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September 25, 2017

Edmonton Headlines: Monday, September 25, 2017

Car cities are old news

Written by Jeff Samsonow


The election is really on, now that candidates are starting to hit social media with full force and getting their quotes and platforms into daily news coverage. One of the things sure to get some coverage is criticism of past city council decisions which, so far, seem to centre on bike lanes and LRT.

The criticisms got a major platform in the Edmonton Journal last week and sparked lots of discussion across #yegvote. My biggest issue with this growing outcry against Edmonton’s planned (and under-construction) LRT systems hinges on the fact I’m not sure all of the candidates and the critics know what bus rapid transit (BRT) actually is.

There’s lots of talk about using BRT instead of building LRT lines, but BRT includes plenty of construction too. It’s not just express buses running on existing street lanes. Some of the comments from candidates lead me to think that’s what they’re actually talking about.

Hey, after I rode Winnipeg’s BRT I became a fan. But with either form of dedicated transit we’re talking about building new lanes/rails or sectioning off existing lanes for the system and giving the trains/bus right of way at some intersections. So the traffic impact some candidates are worried about exists in both systems, as does the cost.

More express buses? Yeah, that’s a good idea to get people along future LRT (or BRT) lines to start taking transit, but it’s going to get jammed up in traffic with everybody else when there’s snow or crashes, so it’s not the most efficient way to move people around long-term. LRT may also be better than BRT because we can get more people onto a train than a bus (unless we’re talking about buying bigger BRT buses, but, again, we’re essentially building a similar system).

LRT vs. BRT is good discussion for future lines. But the talk has been about our planned extension from downtown to west Edmonton. Uh, folks, that one is almost ready to go and much-needed.

Right now, we can’t be trying to stop the expansion of Edmonton’s LRT system through the city’s west. The money will be lined up soon, it’s years overdue and we should only be discussing the final alignment and details of the line. And, as much as some Edmontonians hate the fact a giant mall is our biggest tourist draw, a giant mall is our biggest tourist draw so LRT from the downtown will be huge for visitors to our city. Other than the long-promised connection to Mill Woods and a train to the airport, a train to West Edmonton Mall is Edmonton’s largest mass transit need.

Sticking with the theme of candidates questioning all sorts of progress made to finally make Edmonton a little less car-dependent the Journal, again, was talking about other transportation needs in Ward 9. This one was all about building a new/old freeway!

There’s no doubt that Edmonton’s southwest has boomed as suburbs grew too fast for some of the infrastructure, but there’s also no doubt that building more lanes of roads and more interchanges won’t help with traffic.

There are (at least) two reasons for this. The first is induced demand, which shows that the more lanes of traffic you build the more people will drive, creating more traffic. The second is that if we simply build more lanes of road to accommodate suburbs we maybe didn’t plan for properly in the first place, we’re just going to encourage people to keep driving and not build the kinds of things we actually need to make the city more livable (including more main streets, and localized shopping and business, and mass transit like LRT or BRT).


On the almost annoying amount of criticism for new bike infrastructure, I’ll simply say it’s way beyond time to give some priority to all forms of transportation in Edmonton. Much like finding new ways to deliver transit, and building LRT/BRT, people who walk and bike deserve safe ways to get around the city. The budget for sidewalks and bike infrastructure is barely a blip on the City’s budget so I’m scratching my head at all the candidates talking about the spending and the need for “data-driven decisions” about bike lanes.

More people are biking. Everybody using the roads will be safer. Bike lanes are cheap (and basically free if we build them when we renew neighbourhoods). What other “data” is needed here?

I mean, don’t get me wrong, I love me some good data. And we can definitely stretch our transportation dollars as far as they can go. We can also learn from mistakes on previous infrastructure (or from other cities) to make the next plans even better.

I’d just also love to hear some of these candidates asking the same kinds of questions about the billion-dollar revamp of Yellowhead Trail, for example. The City is borrowing half-a-billion dollars for that and I don’t see anyone on the campaign trail talking about the need to examine the data and budget for roads.

Edmonton was a car city. Make note of candidates talking about how “it used to be” easy or fast or whatever when they drove around and you see that some people actually want Edmonton to remain a car city. (Also note any of them that are talking about a “war on cars” so you can basically ignore them.)

