Brendan Van Alstine Don Iveson Public Transit

edmonton transitcamp.

A great event is happening this weekend in Edmonton. On the afternoon of Saturday May 30, a group of engaged Edmontonians will meet to talk about new ideas and the future of public transit in Edmonton at TransitCamp.

Edmonton TransitCamp
30 May 2009
12:00 – 16:30
World Trade Centre
9990 Jasper Avenue

TransitCamp is independent from the City of Edmonton and Edmonton Transit Services, and will use a pseudo-format similar to BarCamp and DemoCamp which means that the afternoon’s discussion will be shaped by those who show up, rather than a pre-decided discussion schedule. Don’t worry if you’re not a transit expert, this event is geared towards citizen engagement and participation through discussion that includes a diverse group of Edmontonians.

Mastermaq and Councillor Don Iveson have posted about the event on their blogs and Brendan Van Alstine wrote about it in his Metro Edmonton column earlier this month. You will also be able to follow Edmonton TransitCamp on twitter at #yegtransit.

Belgravia-McKernan Edmonton LRT Public Transit South Campus

photo post: mckernan-belgravia and south campus lrt stations.

On April 25, 2009, the City of Edmonton will be opening two new stations on the south line of the LRT. I was lucky enough to join the contingent of Edmonton media touring of the new LRT stations this morning.

I’ve posted more photos on Flickr.

(A big thanks to Alex Abboud in Councillor Kim Krushell‘s office for arranging my media pass to the event)

Carbon Capture Scheme Ed Stelmach Green Trip Iris Evans Public Transit Smart

story time: a tale of two ($2 billion dollar) funds [ccs and public transit in alberta].

Let us all take a magical journey down to a sunny day less than a year ago. July 28 to be exact.

The bright yellow sun filled Alberta’s big blue sky and everything was right. Construction cranes filled the skylines of our cities as our captains of free enterprise filled their Hummers and Beamers with premium gasoline before driving their merry way to Calgary’s International or Edmonton’s City Centre airport to fly their private jets to a Las Vegas vacation or to their Okanagan hideaway. While they may have lost countless nights of sleep to nightmares of Pierre Trudeau’s poltergeist, they were warmed with by the thoughts of Stephen Harper warmly embracing soon-to-be United States President John McCain. Liberals and Socialists complained, but oil was aplenty and times were good.

Even better were the expected resource revenue surpluses in Alberta, which predicted to be larger than expected. That glorious summer, Finance Minister Iris Evans predicted a surplus of $8.5 billion, based on a estimate of $119.25 per barrel of Oil. Trumpeting the wonderful news, a Government press release announced the creation of two new funds that would come from the significantly larger than expected surplus.

Our glorious leader, Premier Ed Stelmach, had decided in his growing benevolence that he would bestow upon Albertans two generous monetary funds. The large sums of money that would fill these funds would help fulfill the dreams of millions of citizens, and make Wild Rose Country a better place to live. Times were good and people were proud.

For those who held the energy industry dear, $2 billion was dedicated to the creation and development of Carbon Capture Storage technology. If developed, CCS technology would allow companies to capture C02 and pump it deep into the cavernous underground of our Earth before it could reach the atmosphere.

For Albertans who held our urban centers dear, a second $2 billion fund was created to support innovative public transportation to connect Albertans both in- and outside of our growing cities. The Ministry of Municipal Affairs boasted that this Green Trip Fund would ‘promote the use of local, regional and inter-city public transit and will support new public transit alternatives throughout the province, significantly reducing the number of vehicles on Alberta roads and reduce greenhouse gas emission.’ A noble cause indeed. Alberta was getting smart with its approach to urban growth, and was backing their approach with serious money.

Times were good.

But, less than one year later, the fate of these two sister funds could not be more different.

Times were bad.

Alberta’s bright blue skies remained, but as the winter thaw began, there were less construction cranes on the horizon, a son of Pierre Trudeau had returned to haunt us, a bleak future predicted an extra ten to twenty minute drive for our captains of industry to reach their private jets, Barack Obama was President of the United States, and Megan McCain had signed a major book deal. And despite the tough economic times, Liberals and Socialists continued to complain.

