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December 11, 2018
January 30, 2018

Edmonton Headlines: Tuesday, January 30, 2018

You'll still get there

Written by Jeff Samsonow

Future LRT plans. Right now. image via Don Iveson

We had a big pile of LRT updates last week, and it’s got me thinking about traffic efficiency. In Edmonton, we seem to still be leaning a little bit toward accommodating people driving, even when we’re designing and building transportation networks for people who aren’t driving. 

In the Valley Line West extension we have a new overpass being proposed for 149 Street, coupled with a lowered Stony Plain Road. For the Metro Line’s eventual continuation north and west we’re considering dropping the trains into trenches under a handful of intersections. 

Both options increase the costs of already expensive systems, which doesn’t seem to upset people I think would normally complain about tax dollars. When it comes to driving, that seems to quiet the complaints a bit.

In both cases the City’s transportation teams are trying to lessen the impact of mass transit on people driving. Which kind of defeats a lot of the purposes of building a mass transit network.

New proposed overpass or the Valley Line. image via City of Edmonton

Not everyone will jump on the train just because it runs closer to their door, but if enough people do take the LRT when it runs to more places we’re eliminating personal vehicles from the road. And we’re already taking a bunch of buses off the road too. (I feel like this is something critics of our expanding LRT systems keep missing. We have so many buses running down streets like Stony Plain Road right now, slowing down traffic with frequent stops, that LRT should open up traffic for people driving, even with fewer lanes.)

When we give people multiple options to get around the city, we’re increasing the efficiency. Not everyone can drive, nor should everyone have to drive for every needed trip.

But I think there are those who confuse efficiency of our transportation network with speed and convenience. (I promise, I won’t bust out dictionary definitions on you.)

As someone who takes transit, I’d love to be able to hop a speedy train to West Edmonton Mall and be there in 10 minutes. Then, when I’m driving a car I want all the buses out of my way and green lights my whole trip. Neither is possible.

I believe, however, most reasonable people accept that each mode of transportation has its benefits and trade-offs. Getting around the city safely and without undue delay should be the goal. The mayor is quoted as saying this is just the kind of thinking we need to be clearer about as Edmonton grows.

I don’t think we need to build an overpass for 149 Street. I don’t know if we need LRT trenches throughout north Edmonton. I know I would rather skip those options and build even more mass transit connections for more parts of the city with the money we could save.

Whatever city council ultimately decides, I hope they aren’t going to mitigate all the good that transit and active transportation can do for Edmontonians, and our neighbourhoods, in order to save a few people driving a minute or two (literally) just because those folks sent the angriest emails. 


Neighbourhood renewal

You might have noticed that we include neighbourhood renewal meetings in our public engagement section at the bottom of these Headlines posts. These projects are big deals that will be the most construction a community will see for a generation. The neighbourhood I live in, Strathcona, is likely to see its renewal go beyond streets, sidewalks and streetlights to include more changes to the transportation network, green spaces and other public infrastructure and connections. This should be the standard when an entire neighbourhood is getting re-done. 

What’s possible in Strathcona (and, later, in other neighbourhoods) is in no small part thanks to the work of tireless volunteers from the Queen Alexandra neighbourhood. They worked for years to get more than “like for like” replacement during their renewal, and you can see the changes in better walkability and bike lanes along 106 Street and 76 Avenue.

(I’ve volunteered with both projects BTW.)


Is it relevant?

Last year I got so upset when I saw some Edmonton newsrooms linking refugees to sex crimes I wrote a whole big story about it. The inclusion of the detail whipped up a bunch of hate, anti-refugee vitriol and racism because mentioning that detail in the story implies to the audience it is somehow relevant.

I bring this up today because the assault at the centre of the story is back in the news, with the trial happening right now. So far it looks like only CBC is still paying attention, even though most local newsrooms jumped on the story when police released details (although this probably says more about the lack of reporters to actually cover the courts).

While current stories are yet to infer that a person’s citizenship status has any connection to crimes (it doesn’t, obvs.), the refugee factor and language translations have been included in coverage which may lead someone to think they have something to do with the court case and crime. 

For example, I could understand references to a translator in court if we’re talking about someone giving testimony, to be clear that a word or phrase might not equate to perfect English grammar. Here, it feels a little out of place in the coverage.

I’m becoming more convinced every day that why a fact or detail is included in news stories is the most important thing for a journalist to consider.


Public engagement

Tuesday

City council’s Urban Planning Committee meets on Tuesday, at 9:30 a.m. You can see the agenda online. Items include updates to high-rise zoning (including perhaps incentives to get more than just one-bedroom units) and designating the West End Telephone Exchange a historic resource (which has just begun a new life as the Mercantile Exchange). The meeting will stream live from the River Valley Room. 

If you want to offer ideas and feedback on the potential future of the Bonnie Doon Shopping Centre head over to La Cité Francophone, 5:30 – 8:30 p.m. The mall is looking at a major redevelopment with the LRT set to stop right beside it.

Wednesday

The Community and Public Services Committee meets Wednesday, at 9:30 a.m. That agenda is online too. The big item here is the quarterly update on opioids in Edmonton. The meeting will also stream live from the River Valley Room.

There’s another Evolving Infill workshop on Wednesday night, 6 – 8 p.m, at Queen Alexandra School. This is a chance to give some hands-on feedback on infill housing policies.

Thursday

The Prime Minister comes to Edmonton Thursday, 7 p.m. at MacEwan University, as part of a cross-country tour. 

If you live in Allendale, you’ve got a chance to see the final plans for your neighbourhood renewal at a meeting Thursday night, 5 – 8:30 p.m. at Pleasantview Community Hall. Constructions starts in the spring. 

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