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LRT Expansion Planning


City councillors divided on Whyte Avenue LRT route ahead of Monday debate
Two city councillors have different opinions on the latest debate on Edmonton’s LRT network — the proposed Centre LRT route that would take riders down Whyte Avenue.

“Administration is confident the preferred east/west connection of the route will be located on Whyte Avenue and not on 76 Avenue,” said a report that will be brought to council’s executive committee on Monday.

Coun. Ben Henderson’s ward sits to the north of Whyte Avenue.

“(It’s) where the ridership is, we’ve already got a very heavy bus presence going along there,” he said Saturday, adding the alternative proposal to put the Centre LRT along 76 Avenue didn’t make sense. “It took us way further south than you needed to go.”

He doesn’t foresee street width or flow of traffic as barriers to developing the LRT along the road. But he’s concerned about the capacity of intersections for traffic, including where Whyte Avenue connects to Gateway Boulevard and Calgary Trail.

“Given the amount of bus traffic already … it may not make any significant difference,” he said. “There’s a long way to go in terms of design.”

Coun. Mike Nickel, whose ward sits south of Whyte Avenue and stretches east of Gateway Boulevard, said he’s against the project entirely and called the 76 Avenue proposal ludicrous.

“I think (Whyte Avenue) is equally ludicrous,” he said Saturday.

Nickel said bus rapid transit is a better option, touting the lower costs initially compared to building LRT infrastructure. He also said long-term technological changes such as the roll out of self-driving cars needs to be considered.

“The first question that I’m planning to ask is, ‘Should the Valley Line be the last LRT we build in Edmonton?’” he said.

He said hundreds of constituents in his ward have complained about LRT infrastructure — “we were the brunt of the Valley Line … it’s been a struggle” — and argued the proposed Centre LRT line will increase traffic congestion.

“I think it’s a waste of money.”

The first round of public engagement for the Centre LRT ended in August, but more public feedback will be solicited in the coming months, said project manager Satya Gadidasu on Friday.

“Most of the public mentioned Whyte Avenue as their preferred location,” he said.

He said the concept plan for the Centre LRT is slated to be completed in October and would go to council for approval in early 2019. The downtown circulator project would connect neighbourhoods including Bonnie Doon and the University of Alberta.
Travel data suggests LRT not needed in Edmonton's northwest: councillor
Decisions on any new LRT lines must be driven by data and northwest ridership is not high enough to justify a new LRT line, argued Coun. Michael Walters on his way to what could be another difficult mass transit debate Monday.

Pointing to the most recent Regional Household Travel Survey, Walters said the northwest needs a good solution that cuts travel times to downtown to 30 minutes.

But “politics and money aside,” that need can be met with permanent and good-quality bus rapid transit plus a bus-only bridge over Yellowhead Trail and the CN Rail lines, he said in an interview Monday morning.

The southwest needs an LRT extension to serve the Heritage Valley town centre as soon as possible, plus bus rapid transit to the university to take pressure off the existing line.

“The north and south, they’re equal in the sense that every resident deserves good transit service,” said Walters. But the two sides of the city are not equal in terms of population, growth and demand.


Morning traffic patterns in Edmonton, as determined by the most recent Regional Household Travel Survey. The data was released in June 2017. CITY OF EDMONTON
City officials are bringing the overall LRT strategy back to council’s executive committee for a debate Monday afternoon. They are finalizing plans to issue two lines for tender — the west leg of the Valley Line and an extension for the Metro line into the neighbourhood of Blatchford.

That’s why the questions about raising or tunnelling the LRT at key west-end intersections is coming up now.
Councillors ponder merits of LRT vs BRT for Whyte Avenue


A report presented to council suggests preferred connection of the route will be located on Whyte Avenue.

To BRT or not to BRT? That is the question.

Members of city council's executive committee discussed the pros and cons of LRT and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) as part of a larger discussion on the city's LRT expansion plan on Monday.

One current point of contention is what transit solution would work best for Whyte Avenue. Administration has recommeded the avenue as a link for the Centre Line LRT connecting downtown to east Edmonton.

Although in the past council had voted to go with LRT, Mayor Don Iveson says they are discussing putting in BRT as a temporary solution due to feedback from the public.

"There is no doubt that LRT creates more development and positive impact for neighbourhoods at stations and stops than Bus Rapid Transit," Iveson said.

Ward 8 Coun. Ben Henderson is very much in favour of the Centre Line crossing Whyte Avenue instead of BRT.