The short trip down green public transit lane ended as unceremoniously and abruptly as a flock of duck landing in a tailing pond, when a much less jubilant Finance Minister Evans unveiled a $4.5 billion dollar deficit. Evans declared that “Just as you do in a family, you see that your revenues aren’t going to be there, then you reduce your spending, and you try to look at other ways to make the dollar stretch. That will definitely happen here in Alberta.” Accordingly, the $2 billion Green Trip Fund was cut down to a mere $10 million in 2009 and $520 million over the following three years, creating an uncertain future for public transit development in Alberta’s major cities. Alberta’s growing cities were left far behind their counterparts across the land.

Yet, the billions for Carbon Capture Storage remained largely intact as $100 million were allocated for 2009 and the remaining $1.9 billion over the following years. Even as major companies such as Suncor, Syncrude, and ConocoPhillips withdrew their plans for to bid for Carbon Capture funding and critics warned of boondogglery ahead, Premier Stelmach pushed ahead with his Carbon Capture dream, convinced that the undeveloped and unproven technology was the key to greening the sandy shores of Alberta’s vast Energy Beach.

So strong was his belief in the unproven Carbon Capture dream, that Premier Stelmach was willing to go much further than simply abandoning his promise to fund a proven public transit strategy that would actually remove vehicles (and carbon) from the roads of Alberta’s cities. He was willing to break his promise to never again to put Alberta into a deficit position.

As Premier Stelmach quietly removed the anti-deficit emblem that had adorned the lapel of his suit jacket for fifteen years, it became apparent that the anti-deficit legacy was just as dead as the legacy of the $2 billion Green Trip Fund.

As our magical journey comes to an end, it appears that the mere daydream of a warm breeze in an uncertain and unproven carbon captured future may have been all it took for the these two $2 billion funds to meet two very different ends.

Don Iveson Edmonton LRT Public Transit

let’s talk about the west edmonton lrt.


A study has been completed to plan the extension of the LRT from Lewis Estates (87 Avenue and 199 Street) to the University of Alberta. As part of the study, open houses will be held to share information and details about the project and the study before it is presented to City Council.

(h/t to the always great Councillor Don Iveson‘s office for passing this along)

Municipal Politics Public Transit

it’s time for late-night public transit in edmonton.

Yesterday morning, I co-presented a presentation to Edmonton City Council’s Transportation & Public Works Committee on the hot issue of 24-hour/late-night transit service in Edmonton. The debate over late-night expanded transit service has drawn attention in the media and in interesting places like’s “Expand Edmonton’s Transit Service to 24 hours!” group (which now has over 2 700 members).

In addition to myself and my fellow co-presenter, nine presenters including Bryan Saunders, the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton, the Old Strathcona Business Association, and NAITSA presented their support of expanded transit service (you can take a look at the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton presentation here).

With ten City Councillors in attendance at the committee meeting (including committee members Bryan Anderson, Ben Henderson, Ed Gibbons, Kim Krushell, and Councillors Don Iveson, Amarjeet Sohi, Tony Caterina, Karen Leibovici, Dave Thiele, and Jane Batty) it is clear that Edmonton City Councillors are taking this issue seriously.

Here’s part of the presentation that I co-presented…

Making Edmonton a more student- and youth-friendly city through late-night public transit

Presentation to Edmonton City Council Transportation & Public Works Committee (January 22, 2008)

With over 160 000 post-secondary students (including over 60 000 full time post secondary students) living in Edmonton attending NAIT, Grant MacEwan College, the University of Alberta and other institutions, the addition of late-night transit service would help make Edmonton a more student and youth-friendly city.

A large number of students already depend on ETS for their transportation to and from work, home, and school. With the introduction of the Universal Bus Pass in September 2007 for students at Grant MacEwan College and the University of Alberta, we can only expect that as the U-Pass program continues, more students will depend on public transit for their transportation needs.

