Don Iveson asks: Do you support LRT expansion?

Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson took the the streets, and then to YouTube, to ask Edmontonians if they support expansion of Edmonton’s Light Rail Transit system. The campaign is part of Mr. Iveson’s bid to convince provincial and federal politicians to support the expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system, a key part of the city’s transportation infrastructure and a top priority for city council.

Facing enormous population and economic growth, and afforded limited resources as a municipal government, the City is struggling to fund LRT expansion to Mill Woods and west Edmonton (also known as the Valley Line). According to the City of Edmonton, daily ridership of Edmonton’s current north-south LRT Capital Line has grown from an estimated 42,160 in 2004 to 100,760 in 2013.

Edmonton LRT Ridership 2004-2013

Estimated Edmonton LRT ridership from 2004 to 2013 (graph from City of Edmonton 2013 LRT Passenger Count Report)

Hoping that the upcoming provincial budget could include funding for the capital city’s LRT, the mayor and city council are asking Edmontonians to put pressure on their MLA and MP by voicing support for LRT expansion. A second phase of this campaign is expected to be launched next week.

Don Iveson LRT Edmonton Expansion

A popular ad used on the LRT during last year’s mayoral election in Edmonton.

Although Mr. Iveson earned 63% of the vote in the October 2013 election, many provincial Conservatives, including Edmonton PC MLAs Thomas Lukaszuk, Naresh Bhardwaj and David Xiao, publicly endorsed his opponent, Karen Leibovici. Some political watchers suspect the results of the election did not sweeten the already sour relationship between the city and province. And while Premier Alison Redford has been cold towards the idea of granting cities more financial power, saying she’s “satisfied with the way things are,” her party should not forget that city voters are who they owe for their narrow re-election to government in 2012.

Earlier this month, while speaking to the all-party MLA Standing Committee on Alberta’s Economic Future, Mr. Iveson explained  that expansion of Edmonton’s light rail transit system is critical for future growth of the capital city. While the committee was looking for feedback on the creation of high speed rail system through the Red Deer corridor from Edmonton to Calgary, Mr. Iveson argued that the inter-city project would only succeed if effective urban transit systems are already in place.

Mr. Iveson explained to the MLA committee that future expansion of Edmonton’s LRT network depends almost entirely on the availability of funding from the provincial and federal governments.

A short history of LRT expansion in Edmonton
Edmonton’s LRT line began regular service in 1978 and was extended to downtown and the University of Alberta in the 1980s and early 1990s. Expansion was then halted until the mid-2000s, when a new line to south Edmonton was constructed. New stations in north central Edmonton are expected to open in June 2014. The City of Edmonton’s population has grown from 461,361 in 1976 to 817,498 in 2012.

8 thoughts on “Don Iveson asks: Do you support LRT expansion?

  1. William Munsey

    Mayor Iveson is right that it will take an effective inner-city rail network to make an inter-city high(er) speed link useable. That’s been the problem for North American cities. You can get from one city to another quickly but once you get there, you need a car. It’s one reason Japan, Taiwan, China and northern Europe have effective high speed inter-city trains.

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  2. Renate

    I am waiting impatiently for LRT expansion – the transit system in the city is atrocious. It takes 3 buses and 45 minutes to travel 50 blocks. I can do it faster on my bike. LRT is a top priority in this city to move people and goods in a timely fashion.

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  3. Harry J.

    All LRT spending until this City can afford to buy the lands involved, so that the LRT runs underground. Waiting for sometimes 8+ minutes at certain intersections, ought not to be the cost to the travelling public for a City with more thoughtlessness than Planning skills.
    As well, the indebted World at large is busy deleveraging, a situation with which Edmonton must familiarise itself.
    There will be a City here 50 years from now. Edmontonians 50 years out will not be charitable to Governments and Planners of the past, when waiting at intersections for who know how much longer than now.
    Don’t do that to them, and spare us with taking the right decision. Thanking you.
    Harry.

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  5. Kristin Westersund

    Any large, successful city has rail. Speed up the timeframe though. Vancouver managed to complete their Skytrain expansion in four years.

    Reply
  6. Neal

    I agree with Harry. At-grade LRT is a failure & a flopshow. It’s a birdbrained concept that wreaks havoc on the traffic system. It’s only more affordable in a dollars-to-build-it-now sense, the long term intangible costs it brings on a city more than offset the initial savings. Build mass transit right or don’t build it at all.

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  7. W Smith

    @Harry, I think that at grade LRT is usable but better planning is needed so that traffic interference is minimized. If it is necessary to move it off-grade I would suggest that elevated is more cost effective than underground; tunneling is far more expensive than sky train style…you just have to deal with the noise if it’s in the air.

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  8. Ian Weetman

    LRT at grade isn’t the problem per-say, it’s the fact that the last expansion didn’t follow existing rail corridors like the original segment in the Northeast. Running trains along existing rail lines cuts down significantly on that pesky traffic/transit confrontation that people on the South side now face with the LRT. And in fact, if you look back to the original LRT plans/studies from the 1970’s, the original south path would have ran down the CP corridor to 23 Ave with branches to Mill Woods and Century Park. In the Northwest? Rather than cut through the City Centre Airport it would have ran along the now obscured CN line north of 104th Avenue and east of 120 St, crossed over Yellowhead Trail into Calder, then ended up around North Edmonton Common aka Christy’s Corner is now… A much smarter and cheaper plan then what is sadly now proposed…

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