He says BRT as a short-term alternative to LRT would make sense if the ridership wasn’t there, but that's not the case on Whyte Avenue.

“If you have high ridership corridors, you know, it's maybe a bit more expensive, but it can move way more people with fewer vehicles,” he said.

Developers warn council they're counting on west LRT as rapid bus gets lifeline
Two Beaverbrook partners warned council Monday they’ve already invested $100 million to create a high-density, mixed-use village on the future west LRT line.

Change rails to fancy buses on this route and it will break faith with the development community, councillors heard.

“That significantly changes our investment and that’s a concern to us,” said Salima Kherij, a developer who made a presentation to city council’s executive committee Monday. The west leg is potentially just six months away from procurement; phase one of their West Block development at 142 Street is already under construction.

The debate makes her anxious. “If you’re committing to transit-oriented development, you need certainty.”

Developers trust and will build projects around tracks on the ground, said business partner Ryan Smith. “You’ve got to complete this (LRT) network so people can see the true benefit.”


A rendering of the LRT station at Stony Plain Road and 142 Street with the West Block development. Credit: Inhouse by Beaverbrook
The bus-rapid transit (BRT) versus light rail debate during the election campaign became serious Monday with councillors finally getting the chance to question administration on the options.

During the campaign, some candidates said buses in a dedicated lane are a better option for the west line to improve transit quickly and avoid the traffic snarls of the Metro line.

City officials say that kind of bus infrastructure is 20 per cent less expensive to build but 20 per cent more expensive to operate than a train and has a lower ridership capacity. It also is less likely to inspire the kind of high-density development council says it wants around stations to reduce sprawl.

LRT to West Edmonton Mall not a done deal, council hears

BRT vs LRT: The pros and cons of operating either rapid transit in Edmonton


A bus in a dedicated bus lane stops at Lees Station on Ottawa's Bus Rapid Transit Transitway. Edmonton is considering Bus Rapid Transit as a temporary fix for some LRT networks in the design phase.

City administration is working on a list of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) pros and cons of for city council.

But is one better than the other?

At the city council meeting on Tuesday, Coun. Tim Cartmell asked administration to look into the cost of using BRT temporarily to increase ridership and then switching to LRT on certain routes, specifically for the Valley Line West from downtown to Lewis Farms (which also stops at West Edmonton Mall).

“We are about to embark on spending a big amount of money, so I thought it was appropriate to refresh our memory on BRT,” Cartmell said.

Cartmell says the decision that favoured LRT over BRT was made ten years ago.

He said there are certain communities in Edmonton, like Heritage Valley, that are very car-dependent.

“Once you get people using cars, younger families, university students, when they develop that car-dependent lifestyle, it’s very hard to migrate them away to transit,” he said.

He said in these communities there is no ridership, and it is important to build that ridership using BRT before progressing to LRT.

“It’s important to get these mass-transit solutions out to the edge of the city and begin to develop that (transit) culture.”
Public Engagement Sessions
We invite you to share your feedback and perspectives on the Centre LRT preferred route. The City will collect input and feedback to help identify stop locations, track alignment and how best to ‘fit’ or integrate the LRT into the community.

Date: Thursday February 15, 2018
Location: The Matrix Hotel 10640 100 Avenue

Date: Tuesday February 27, 2018
Location: St. Basil’s Cultural Centre 10819 71 Avenue

Date: Wednesday February 28, 2018
Location: Campus Saint Jean, McMahon Pavillion 8406 Rue Marie-Anne Gaboury

All Sessions
Meeting Time:
Presentation Times: 5pm and 7pm
Proposed route for Whyte Avenue LRT would need new river bridge
A leaked copy of a proposed new route for the central LRT would see a low-floor train run down Whyte Avenue and across a new bridge to downtown.

But it could be built in stages, with a first phase making a direct connection from Bonnie Doon Shopping Centre down Whyte Avenue to the hospital and university.

It would replace buses that are already crammed to capacity during peak hours, said the city’s project manager Satya Gadidasu. “The intent is to access events and business all along Whyte Avenue.”

The map was leaked on Reddit and Connect2Edmonton but city officials confirm it’s accurate. The proposed route is going to several open houses for public comment Feb. 15, 27 and 28.


Map of proposed central circulator LRT.
It’s currently in the route selection phase, which would preserve the right-of-way on streets and avenues for future construction. If city council supports this route, the project moves to the concept design phase with initial cost estimates.

That information will help council determine how to prioritize between the north extension, south extension and central LRT for construction after the west LRT and north extension into Blatchford are built.

