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LRT Expansion Planning

Found myself on a comparison rabbit hole today with seeing the Montreal REM opening.

I like that Edmonton is adding and plans for lrt service to several corners of the city. My concern is that I don’t see any line of sight to some of the better system/technology choices out there (at least better in my opinion). Things like automation, grade separation, and platform screen doors aren’t something we can look forward to.

population isn’t everything but Edmonton metro being about 1.6 million is equivalent to Vancouver in 1991 which is 6 years after their first sky train line opened.

Most or all upcoming projects here are extensions of existing lines (Metro & Capital). Looking for some hope that we might someday see a different approach and technology but where would that be?

Just throwing it out there for discussion purposes.

Part of the benefit to the REM is that it is utilizing and reworking a lot of pre-existing rail ROWs in Greater Montreal. Obviously a lot of work went into the REM but it’s why it was able to get up and running so quickly (despite delays).

These useful corridors are a lot more common out east in older cities that would’ve had denser passenger rail networks into hinterlands. But Edmonton (and Calgary) did do this initially with the Capital Line ROW between Churchill and Clareview. I do think the CPR tracks on the southside would be great for an RER-like system. Have a stop at Gov’t Centre, Whyte, 23rd Ave, and the Airport. All-day, 5-7 min frequency. As the CPR Yards get redeveloped, build an infill station at 76th Ave (while also connecting it east-west). This would bypass inevitably long and slow service that extending the Capital Line to the airport would do for tourists and give people access to Whyte and Downtown a lot quicker than driving (f it had speeds like the REM). It also makes IKEA runs a lot more convenient for people in the inner city. I think having a direct (non-looping) connection between Strathcona and Downtown is an overlooked but really vital piece of Edmonton’s rapid transit puzzle.

Gov’t Centre could also serve as an intercity/HSR passenger hub and the tracking could be doubled (one for HSR and one for REM). Tunnel briefly under Whyte Ave/Gateway/Cgy Trail. The HSR would only stop at Gov’t Centre and the Airport.

Eventually there could be a second and third REM-style train. There could be a tunnel under 109th St thru to Blatchford (where another stop at NAIT could happen, by passing the Metro Line loopiness) and then west and east down the old Grand Trunk corridor. To Stony Plain in the west and Elk Island in the east. I think there’d be lower returns on this compared to the south line, but it’s an option, particularly for true regional rail. Going west I could only see stops in Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, and Calder. Maybe Acheson for peak-only service. Going east just Elk Island, Emerald Hills, and maybe Abbottsfield.
 
Yeah. We do feel a step behind. But the valley lines opening will also be transformational, and the NW metro will be a big success soon too I hope. But after that, aside from the small extensions, idk.

A few improvements I’d love to see:

1. More legit express/BRT routes with high quality signage, nice shelters, and dedicated lanes. The gaps in the train network can be filled well with these.
2. Bike garages and lockers at stations to encourage multi modal options.
3. Initiatives to grow ridership and target high potential users. I think a program like “first 6 rides are free with an ARC Card every month” could be cool. Could get way more people using occasionally and for special events. Ideally this builds familiarity that turns some into monthly pass users. Increasing usage and safety too.
4. Major upgrades and cleaning to all downtown stations. Better streetfronts, wayfinding signage, sexy lighting outside that looks attractive in our winter climate (see funicular 🙂), modern and maintained interiors with 0 tolerance for drug use.
5. Rebuild the metro crossing at kingsway to be elevated.
6. Safety & cleaning. Safety & cleaning. Safety & cleaning. Was depressed by how clean Vancouver buses were… it’s just priorities and resources. We can do it.

These are really good. My main worry about the Valley Line Southeast is that it’s still going to be as slow as taking the bus. Which in effect makes it a streetcar, a high-capacity bus on rails. Which is fine within central areas that aren’t super far, but not crosstown/regional connectivity.

My dream with Kingsway is that they rebuild it with an elevated station between 111 and 112 Ave on 106 St, with the Kingsway/111 road crossing elevated of course. Have a direct pedway access to the mall and Glenrose. Then add a pedway across 111 between the Glenrose and Royal Alex.
 
Kingsway isn't the only one. University Avenue also needs to be grade separated (probably an LRT underpass), and I think eventually, the Valley Line will have to be grade-separated (elevated) at Bonnie Doon. Unfortunately, I don't think the Kingsway grade separation will happen until we build out to Campbell Road and put a new OMF there, allowing us to the terminate service between NAIT and MacEwan while Kingsway is redone. Same for University Ave. The new OMF in Heritage Valley needs to be done before service can be cut between McKernan and Health Sciences. I think the the University Avenue grade separation should also be done in conjunction with an extension of the Metro Line as a subway along Whyte Avenue to Bonnie Doon.

I always preferred the idea of re-igniting the 87 Ave alignment for WLRT for Whyte Ave. The City already has long-range plans for a bus bridge across Hawrelak anyway, and this would do a lot for commuting and general traffic between the more residential west end (south of SPR) and the inner southside. Not everything needs to go through downtown, and this would connect Edmonton’s 3 next biggest transit ridership generators (or potential generators if not) — WEM, the UofA, and Whyte. Have this line curve down 178 St to high density Callingwood and all the way to Edgemont. To the east it could loop up from Bonnie Doon to Capilano and head to Bethel on Baseline.
 
