Three Myths about the Valley Line LRT

MYTH: The route was the result of a long public consultation process.

FACT: “The corridor selection process is not designed, nor intended, to collaborate with community and stakeholders to determine a recommended route” (SE to W LRT Public Involvement Report, 2008-2009).

The only consultation the city did on the route was with 12 corporate and institutional stakeholders (eg. Grey Nuns Hospital, Bonnie Doon shopping centre); these groups were presented with five options: High Level/CPR; High Level/Whyte Ave.; James MacDonald Bridge; Low Level Bridge; Dawson Bridge. None mentioned the Cloverdale footbridge corridor.

MYTH: This project is a done deal.

FACT: Edmonton has a historical precedent for halting a new transportation corridor through the river valley: in the 1970s, Mill Creek and MacKinnon Ravine freeway projects were both stopped at the eleventh hour. In the case of MacKinnon Ravine, a decade of planning had already occurred, the trees had been cleared the roadbed partially built, and storm sewers installed; one councillor stated, “We’ve made the decision to build it; we can’t back out now.” The city spent $2.76 million on this work before recognizing the project was not in the city’s best interest. The mayor at the time said, “If you’ve gone part way down the incorrect path, that’s regrettable—but not as regrettable as going all the way downy he incorrect path.” I think we would all agree today that halting the project was the right decision.

MYTH: This project represents short-term pain for long-term gain.

FACT: The current Valley Line LRT is an expensive mistake that will involve exponentially larger spin-off costs in the long term. While the city states the project’s main goal is to improve sustainability and a compact city core, it actually works against these goals by both destroying many things that draw people to the core.

Long-term, this route sacrifices the most important part of the downtown river valley, Chinatown, heritage buildings on Jasper Avenue, the Cloverdale footbridge, and the Edmonton Ski Hill—all incredible assets to our city. Furthermore, the route offers very little transit-oriented development potential because it runs mostly through the river valley, mature neighbourhoods, and light industrial areas. And it spends so much money doing so that it precludes public transit development elsewhere in the city for decades (35 years, according to the city’s latest projection—and that’s before they’ve begun tunnelling into the unstable Grierson river bank).

We need a pause on this project, and an open discussion in which we reassess our options, including BRT and expanded bus service.

Ward 12 Candidates Asked to Weigh in on Public Transit

On January 25, 2016, ERUPT sent all Ward 12 by-election candidates the following three questions. We are posting all candidate responses on our Facebook site–so head over there to take a look at what they have to say.

  1. Even though Edmontonians have experienced roughly 60% tax increases in the last seven years, the City has determined a further $3.4% property tax increase for the next two years, and then 4.8% in 2018. While it is unclear how the city expects people to handle these increases, the uncertainty beyond is far more troubling. What will you do to demand transparent public access to the Valley Line LRT’s full “payment plan,” beyond 2018?Please explain.
  2. When Mill Woods was originally developed, the plan was to connect it to downtown via LRT along the CPR right-of-way. When the city began planning the Southeast to West LRT in 2009, two of the four shortlisted routes made use of this right-of-way. However, the CPR would not relinquish the land at the time. It finally did do this in early 2015. A route making use of this right-of-way would clearly be superior to the Valley Line for Ward 12 residents: it would directly connect them to Whyte Avenue and the University before crossing the river. The Valley Line, on the other hand, offers no access to Whyte Avenue, and requires Mill Woods U of A students to cross the river, change train lines, then crossback over the river to get to campus. This route is clearly inconvenient for Ward 12 residents and arguably does not meet the project’s goals. Additionally, the CPR route would cost far less and would involve a shorter construction time because of its use of an existing bridge and no tunnel—meaning there would be money for wider bus service across Ward 12 and the entire city. What will you do to demand consideration of the CPR right-of-way route?
  3. While the CPR right-of-way would clearly be a more convenient LRT route for Ward 12 residents, it is not the only good option. The ETS advisory committee states in its 2015 report, “Bus Rapid Transit provides the ability to deliver mass transit comparable to the LRT in both speed and capacity, at a fraction of the infrastructure, time and operating costs.” For $1.8 billion, the city could implement an incredible BRT network across the city, and this system could include heated shelters, new low-emissions buses, and low-income transit passes—and there would be virtually no construction period. For Ward 12 it would mean money for drastically improved public transit across the whole word, including the potential for direct routes to both the university and downtown. The mayor and city council, however, have responded to this report with silence. What will you do to demand consideration of BRT?