The proposed route calls for a low-floor LRT to run from Bonnie Doon mall west to 112 Street, then north to connect with the existing high-floor capital line at the University of Alberta station. Passengers would have to disembark and take an escalator or elevator down.

Proposed Centre LRT plan shows low-floor route with new bridge beside existing bridge
The work has been underway since last June and now planners have mapped out their preferred route for Edmonton’s Centre LRT.

A picture of the proposed LRT route was posted online and the city confirmed to Global News on Wednesday the image was accurate. However, the LRT line’s project manager said where the tracks are situated has yet to be finalized.

“Everything is on the table because we have to evaluate on every location, ‘What are the pros and cons of each option,’ before we say, ‘This is how it will look and function,” Satya Gadidasu told Global News on Wednesday.

The preferred route will be shared with the public for feedback at three upcoming public engagement meetings on Feb. 15, 27 and 28.


A Global News graphic shows the proposed route for Edmonton’s Centre LRT Line.
Tonia Gloweski/ Global News

“The city will continue to explore options and possible approaches to mitigate any issues raised by the public and stakeholders prior to city council approval of the route,” city spokesperson Bethany Padfield said.

The goal of the route is to provide “seamless connections” between downtown, the Alberta legislature, University of Alberta, Strathcona, Bonnie Doon, east Edmonton and the wider LRT network.

The plan calls for a new LRT bridge to connect downtown with the south side of the city.

“As part of the technical analysis, we were evaluating the High Level Bridge as one of the options — in addition to looking for a new bridge — to understand what is the capacity of that bridge because it’s a 100-year-old bridge with historical designation attached to it, and based on the historical designation, in order to accommodate LRT, the structure would need to be rebuilt, which doesn’t fit with the historical designation,” Gadidasu said.

The Centre LRT project manager said a new bridge would need to be designed in such a way as to also protect Edmontonians’ view of the “High Level skyline.”
Whyte Avenue LRT is a HUGE mistake -- here's another reason why. I would venture to say that most of the traffic along Whyte Avenue (not all, just most) is what we call "through traffic" -- traffic from one general area headed for another general area -- in this case, traffic from Sherwood Park, the ex-urbs and the East Edmonton suburbs headed along the most convenient route -- 82nd Avenue -- to the University of Alberta "mini-city" and vise-versa. Bottlenecking Whyte Avenue by reducing lanes for through traffic to accommodate LRT will only make matters worse from a vehicular congestion point of view.
If, however, the LRT route was developed along 76th Avenue (currently NOT a through route), then it would not mix in with the existing vehicle route -- Whyte Avenue -- and it would tend to actually ease through traffic along that track.
Two things would work to improve the east-west connection. If the LRT route extended from Sherwood Park Wye Road at Nottingham Centre and, initially terminated at the south end of the Health Science complex at U. of A. then day-trippers (I love that Beatle's song - but I mean those that have careers and education goals at the University) would be encouraged to ride the LRT, especially with tentacles to downtown and other parts of the City. But, also, by busting through a surface road connection as an alternate to Whyte Avenue, traffic, generally, would be eased, having two alternates for a vehicular means.
Other benefits: 1. Old Strathcona becomes an even greater destination centre that can be served by other means that actually promote slower moving arteries and a more friendly pedestrian and non-motorized vehicle mode. I would still favor a street-car conveyance along Whyte Avenue that enhances and complements the Grandin-to-82nd Avenue experience. The street car in my vision would connect the new Bonnie Doon to the University -- NOT for rapid transit purposes, but, rather, for a pedestrian-enhanced, Old Strathcona experience-enhanced ride, expanding the reach of retail and hospitality along the route (as I have mentioned before, compare this to San Francisco's very popular cable car system). 2. Everyone has forgotten (it seems) about the megalopolis explosion that can occur when the CPR lands south of Whyte are redeveloped. The 76th Avenue LRT route would hit this future development bulls-eye-like in its very centre. It seems that CP is having a difficult time imagining what this new re-use of now barren land ought to encompass; to me, it is a no-brainer -- everything north of 76th Avenue ought to reflect the current-build-out nature of Old Strathcona with stand-alone projects similar to the Raymond Block (the street car coming from Grandin could actually cross Whyte Avenue and -- as yet another point of connection -- meet up with the LRT at 76th Avenue. The extension of Old Strathcona in this southerly direction would help to define a Centre and prevent it from becoming too linear along Whyte. The CP-land south of 76th could be Edmonton's long sought after tech centre, with a focus on Alberta Growth Industries that convert natural resources into value-added end products, particularly benefitting agriculture and forestry. 3. a natural extension for the 76th Avenue LRT cross-river sees this route lining up perfectly with some tourist attractions (and local favorites, too) -- progressing westward, the Whitemud Equestrian Centre, the River Valley (a possible thematic connection to Fort Edmonton Park with an extension of the Steam Engine railway), across river to the Valley Zoo and then uphill (underground, so as to not flip-out the adjacent single-family neighbourhood), connecting to the already planned route for the western leg of LRT from downtown to WEM and beyond -- the connecting node would be 142nd street and 87th Avenue.
In this scenario, West Edmonton is alternatively connected to downtown AND to the University of Alberta AND to Old Strathcona AND to the new CP build-out; Sherwood Park and East Edmonton are alternatively connected to downtown AND to the new CP build-out AND to Old Strathcona AND to the U. of A. AND to the Valley Zoo AND to WEM.
Following the most traveled routes with an LRT line is not ALWAYS the best solution.
From a cost perspective -- instead of a new bridge adjacent to the High Level, build one cross-river at 76th Avenue; instead of disrupting all manner of land uses from downtown to the University and east from there along one of Edmonton's most heavily trafficked routes, put the whole line underground from Sherwood Park to the node at 142nd street and 87th Avenue (with the exception of the river-crossing segment). Double the use of the bridge crossing to include a pedestrian connection that pulls the Valley Zoo and Fort Edmonton Park together. Provide an alternate east-west vehicle route along 76th Avenue. Enhance the McKernan/Belgravia Station to include the underground connection and the intersecting LRT node. Use the 76th Avenue route to force CP to get off their A** and develop contiguous plans that benefit South Edmonton without demeaning either Old Strathcona or the newly vibrant downtown. Provide some oomph to the Sherwood Park town Centre along Wye Road.
Edmonton needs to stop thinking like a confused small town and learn how to best to connect its "natural" City assets.
Sorry, @archited, gotta disagree with you on much of this.

