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September 21, 2018
April 30, 2018

Edmonton Headlines: Monday, April 30, 2017

Road safety?

Written by Jeff Samsonow

The Metro Line. photo: City of Edmonton

By the time you read this you might already know what’s next for Edmonton’s Metro Line, as April 30 is the deadline for the company responsible for the LRT extension’s signalling system. If Thales doesn’t come through, the mayor has warned of “serious consequences”. Sure, we’ve had a bunch of deadlines in the past, and this LRT line can’t seem to run at speed or capacity, but this time it’s personal.

While we wait to hear what is actually probably maybe going to happen with the Metro Line about its signalling system, check out the new episode of Walkcast and the failure of the Metro Line to connect the central neighbourhoods it runs through. This is kind of a real failure.

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Meanwhile… there’s some new funding for Metro Region transit exploration. St. Albert and Edmonton are leading this, but it could mean we’re on our way to an actual regional transit system, if not vastly improved and connected municipal systems. With the new deal for our airport bus, a request for transit to Enoch Cree Nation, and the potential extension of LRT toward St. Albert and/or the airport, this comes at the perfect time to plan for our region’s future.

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Our about-to-be-built LRT extension to west Edmonton now has names for all of its stops. The names are all pretty much straightforward and geographic, which makes it easy for riders to know where they are and when to get off.


Vision Zero-ish

Don’t forget your flashlight and reflective tape! image: City of Edmonton

We’ve been talking about the potential for Edmonton to reduce its neighbourhood speed limits to 30 km/h, and other news out of city hall connects to this discussion quite a bit.

While city council put off the speed limit debate for another year, we have an updated list of crosswalks that the City deems dangerous. If you haven’t seen the story yet, why don’t you take a moment to guess how many might be in need of safety upgrades like lights and signs and better design.

I’ll give you a second to think.

Think of a number.

Could it be 10 crosswalks and intersections?

100?

500?

Surely it couldn’t be that many?

Well, I’ll tell you.

It’s 659 crosswalks.

That’s right, 659 crosswalks in Edmonton aren’t as safe as they could be. 70 of them are identified as the highest priority, but even they won’t all get upgraded or fixed this year. That’s because we spend just $2M annually on this work, which means it could take three decades to upgrade all these crosswalks.

While we wait for that work, people die or have their lives changed by serious injury. (Yes, that crosswalk was on the list.)

Get in touch with your city councillor if you think waiting 29 years is too long to have our crosswalks and intersections built with the most basic safety measures, like crossing lights. Spending $60M over the next year or two to get all of those crosswalks upgraded feels like a small amount of effort to save lives.

At the same time, the City’s update on its Vision Zero program came out last week. That’s the plan to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads to zero. Last year, 27 people died on our streets.

Edmonton likes to tout it was the first major Canadian city to join the program, but we’ve failed to do a lot of the serious work to make progress. Now we’re hearing the goal is to reach Vision Zero by 2032. It’s at least nice to finally have a goal date.

But, as Walkcast’s Tim Querengesser writes over at his website, if we aren’t even willing to consider dropping speed limits we should be the first major Canadian city to drop out of the Vision Zero program.

I would add to that we have to be able to re-design as many crosswalks, intersections and roads as possible too. We spend a lot of money on our streets each year, yet we don’t often incorporate design changes into that work. We could literally be talking about pouring concrete in a slightly different way, to create something like a curb extension, wider sidewalk or separated bike lane. (Our neighbourhood renewal programs offer an excellent opportunity to do this for a handful of neighbourhoods each year.)

In other active transportation news, Edmonton is looking at bringing a bikeshare to the city. That’s a system where you could grab a bike for a ride, paying by credit card or some other membership or automated way. Getting more people riding bikes is not only a great way to see the city, it reduces the number of vehicles on our roads and helps make bike infrastructure an even better use of tax dollars.


Going green

Stop bagging all that grass. image: City of Edmonton

The City is looking at some serious work on a number of the buildings it owns and operates because it’s the single biggest way it can green things up and reduce greenhouse gases. We’re quite far off our targets for reductions but spending a bit of money right now on things like building retrofits, street lights, electric buses and solar power could be the key to being green.

You could do some of this work on your home with new financing from the Alberta government. Be the first on your block with solar panels.

Hey, we can compost again! Sort of! The composter’s roof wasn’t safe during the winter, with the weight of snow on top, but now we’re back to keeping organic waste out of the landfill. A new composter might be running by next winter, but it can’t handle as much waste.

One of the things that might make that smaller composter viable is whether, or when, we stop collecting grass clippings. That’s a lot of organic waste right now, but making people leave it on their lawn not only helps fertilize more grass, it means we might not have to build another big composter.

All that comes as we are reminded our “world-leading” waste management system is a lie. We’re way behind on diverting waste from the landfill and more changes are needed (and coming).

After losing so much ground in the war on dandelions last year, the City is taking a more herbicidal approach right away this spring. The extra $3M we’re spending on dandelions and mowing sports fields more often could knock a year off our 29-year plan to upgrade crosswalks. Just saying.

There’s also a $450M plan to help reduce the stink in some neighbourhoods. Does your neighbourhood smell bad?


Business time

Remembering workers killed. image: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety

Looking at a different kind of green, city councillors will be talking business licenses for marijuana this week, ahead of zoning next week. All kinds of new rules are needed for this industry before legalization hits, and it sounds like marijuana operators are going to be paying more than just about everybody for City licenses and permits. They’ll definitely be paying more than home-based businesses, which are going to see some fees reduced.

There are other regulatory parts to a business owner’s chances at opening, including provincial licensing (like liquor stores), and so far we’re looking at close to 100 potential marijuana shops vying for space in Edmonton and the Metro Region.

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The national day of mourning for people killed on the job was on the weekend, with all kinds of sobering and depressing stats, like 166 Albertans killed. It’s an important day to recognize, since there’s so much we can do to make workplaces safer, and hold bad bosses accountable. Some people remembering those killed while working are trying to make this about more than one day, to bring in more and real changes. We’re also learning that the number of people injured at work is likely well under-reported.

Edmonton is one of the cities with a growing number of people asking “Who makes your clothes?“.

The May issue of Alberta Views looks at jobs, work and labour. And our growing gig economy.

The new reality of work means we need to look for ways to support independent workers today while at the same time pushing back against the egregious, wage-lowering effects of globalization, artificial intelligence and automation.”

Grab a local bite at the mall. image: West Edmonton Mall

We’ve seen local retailers move into spaces at West Edmonton Mall, Londonderry, Southgate and Kingway, and now West Ed is opening up some space for local restaurateurs. There are more and more LGTBQ2S+ fitness options in Edmonton. The Roxy Theatre is going to rise again on 124 Street. This is a fairly big sale of an Edmonton business.

A local business that brought real food to Victoria Park (and golf course and winter activities) is being replaced by an international cafeteria chain because our City’s local food policies don’t seem to match our procurement policies. The new Hallway Cafe at City Hall continues to do great things, outside of make tasty lunches that is. A new food bus is helping to close gaps in getting people in some Edmonton neighbourhoods fresh food.

The Shaw Conference Centre may not be known as the Shaw Conference Centre for much longer.

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