Poor Public Consultation

Many cities note that public involvement is crucial to good decision-making. While the City repeats that the Valley Line LRT involved extensive public consultation, many communities and groups feel consultation was inadequate. Their feeling is supported by the Southeast to West LRT route-planning documents, which state, “The corridor selection process is not designed, nor intended, to collaborate with community and stakeholders to determine a recommended route.”[1]

It is likely due to this dismissal of the value of public consultation that only twelve stakeholders were initially identified when route selection began in 2008. As the route planning documents state one criteria to be “To ensure the retention and enhancement of the Rossdale and Cloverdale communities in the River Valley”[2] and yet there is no mention of Riverdale, even though the tunnel and bridge impact this neighborhood directly, it is no surprise Riverdale is one of the communities that felt public consultation was lacking.

The stakeholder interviews that occurred were then based on four possible routes – none of which made use of the Cloverdale footbridge corridor. (The possible routes were two using High Level Bridge crossings, one Dawson Bridge crossing, and one Low Level Bridge crossing.) However, sometime between December 2008 and spring 2009 the Cloverdale footbridge crossing was not only added – it became the recommended route.

The Transportation Department has responded to questions about this new route by saying that the Cloverdale footbridge was a “subvariant” of the Low Level route. This is not true, as the Cloverdale footbridge is not in the Low Level corridor: as the EISA states, “The new LRT bridge is viewed by Urban Planning and Environment as a new corridor across the North Saskatchewan River” (“EISA Site Location Study,” section 3.1). Furthermore, there was no note in the interview materials of subvariants; this option is simply referred to as “Low Level.”

It is also interesting to note that the main theme that emerged from these interviews, according to the interviews summary, was that whatever route was chosen, it should “respect the river valley and neighborhoods.”[3]

There is much evidence that the City made up its mind about LRT, and about the route, without meaningful public consultation. The wide dissatisfaction from community groups in Chinatown, Boyle Street, Riverdale, Cloverdale, Strathearn, as well as across the city (Rossdale, Belgravia and Grovenor community leagues have given written support calling for a review of the Valley Line LRT) is likely why the City itself has audited the public consultation process for this project.

The city’s reluctance to engage the public in this project was again recently evidenced by LRT governance board chair Al Maurer’s statement that even in light of the Metro Line’s problems, the City should not review sections of the Valley Line LRT because “If you change the course today, it sends the wrong message.”[4] This is not the way to ensure a successful public transit system. In order to ensure our public transit offers optimum benefit to our city, Edmontonians deserve the opportunity for an open and honest discussion on transportation planning – especially when it concerns major impacts to legacy parks in the river valley.

[1] “West and Southeast LRT Public Involvement Report 2008-2009”

[2]http://www.edmonton.ca/transportation/PDF/Attachment_2_Valley_Line_Stage_1_Site_Location_Study.pdf (p. 11)

[3] “West and Southeast LRT: Public Involvement Report 2008-2009”

[4] http://www.edmontonjournal.com/mobile/story.html?id=11350972