Edmonton’s public transit system is looking at its biggest change in a long time, if not ever. While the system has changed and evolved over the years, a new strategy is proposing changes to how the system functions, which might be the largest shift we’ve ever seen all at once.
There are a few keys to all of these plans. The first is to increase the frequency of buses traveling through our core and mature neighbourhoods, those that are inside the “inner ring road” (that’s Yellowhead Trail in the north to the Whitemud on the southside, 170 Street over to 75 Street). This is a no-brainer. These neighbourhoods are our busiest, most densely populated and have clear major routes throughout that can accommodate lots of buses moving people all day.
The second change is to increase frequency, or have more express routes, on LRT and BRT routes, or future routes, and major arterial roadways. Again, this makes a lot of sense. This includes areas outside that inner ring road, funnelling people into transit centres and the busier core neighbourhoods.
Tied into that second aspect is what is likely to be the change that causes the most reaction. Reaction is a nice way of saying it, I suppose.
The neighbourhoods outside of that inner ring road, our second layer of mature neighbourhoods and newer suburbs, are going to see a reduction in routes. The meandering neighbourhood routes are going to be replaced by express routes, crosstown routes and some community service that funnels people to hubs for those kinds of connections. Yeah, this is the part that won’t make people happy.
While there’s still lots of consultation to come, this is a change that Edmonton’s got to make. Without more money from the City or other levels of government, or increasing fares even more, we can’t keep running buses that aim to get within a block or two of everyone’s home. City councils that sprawled our city out just didn’t set us up for success with that.
So, I think, a re-design where our busiest, dense neighbourhoods get lots of transit makes the most sense. Let’s use express and crosstown routes to connect our suburbs to the core, and expand service as more people take transit. Or consider other ways to subsidize that expanded service, whether it’s zone fares, toll roads that pay for transit, or something else.
A more seriously contentious point is that the reduction in service out in the suburbs has the City considering private transportation providers, like Uber and cab companies, pick people up and get them over these new gaps in service. The idea being that you’d hop in the cab to ride to the transit centre or crosstown stop. This is something the transit union is already fighting.
Looking beyond the optics of using private companies for public service, the real hurdles here are about accessibility and affordability. People using a wheelchair or other mobility aid, or those with strollers in tow, might not find a car is any help to get them to the transit connection or home from the transit centre. It’s definitely going to be one of the trickiest aspects of these changes, if only because if the City gets it wrong the extra people driving in from the suburbs create congestion on the roads and other people who can’t afford a car get left out of the picture altogether.
Alright, you can check out the transit strategy for yourself online.
(click the report cover to see the PDF)
And, since the details are nowhere near certain, you can also make sure you watch for public engagement on the Transit Strategy or let your councillor know what you think about our city’s transit future.
Around the city
The University of Alberta has a new sexual violence policy for all employees, contract staff, teachers, students and volunteers. It’s centered around consent and support. The new policy is one of 46 recommendations the U of A is working on to improve the university’s activities, supports and services to prevent, educate about and respond to sexual assault. At the same time, all of Alberta’s post-secondary schools are working to have similar systems when it comes to tracking and reporting sexual assaults.
It seems like everyone would just love to have more affordable housing in their neighbourhood, if it wasn’t for that darn parking problem. Or traffic problem. Or transit problem. Or access to services problem. Or… well, you get the idea. It’s time to just build affordable housing everywhere, in all new developments, complainers be damned.
The City says it can’t do more to curb sloppy, damaging and even dangerous builders without help from the provincial government. Just because we’re talking about infill housing doesn’t mean you can’t demand people building new homes follow rules and keep from destroying property around their sites. This feels like passing the buck.
Edmonton Police, like a lot of police forces, continue to change their high-speed pursuit policies, now giving up the chase more often before speeding cars end up crashing or killing someone (two people still died in one chase last year). With just over 800 suspects fleeing police last year, only about one-third saw police give chase, with a lot of chases lasting less then one minute. Police arrested someone in just under half of the cases.
After the Supreme Court set time limits for criminal cases, of 18 months and 30 months in the lower and upper courts respectively, the pressure continues to mount on crown attorneys and Alberta Justice to decide if cases will need to be settled without trial or dropped altogether.
As Edmonton actually works to expand transportation networks for people walking and cycling, the High Level Bridge is on the radar. With work scheduled a few years from now, the City is exploring options to add more room for people and multi-use paths. This could include something on the top level of the bridge, which currently only sees use in the summer from our streetcar.
There’s not enough bike parking downtown. Finally, a story about parking I can get behind!
The Hope Mission has a new food truck and it’s hitting the road this summer.
There’s an open house about the Oleskiw River Valley Park Master Plan, 5 – 8 p.m., at the Westridge Wolf Willow Country Club Community League.
You can also check out an open house about the Terwillegar Heights Artificial Turf Facility (no more dandelions!). Open house runs 5 – 7:30 p.m. at the Terwillegar Community Recreation Centre.
It’s a public engagement triple threat related to Beaumaris Lake, and the rehabilitation of our stormwater facilities, happening today, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the Castlesdowns Library, Castledowns Recreation Centre and the Castledowns YMCA.
This article was updated on June 26, 2017.
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