Even a BRT route in Strathcona could connect Bonnie Doon and University, and possibly Sherwood Park and St. Albert.

I‘d see BRT as a start for these areas, but they really should have LRT service, especially Strathcona. I think the reason it isn’t prioritized is because the area is very built out and would probably need to have an underground line, and so it’s a lot less cost-effective than an at-grade line to the edges of the city. But we need to also boost service where people already will take transit and the area is much more conducive to living car-free. BRT will help, but I imagine it still being a bit limited, sort of like the 99-B in Vancouver. There’s some interesting similarities between Whyte and Broadway at least from the view of regional transportation.
 
Not to spam with a bunch of posts, but to help visualize what I’m meaning, I have these custom maps of a build-out of rapid transit in Edmonton…

Black Lines: RER System of express-metro service

REM South: stops at YEG, 23rd Ave, Whyte, Gov’t Centre (potentially 41st Ave and 76th Ave too)

REM West: stops at Stony Plain, Spruce Grove, Acheson (peak only), Calder, Blatchford-NAIT, MacEwan, Gov’t Centre

REM East: stops at Elk Island, Emerald Hills, Abbottsfield, Belvedere (would need to move Capital Line station south a bit to make better connections), Blatchford-NAIT, MacEwan, Gov’t Centre

Thicker Colour Lines: LRT

Blue: Capital Line: Horse Hills to South Health

Red: Metro Line: St Albert Centre (potential ext to Villeneuve) to Glenridding (via Terwillegar)

Green: Valley Line: Lewis Farms (potential ext to Secord) to Beaumont

Yellow: Energy Line: Bethel to Wedgewood (potential ext to Uplands), underground from 91 St and Whyte to 111 St and 89 Ave (just before above-ground University Station), brief tunnel under Laurier Hts from just west of 142 St till river crossing, elevated at Miseracordia and WEM where interlining with Valley

Purple: Aurora Line: this one is hard to see because it entirely interlines with Energy and Valley Lines. Basically goes from Bethel to Jasper Place, utilizing existing LRT track but giving folks in Sherwood Park and Gold Bar-Capilano direct LRT to the core without transfer.

Bright Blue: Festival Line: Manning-Gorman to Village Tree loop. This one could effectively start as BRT but would be a nice option for light rail as well. Hits a lot of major nodes that are otherwise left out of the rapid transit question: Westmount Centre/Coronation Park, 124th St, Jasper thru Oliver, Little Italy, Alberta Ave, Northgate, Eaux Claires, etc.

Thinner Colour Lines: BRT

Bright Red: 23 Ave BRT from Leger to 17th St

Light Brown: Ellerslie BRT from Windermere to city edge (assuming communities built out here by then)

White: Davies to Palisades BRT via 99 St, 101 St, Kingsway, 127 St

Teal: 50th St BRT including a new Bus Bridge over the North Saskatchewan (as originally planned for automobiles eons ago)

Orange: 111 Ave BRT from Jasper Place to Abbottsfield

Pink: 118 Ave BRT from NAIT-Blatchford down 118 to Victoria Trail meeting up with Manning-Gorman

Light Green: 82 St BRT from Stadium to Crystallina

Light Purple: 137 BRT from Village Tree to Clareview

The 118 and 137 BRT routes at this stage would prob be the best candidates for LRT upgrade.


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I‘d see BRT as a start for these areas, but they really should have LRT service, especially Strathcona. I think the reason it isn’t prioritized is because the area is very built out and would probably need to have an underground line, and so it’s a lot less cost-effective than an at-grade line to the edges of the city. But we need to also boost service where people already will take transit and the area is much more conducive to living car-free. BRT will help, but I imagine it still being a bit limited, sort of like the 99-B in Vancouver. There’s some interesting similarities between Whyte and Broadway at least from the view of regional transportation.
agreed on broadway. Only challenge is that Broadway is in many ways an extension of downtown because the peninsula is full. Our downtown is far from full, so that’ll give it a lot less demand than the rapid build out that we’ll see of broadway.

I still think whyte ave LRT makes sense though and should be prioritized in the next 10-15 years. But it either means a massive bridge for the 87ave crossing or a huge rebuild of the high level. Both would be great in different ways.
 
agreed on broadway. Only challenge is that Broadway is in many ways an extension of downtown because the peninsula is full. Our downtown is far from full, so that’ll give it a lot less demand than the rapid build out that we’ll see of broadway.

I still think whyte ave LRT makes sense though and should be prioritized in the next 10-15 years. But it either means a massive bridge for the 87ave crossing or a huge rebuild of the high level. Both would be great in different ways.