Because of cost, many students don’t live in the University-area or within walking distance of the U of A. Students working late-night part-time jobs in the restaurant/hospitality industry as well as students working in industrial parks would benefit from late-night transit. Students in the Faculties of Nursing and Medicine who are completing late-night residencies and training in hospitals and medical centers across Edmonton would also benefit from late-night transit. As many students don’t own or have access to cars and because of the rising cost of post-secondary education, the option of taking a $15, $25, or $40 cab-ride is an expensive luxury for many students.

With the recent addition of 24-hour study space in the Students’ Union Building on the University of Alberta North Campus, the addition of late-night transit routes would help students access this space later at night throughout the school year and exam periods without having to worry how to get back to their side of the city.

As of 9:16 pm on Monday, January 21, 2008, the group “Expand Edmonton’s Transit Service to 24 hours!” on the popular online social networking site had 2,535 members. This highlights the wide-interest that the prospect of late-night or 24-hour transit has sparked among students and young Edmontonians.

We propose keeping main routes running for Late-night service as well as late-night LRT service on a half-hourly schedule. The completion of the south track of the LRT to Southgate Mall and Century Park LRT stations will open up the option of late night transit to students living in the south end. Transit service changes such as these will help make Edmonton a more student and youth-friendly city.

The debate on 24-hour/late-night public transit in Edmonton will be continued at the June 10, 2008 meeting of the Transportation & Public Works Committee. If you support the idea of 24-hour/late-night public transit in Edmonton, contact Mayor Stephen Mandel and your City Councillors to let them know!

As Edmonton grows, these types of public transit questions are only going to become more critical to making Edmonton a smarter and more efficient city.

Municipal Politics Public Transit

more late night transit talk in edmonton.

Following up on my previous post on the 24-hour public transit debate in Edmonton, Brian Gould had a great article in last Tuesday’s Gateway.

Click here to read Edmonton Transit system tucking in far to early.

Karen Leibovici Kerry Diotte Public Transit

24-7 transit for edmonton?

In case anyone missed it, Kerry Diotte had an interesting column on the idea of 24-hour transit in Edmonton.

Coun. Karen Leibovici, who asked administrators to prepare one of the two reports, is cautiously supportive of extended service.

“We’re becoming more and more of a 24-7 city,” said Leibovici. “We need to start looking at it,” she said. “But the biggest problem is cost. Perhaps we don’t have to run all night or even until 3:30 a.m.

“Maybe we can do a pilot project on Whyte Avenue or extend service for one extra hour.”

Yes, there are many options.

Maybe we could afford it if we cut little-used routes and keyed on busier ones – or stopped using tax money to fund new routes to distant suburbs.

Do we need smaller buses on some routes? Or could we have fewer stops so buses get to destinations faster, thus encouraging more people to use the system?

Those options too, would help pay for extended hours.

I think there are some pretty valid points in exploring the idea of 24-hour routes for Edmonton Transit (or potentially an hourly or half-hourly LRT run after 1am). Though I believe there tends to be too much focus on the Whyte Avenue bar scene when talking about 24-hour transit service, I do think that it could be an interesting place to conduct a pilot project.

I’ve even heard of an idea that would have buses running down Whyte Avenue after closing time delivering bar patrons to destinations east and west of Whyte Avenue to designated taxi pick up areas (perhaps the Bonnie Doon Mall parking lot to the east and the Jubilee Auditorium or Lister Hall Parking lots to the west). Though there would be a number of issues to work out (bus driver safety and “bus cleanliness” being two), it would successfully cut down the conjestion on Whyte Avenue before and after closing time.

As Edmonton grows, these types of public transit questions are only going to become more critical to making Edmonton a smarter and more efficient city.

Municipal Politics Public Transit

brt vs. lrt in edmonton.

I got this email the other day on the topic of Edmonton City Council’s recent decision to axe Bus Rapid Transit

30 years after our community was the first in North America to build Light Rail Transit, the city ought to be commended for scrapping the Bus Rapid Transit or ‘Super Express’ plans to focus on future LRT expansion plans. Unfortunately, with an aging demographic, major growth pressures, as well as increasing concerns about our climate and looming fuel price shocks in the years ahead, even the current LRT “fast-tracking” starts to look grossly inadequate for the 21st century.