As a growing city, we have to stop worrying about traffic congestion created by single-occupant vehicles, and start giving space over to more efficient modes of transportation that move more people in less space. We especially need to stop worrying about regional traffic demands (again, primarily of the single-occupant-vehicle type), and not let folks who aren't even living or paying property taxes to Edmonton dictate how or what we build in central, established neighbourhoods. Whyte Avenue is very dense with residential and commercial, providing both a source and destination for travelers to feed ridership. 76 Ave does not provide that.

I start getting confused here, though:
I would still favor a street-car conveyance along Whyte Avenue that enhances and complements the Grandin-to-82nd Avenue experience. The street car in my vision would connect the new Bonnie Doon to the University -- NOT for rapid transit purposes, but, rather, for a pedestrian-enhanced, Old Strathcona experience-enhanced ride, expanding the reach of retail and hospitality along the route (as I have mentioned before, compare this to San Francisco's very popular cable car system).

You can have a compromise that is both reasonably rapid and serves to enhance the community it runs through, and this is pretty much what is being proposed. Think Spadina (only narrower in Whyte's case):


We don't have infinite dollars to spend, we're not going to get multiple transit lines built in this area in any appreciable timeframe. This alignment may not serve all purposes perfectly, but it serves many of them in one shot.

As to the CP lands, I don't think we should hold off on building transit plans on CP's whims. It's entirely possible and within their rights for them to sit on the land for decades before doing anything. HOWEVER, when that day comes, this is where the existing ERRS streetcar line could also be expanded to fill that need with some enhancements for improved service and frequency.

A new westward river crossing is intriguing, at least, but not impossible with the 82 Ave alignment either.


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With how much weight the high level was built to support, I wonder if one track worth of ROW could be cantilevered off of the west side of the bridge, expanding the ROW to 4 tracks. I imagine that it would be more economical than another high level.
I like intelligent discourse and rebuttals to my thoughts, so no need to apologize @Daveography -- it makes us all a little keener to see and respect other points of view.