Yeah, Strathcona and Whyte aren’t extensions of downtown. The valley ensures it’s pretty psychologically and geographically distinct and will be for as long as Edmonton is a thing. But, like Broadway/Fairview, it is an alternative to downtown and the first major non-downtown east-west street to the south of the core, and ends up at the city’s premiere university.

I don’t think whether downtown is built out or not has much of an effect on Strathcona, precisely because they’re so psychologically distinct. There’s a fair amount of traffic between them, as the biggest urban destinations in Edmonton, but they don’t really play off of each other in any big way. Strathcona should have rapid transit regardless of downtown.

And I guarantee having LRT there will do more for the city on the whole than hooking up car-centric Heritage Valley and Castle Downs to LRT. When you’re building to these areas, you’re just building LRT as commuter rail, as the rest of the built environment isn’t conducive to car free or car lite lifestyles. This isn’t the case for LRT in Bonnie Doon, Jasper Place, Alberta Ave, 124th St, or Strathcona/Garneau.

High Level Bridge is a sensitive spot. It’s such an integral landmark but it’s also at the one central area in the river valley where the distance between the tops of the valley is relatively short. Having a full bridge with two-way traffic, LRT, RER, intercity rail, bike lanes, as the ultimate north-south connection would be huge and deal with the hairpin issue we currently have. Maybe there could be a 3rd bridge just to the right of the existing HLB but I don’t know if that’d be too crowded. Existing HLB could be pedestrian/bike only.
 
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Yeah, Strathcona and Whyte aren’t extensions of downtown. The valley ensures it’s pretty psychologically and geographically distinct and will be for as long as Edmonton is a thing. But, like Broadway/Fairview, it is an alternative to downtown and the first major non-downtown east-west street to the south of the core, and ends up at the city’s premiere university.

I don’t think whether downtown is built out or not has much of an effect on Strathcona, precisely because they’re so psychologically distinct. There’s a fair amount of traffic between them, as the biggest urban destinations in Edmonton, but they don’t really play off of each other in any big way. Strathcona should have rapid transit regardless of downtown.

And I guarantee having LRT there will do more for the city on the whole than hooking up car-centric Heritage Valley and Castle Downs to LRT. When you’re building to these areas, you’re just building LRT as commuter rail, as the rest of the built environment isn’t conducive to car free or car lite lifestyles. This isn’t the case for LRT in Bonnie Doon, Jasper Place, Alberta Ave, 124th St, or Strathcona/Garneau.

High Level Bridge is a sensitive spot. It’s such an integral landmark but it’s also at the one central area in the river valley where the distance between the tops of the valley is relatively short. Having a full bridge with two-way traffic, LRT, RER, intercity rail, bike lanes, as the ultimate north-south connection would be huge and deal with the hairpin issue we currently have. Maybe there could be a 3rd bridge just to the right of the existing HLB but I don’t know if that’d be too crowded. Existing HLB could be pedestrian/bike only.
I’d agree on most of this, totally.

But having almost no land left to develop in Vancouver downtown is why Broadway and south false creek is going to pop off the next decade. It’ll be 5+ towers there for every 1 in the peninsula.

Where the supply/demand in Edmonton is very different. There’s so much land in downtown and Whyte to develop, so it’ll likely continue to be 5 north, 2 south for a while. Densifying whyte should be a key goal though… can we please stop building apartments outside the henday.
 
... can we please stop building apartments outside the henday.

I agree with this. But what do you say to someone, for example, who works at a plant or warehouse in an industrial area in the outskirts or even outside the city that is looking for a shorter commute but also to live in something small, easily affordable and more dense?
 
I’d agree on most of this, totally.

But having almost no land left to develop in Vancouver downtown is why Broadway and south false creek is going to pop off the next decade. It’ll be 5+ towers there for every 1 in the peninsula.

Where the supply/demand in Edmonton is very different. There’s so much land in downtown and Whyte to develop, so it’ll likely continue to be 5 north, 2 south for a while. Densifying whyte should be a key goal though… can we please stop building apartments outside the henday.

I don't work anywhere near Whyte Ave or Downtown, by your logic, do I need to live central to live in an apartment? Or if I want to be close to work in the Southwest, I must buy a house??

Believe it or not, there is a world outside of the core.
 
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Ultimately need to give people a reason to spend more on rent/purchases downtown and as Windermere points out our employment in the region is fairly decentralized to getting people to "reverse commute" takes that much more convincing.
 
I’d agree on most of this, totally.

But having almost no land left to develop in Vancouver downtown is why Broadway and south false creek is going to pop off the next decade. It’ll be 5+ towers there for every 1 in the peninsula.

Where the supply/demand in Edmonton is very different. There’s so much land in downtown and Whyte to develop, so it’ll likely continue to be 5 north, 2 south for a while. Densifying whyte should be a key goal though… can we please stop building apartments outside the henday.
The thing with Whyte Ave is that it’s already dense-ish and more importantly is a regional destination. So having it hooked up to crosstown rapid transit would be a huge boon. Broadway hasn’t historically been that for Vancouver (West 4th, maybe). If Downtown could support LRT in the ‘70s, Strathcona definitely can now. More so than Ellerslie Road.
 

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