With BRT gone, and an update to the 9 year old Transportation Master Plan in the works, as well as a forthcoming 30 year growth strategy for the city headed our way, the existing HST plan needs to be drastically updated into a comprehensive, robust and aggressive LRT plan which addresses the challenges that we face. There is little known about the so-called Long Term Comprehensive Public Transportation Strategy that the city is developing now, but in addition to not reflecting the realities above, several things are abundantly clear.

First of all, the current method of studying potential LRT routes is insufficient. Each of the studies are separate from one another, disconnected in a political vacuum. With no plan for how the end system will look or operate, it’s not good enough to place the potential impacts on area residents and vehicular traffic above the long term interests of the city as whole.

Secondly, the new LRT plan must integrate the TMP with our new Municipal Development Plan which proposes three distinct scenarios. Two of them advocate status quo of unlimited sub-urban sprawl for the next 30 years. The only MDP strategy that is economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable is called, the “Compact Growth Scenario 2040”. Not only is it the best option for the city over the long-haul, but it optimizes “smart growth” with Transit Orientated Developments ala` Century Park – a platform component of several recently elected councilors.

Thirdly, the new LRT plan must be a catalyst for regional cooperation and integration. While it may not make sense to build LRT out to St. Albert, Fort Saskatchewan, Sherwood Park, Leduc, Devon, or Stony Plain immediately, planning our corridors to get there eventually does. In the meantime, we can integrate our LRT and TOD’s with regional air and rail nodes, further strengthening the Edmonton region into ‘Port Alberta’.

Finally, if we want to design and build a system which encourages a modal shift, we need to re-analyze the costs and benefits of all potential route alignments for the system as a whole. Ideally this means shifting at least one of the new lines off of the existing track, where timing and scheduling logistics could easily congest the tunnel downtown.

Currently, the north LRT alignment stops short of the Edmonton City Centre Airport. Why not finally close the ECCA and build a massive urban village supported my a NW LRT extension to St. Albert? A separate line could split and follow 97th Street north after stopping at NAIT. South of Kingsway, the two lines could merge and follow an empty corridor to 109th street and St. Joseph’s before hitting MacEwan and Grandin. From there the new line naturally goes SE via the High Level, Garneau, Whyte Avenue, and through Strathcona Junction – where the High Speed Rail could terminate. From there, existing rail corridors lead the way to Argyle and 91st south, before turning east to Lakewood and Mill woods TC via 28th ave. We would need to extend the South LRT to the International in time to close the Municipal Airport, but this could be a great first step before building lines East, West, and South West.

The next leg of the LRT system may not look like this exactly, but we’ve got to be far bolder in how we design and plan for it now. Other cities such as Denver, have invested massively to rapidly expand their LRT in the past. To maximize efficiency, each leg must run as a distinct line from one end of the city to the other, while using existing rail or natural corridors wherever possible to reduce cost, and we need a new plan in 2008 to guide it all. Where there’s a will – and enough cash – there’s a way.

As the capital city of the richest province in the wealthiest of nations, what are we waiting for?


Municipal Politics Public Transit

edmonton city council transit challenge.

A couple of weeks ago, I became involved with the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton. TRUE is a committee of Edmonton Transit Service riders who are currently researching and developing strategies to improve the quality of public transit in Edmonton.

Yesterday, TRUE issued a challenge to Edmonton’s City Council to rely exclusively on transit for the week of November 19-25. Ward 5 Councillor Don Iveson, Ward 4 Councillor Ben Henderson, and Ward 6 Councillors Amarjeet Sohi and Dave Thiele have all accepted the challenge and will join hundreds of thousands of Edmontonians on the bus this week.

By accepting the challenge, it says a lot about these four City Councillors and their commitment to improving public transit, something that is essential in creating an efficient and manageable city as Edmonton grows.

You can read coverage of the media challenge here, here, here, and in Russian here.

Here are some pictures that I took at the media conference on the steps of Edmonton City Hall.

City Councillors Ben Henderson, Dave Thiele, and Don Iveson.

Ward 5 City Councillor Don Iveson.

Ward 6 City Councillor Amarjeet Sohi