Despite not being fully grade separated, Edmonton’s existing light rail transit line functions as urban rapid transit. LRT patrons are whisked between Clareview in the northeast to Century Park in the south, a distance of 20.5 kilometres, in 33 minutes. The crown jewel of the LRT system is the fully grade separated Downtown to University tunnel. Even outside of the central area, there are grade separations (tunnels or bridges) at most major intersections.
I am starting this blog because three years ago, the City of Edmonton took a serious wrong turn on the future development of its light rail transit network. Instead of further development of a fast, frequent, high capacity light rail network, the City opted for a street level system that has resulted in dismal ridership numbers in every North American city in which similar systems have been built.
This blog is intended to share information and perspectives for those who like me passionately believe that a great city like ours needs to build modern urban rapid transit that functions more like Vancouver’s Skytrain than Portland’s MAX light rail.
These are some of the propositions I will be putting forward in future blog postings:
One, the use of the Downtown to University tunnel needs to be optimized by having two complete lines (Clareview to Century Park, St. Albert to Lewis Estates) running through it. Like Calgary is doing, the high floor network needs to be built before additional lines using incompatible technology are considered.
Two, Stony Plain Road is too narrow, constrained and congested to serve as a suitable rapid transit corridor. A better option is to further enhance the already excellent bus service in this corridor. The West LRT should instead use 87 Avenue to cross the North Saskatchewan River and connect to the high floor network south of Health Sciences Station.
Three, increased density along LRT lines through transit oriented developments should be strongly supported. But regardless of the density achieved, only a small percentage of Edmontonians will ever live within easy walking distance of an LRT station. For most Edmontonians, convenient bus connections to LRT stations, availability of park and ride, frequency of service, and fast travel times will continue to be more important considerations when deciding whether to use our cars less and the LRT more.
Four, the convenience provided by closer spacing of stations cannot be allowed to unduly compromise the need for LRT to have significantly faster travel times compared to buses.
Five, Edmonton’s winter climate demands that all LRT stations should be full service stations that provide adequate protection from the elements.
Six, a well designed rapid transit network makes unnecessary either a street level Downtown Connector or a street level Central Area Circulator.
Before billions of tax dollars are spent unwisely, a serious public discussion about Edmonton’s rapid transit future is needed. I hope this blog contributes in some way to this discussion.