The last decade has begun the shift to get us to being a little less of a car city, which is needed for a multitude of reasons – including the massive benefit to people who can’t afford to drive to be safe on our roads and have transit options – a lot of which will save us a lot of money down the line. I don’t think candidates challenging LRT and bike lanes are really talking about the budget or road safety.

If you’re looking for Edmonton to continue its densification, and build itself into a city that’s easier and safer to get around, you’ll want to ask your candidates about their feelings on transit and bikes.

More election stuff

A quick look at Don Iveson’s challengers reveals more of this “we’re a car city” vibe. Good luck to you all!

Alright, that’s not totally fair to all the mayoral candidates. It’s actually too bad there are so many of them running and they all won’t get a lot of coverage or time to share their ideas. Some of them sound quite smart and will hopefully keep working to build a great city.

A number of Edmonton’s surrounding communities will have new mayors after October’s election. There’s also a really exciting slate for mayor in Strathcona County, with a former mayor and a former MLA challenging the current mayor, so that’s one to watch too. The change at the top of councils could have an effect on regional growth and plans, especially with a few annexations in the works and a new economic development corporation for the Capital Region.

Outside of the official candidate forums from the City (more on that below), there are plenty of other forums to take in over the next few weeks, mixing up formats and giving you different kinds of ways to hear from candidates.

St. Albertans are being ask “What would Lois do?” about that city’s contentious plan to build a new library. Whether to build the library is one of the ballot questions, along with a pair of other facilities.

Around the city

The Edmonton Police Commission heard a brief history of Black Edmontonians and Albertans, as it relates to modern racism and reconciliation. The Edmonton Police are being asked to stop collecting IDs and personal information from people in random street checks, because the practice has been found to target Black and Indigenous Edmontonians more often. Edmonton’s past racist aggressions are far from reconciled, as was noted at the meeting which was steps away from a portrait of a former mayor now connected to the KKK.

Somewhat related, a conference at the University of Alberta is looking at how Indigenous law can be incorporated into Canada’s legal system, as part of reconciliation efforts

Edmonton’s Liberian community is mourning the death of three women and praying for the recovery of a fourth. The women were involved in a crash by Lloydminster, with a driver of a stolen truck. The RCMP had been pursuing that truck driver, but called off the chase due to safety precautions.

All the news stories characterized this story as OMG parking spot goes for $75,000!!! If you’re paying $75,000 for a parking spot, I just feel sad for you.

St. Albert’s war on goldfish goes chemical.

Public engagement

City Hall, image: Edmonton Elections

The big thing over the next few weeks will be all the candidate forums. I’ll link to the official ones here, and any others I happen to notice.


Monday night, the Ward 1 and Ward 2 forums happen. Ward 1’s candidate forum is at Westlawn Junior High School, 7 – 9 p.m. Ward 2’s forum is also 7 – 9 p.m. at Rosslyn Junior High School.

Also Monday night, Ward 6 and central school board candidates will be at a forum hosted by the Downtown and Oliver Community Leagues. It will be at the Grace Lutheran Church at 7 p.m.

If you’re looking to hear about important issues, but not necessarily from candidates, then Public Interest Alberta’s Monday night event could be for you. There’s a great lineup of speakers who will talk about things to keep in mind when selecting your candidates. This one’s at the Hellenic Community Centre, 7 – 9 p.m.

Want to talk politics in a more relaxed environment? Edmonton’s Next Gen is hosting “Pints and Politics” and “Pizza and Politics” in each ward. On Monday night, there’s an event in Ward 1, with pints at Cafe Blackbird (5 – 6:30 p.m.), and pizza for Ward 2 at the Grand Trunk Recreation Centre (5 – 7 p.m.). The timing is not coincidental, you can hang out and talk about local issues before heading to the official forums.


On Tuesday, there’s a Mayoral introduction session at the Shaw Conference Centre, 12 – 1 p.m. (There are too many candidates for a proper debate at lunch, so it’s just an intro and brief platform from each.)

The Strathcona Community League is hosting a Ward 8 candidate’s forum at its community hall, starting at 7 p.m.

This post was updated on Tuesday, September 26, 2017

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