the heart of research and technology in Waterloo. The David Johnston Research + Technology Park (R+T Park) is home to Canada’s top private business accelerator – the Accelerator Centre – and some of the biggest names in technology, such as OpenText and SAP. Located right next to the University of Waterloo, the R+T Park is an excellent place to access tech expertise. Oh, and this is also right beside a string of tech companies that are just outside the R+T Park’s boundaries, like Arctic Wolf, Auvik Networks and Axonify.

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Stop 3: University of Waterloo

Step off the ION here, and you’ll find yourself on the University of Waterloo campus, surrounded by bright minds and potential talent. UWaterloo is Canada’s most innovative and has a reputation as a technology and innovation powerhouse.

Waterloo Park with LRT

Stop 4: Laurier and Waterloo Park

At this stop, take a leisurely stroll through the beautiful Waterloo Park to reach Wilfrid Laurier University, a post-secondary institution recognized for its exceptional business degree program and wide range of experiential learning opportunities.

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Stop 5: Uptown Waterloo

Uptown Waterloo is a bustling urban playground with plenty to offer. Home to research organizations such as Perimeter Institute and the Centre for International Governance Innovation, as well as the Communitech Data Hub, Uptown Waterloo is a centre of activity and energy. Don’t forget to discover the vibrant nightlife and sense of community while you’re here.

Google at night

Stop 6: Innovation District

Here, you’ll find Communitech, Velocity Incubator and Google’s Canadian engineering headquarters – all within a stone’s throw. In the near future, you’ll also find a new transit hub with connections to Toronto, and tons of new development including a large expansion to Google’s facility. This district is aptly named, as it is truly a place where entrepreneurship and innovation thrive.

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Stop 7: Downtown Kitchener

Our last stop brings you to Downtown Kitchener. Kitchener’s city core has it all: unique companies of all sizes, $1+ billion in new commercial and residential developments and a diverse array of cultural events. You’ll also find ApplyBoard – an exciting new tech unicorn – and large tech companies like Oracle NetSuite.

Take advantage of the ION LRT today

That’s the end of our trip, but the ION continues through residential neighbourhoods in Kitchener all the way to Fairview Park Mall. An extension to the ION system is already in the works, with future connections to the manufacturing areas in the south of Kitchener where Dare Foods, Unitron Canada, Kuntz Electroplating Inc. and Colt Canada Corporation are located.

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