To some of your points:
- I don't mind congestion, traffic or otherwise, if it is to the benefit of the subject area. I only mind it if it is to the detriment of the area through which the congestion is gurgling through. It doesn't help the ambiance of White Avenue to have a major arterial cutting through the middle of it, trying to get from point "A" (outside the area) to point "B" (also outside the area) with as much haste as all manner of constraints will allow. I gave the example of the cable cars in San Francisco where the means and the ends are both enjoyable and a great benefit to the City in which they are employed. If you want to get from Union Square (City Centre) to the Embarcadero in a flash, you take BART, if you want to take your time and enjoy the City and all of its glorious sites along the way, you take the Cable Car. Ditto for Old Strathcona -- ambling Street Cars, maybe some horse-drawn carriages; not aerodynamic trains. What does it serve the pedestrian-paced (or ought-to-be-pedestrian-paced) grand old town if it is the subject of whip-fast, ultra modern conveyances blowing through at maximum speed (that is designed for maximum speed -- I suspect that the line will be so constrained as to make it look like a reverse anachronism)?
- if we "stop worrying about traffic congestion created by single-occupant vehicles" then why plan transit at all. I know you are a cyclist-pure-of-thought-ist, but you are never going to remove motorized vehicles from the road -- as they become self-driving and better designed as single occupant vehicles (smaller and more urban in scale and much more economical to operate), they are not going to disappear; rather, I believe they are going to multiply in numbers. The City of Los Angeles tried an experiment -- they bought quite a number of bicycles and placed them around the downtown core for the ease and benefit of people who wanted to get from one area to another. To the dismay of the City Fathers, almost no-one bought into the idea even though they were "free" to use. The real point here is that it is almost impossible to dictate modes of transportation to people. I am only one person, but I would far rather "tool around" Old Strathcona in a street car -- or walk -- than ride a slick modern train.
- regional transportation modes are much more thoughtful enterprises for planning than are City-centric efforts. Don't forget that LRT is heavily subsidized by both the Province and the Federal Government, and I believe that gives all Albertans a say in how those dollars are spent and to what end, not just Edmonton property owners. And, I suspect that, if you took a poll of ridership via LRT, you might find that most of the souls therein would be renters, not property owners (hence the notion of creating densified rental housing near transit stations).
- apart from the fact that Spadina is at least twice the width of Whyte, look at the bleakness of the photo that you offer up -- no pedestrian appeal whatsoever. Personally, if I were riding transit along this route, my face would be buried in a book and my mind would be nowhere near the area that I was passing through.
- As far as new areas and their potential, I offer up as an example the High Line in NYC. This elevated railway platform was a remnant from the once-prominent meat packing district in New York, long abandoned and running through an area of the City that, certainly by Edmonton standards, was pretty rough. I got involved with the planning group because I respected their vision of what the elevated conveyance could become. A dead area brought to life by a pretty simple idea. Now the abutting property is some of the hottest, value-wise, in Manhattan. The CP lands are a potential "brown-field" ripe for development, and I don't particularly fault CP for taking their time to suss-out possibilities; I just think that the City of Edmonton should be a guiding force. The City is famous for coming to the game either way to late, or with trite little solutions that no one cares about.

@Daveography, you have to try harder to convince me that LRT blasting down Whyte Avenue is even a good afterthought solution.
This a recent quote from ABCtech (just saw an article in the Journal as well--
"Magnovates challenges LRT investment

Just hit pause on the west leg of the Valley Line LRT — that’s the message magnetic-levitation transit entrepreneur Dan Corns has for Edmonton's City council.

The world is on the cusp of a revolution — driverless on-demand shuttles that will make LRT look slow, overbuilt and onerous, said Corns. Build a $2.24-billion rail line to the west end and it might look obsolete before it opens."

This supports what I have been trying to say -- LRT is rapidly becoming outmoded. I mentioned this to Don Iveson (then a Councillor) back in 2009. I can go into great depths explaining the advantages of more modern systems, but here is probably not the forum to do so.
Depends though on if your goal is speed or people per direction per hour, or avoiding intrusive capital works. For the last two, LRT is good.
@darwink -- modern maglev systems are faster, more modular, can move more people, better accommodate demand, are far, far less intrusive vis-a-vis capital works, are less expensive to build out, are completely immune to accidents, are cheaper to operate, and are more comfortable to ride in. The only advantage for LRT over modern maglevs is a nostalgia (somewhat similar to my nostalgia for riding on steam engine rail systems). The big concerns for traffic tie-ups at Bonnie Doon and at 142st. and Stony Plain Rd. would be non-issues for maglevs. Like ABCtech surmised, Alberta/Edmonton could be a leader here, instead of a distant follower.
Well, you have to build 100% grade separated for mag lev, sky train, whatever system you use that isn't LRT. And who has delivered a system like you think would be good? In any case, with grade separation the major cost is not the trains or guide-way, it is the stations, which compared to ground level LRT are likely 50 times the cost for elevated and 100 times for underground.