Build Strong Cities Waterloo Region stop The Build Strong Cities campaign stopped in Kitchener. Kitchener City Councillor Berry Vrbanovic talks about transit systems while Kevin Tuer of CDMN, Kadie Ward of Build Strong Cities and Steve Woods of Google look on.

The information super-highway gave way to old-style train travel in Waterloo Region this morning. Among the commuters and students riding the rails were Kadie Ward and Josh Wright of Build Strong Cities. They’re travelling across Canada by train to spread the message that Canada needs greater investment in physical and digital infrastructure if we’re going to succeed in the global economy.

Ward and Wright stopped at the Communitech Hub for a quick announcement about The Ride: A Campaign to Connect Canada. They were joined by Kitchener City Councilor Berry Vrbanovic, Google Canada’s Engineering Director, Steve Woods, and Managing Director of the Canadian Digital Media Network, Kevin Tuer.

In welcoming Ward and Wright to the Region, Kevin Tuer drew the parallel between improved rail connectivity and digital connectivity as key enablers of the Canadian economy. He also pointed to the perennial challenge faced by local tech companies to secure the talent they need to grow, citing improved connectivity as a means to make progress in the war for talent.

While Ward shared stories of her two-week train trip from Halifax to Vancouver, including wi-fi dead zones and scheduling struggles, Woods explained the problem with the current reverse flow of commuter traffic in Waterloo Region.

“We are, in fact, the opposite of a commuter city for Toronto. Toronto is a bedroom community for us,” said Woods. “There are more commuters coming into Kitchener-Waterloo [daily] to work in the high tech sector than commute out. If you look at the transit, it’s all designed to flow people out of here and into downtown Toronto.” Woods argued that better connectivity between Waterloo Region and Toronto will make the tech cluster more appealing to potential hires. “Talent is not one thing – it’s absolutely the only thing.”

Past president of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, which is a partner in The Ride, Vrbanovic stressed the importance of stronger connectivity to the health of cities and regions as well as nationally. “Without a doubt, I think we all agree that [connectivity] is an integral part in creating jobs and growing our economy,” said Vrbanovic.

Vrbanovic added, “The importance of investing in the new generation of roads, bridges and public transit today will help us cut commute times and drive new jobs, trades and economic growth for decades to come.

“Canadians have some of the worst commute times in the world. Our average commute across Canada is 63 minutes a day.”

Follow The Ride at http://buildstrongcities.com/ or on twitter at @StrongCities

More pictures of the event can be found on the Communitech Facebook page