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.