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LRT Expansion Planning

So simply due to cost we should install a system that will ultimately cause more congestion and get worse overtime? Seems like very short sighted views on transit if you ask me.


I don't personally buy the low floor 'neighbourhood integrated' LRT system. For something that should be efficient and quick to move people, its a very poor choice. Every time I have been in Vancouver I've used their transit and the trains were great. Airport to downtown in no time. And on the other side, when I have driven there, sure there is congestion... but never because of the trains.
 
@Das Ponto That's exactly it, though, it's not being designed as a "transit freeway" to quickly whisk people out of and back into the suburbs. It's being built to connect neighbourhoods. But administration has completely lost sight of that fact and are trying once again to have the "best of both worlds." The reality is that what they're now proposing is the worst aspects of both types of systems, as often happens when you keep trying to compromise.

I imagine the mayor and several Councillors will be grilling Admin on how they let it get so far out of hand at the hearing tomorrow.
 
I think Calgary & Edmonton are both in the same boat with their LRT systems: we have some structural advantages that continue to make LRT/transit far more successful and popular than our American counterparts, but fall short of truly trans-formative change of our cities due to similarly structural barriers.

IMO the source of most of the issues lie in 3 areas: land use, transportation planning, politics. These factors are universally found in all cities, but I wanted to draw attention to a few local examples.
  1. Land use: For LRT design, Calgary & Edmonton both have the misfortune of experiencing most of their growth in the car-oriented, single-use, low-density frenzy of the 1960 - 2000s. With everything scaled for the automobile, density discouraged and uses typically separated by significant distances, any LRT project will be at a natural disadvantage. Costs and travel time for riders increase with distances, ridership falls with lower density. As a result projects are costlier and less effective than they could be in other places where uses are mixed. While both cities have placed some effort on dealing with this issue through up-zoning and mixed-use planning, the vestiges of this approach are still influencing policy today, with low-density suburban tract housing still being developed everywhere, parking minimums and infill planning restrictions preventing redevelopment at higher densities, at least at the scale we need for a trans-formative change. Signs of improvement are everywhere, but a drop in the bucket compared to existing and ongoing transit-unfriendly land uses.
  2. Transportation planning: As part of the feedback loop for #1, transportation planning has done next to nothing to reduce car-orentation. Both cities see road expansion as part of a typical LRT project, undermining the competitiveness of the primary investment: the LRT. If every LRT project includes road interchanges and overpasses in all situations, not only is the project much more expensive, the benefits are negated as car travel times are also reduced. Calgary has done this time and time again with it's freeway-based LRT stations: great for ensuring grade separation/transit reliability, but absolutely terrible to change mode share or promote TOD when every road is expanded. This allows a city to have a good LRT, but not a trans-formative one. Edmonton's weird road underpass proposal in an urban corner is the same thing. Put simply, both city's roads departments are too influential, too slow to change and too car-oriented; where even a minor driver inconvenience is seen as requiring a huge, expensive intervention but LRT, pedestrians and cyclists don't get the same treatment.
  3. Politics: not much to say about this one other than it's the grease that oils #1 and #2. By their nature, even the most transit-progressive Calgary and Edmonton councillors have to be incrementalists - to avoid the opposition of suburban, car-oriented voters. Combine incrementalist perspectives with those that simply don't get transit at all, and you often end up in a failure of leadership where administration - LRT planners, transportation planners, land use planners - have little choice but to follow suite. The result is a project with mixed and contradictory vision (e.g. is it an urban LRT, a regional rail system, a metro?)
Vancouver is a nearby example that did better on all fronts. While they did choose Sky Train technology - expensive and designed specifically to preserve driver commute times - they importantly also did not simultaneously expand every road, built countless interchanges and multi-billion dollar ring roads throughout the city. They also aggressively intensified nearly all TOD areas with land use interventions (although arguably not enough given their housing crisis). They were able to do this through continuous and driven political movements to keep it all going forward.
 
City receives funding for Valley and Metro Line LRT expansion
March 11, 2019

The City of Edmonton is one step closer to building two new light rail transit (LRT) extensions following a funding commitment from the federal and provincial governments today.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, Mr. Jon Carson, Member of the Legislative Assembly for Edmonton-Meadowlark, and His Worship Don Iveson, Mayor of Edmonton, announced a combined investment of over $2 billion in both the Valley Line West and the Metro Line Northwest LRT projects.

“Edmonton is one of Canada’s fastest growing cities, and we are planning and building our city with this growth in mind. We are undertaking the most ambitious expansion of our LRT network in our history so we can grow smart and sustainably, and keep more than a million people moving,” said Mayor Iveson. “Today's announcement is a true representation of partnership between all levels of government, a partnership that is needed in order to continue to make valuable investments like these that will benefit the generations to come.”

The Government of Canada is providing over $1 billion for both projects through the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Plan, including approximately $948 million for the Valley Line West LRT and approximately $127 million for the Metro Line Northwest LRT.

The Government of Alberta reaffirmed its commitment of approximately $1.17 billion towards both projects through the Climate Leadership Plan, including approximately $1.04 billion for the Valley Line West LRT and approximately $131 million for the first phase of the Metro Line Northwest LRT.

“Today’s funding commitments will allow the City to move forward with our plans to bring light rail transit to west and northwest Edmonton,” said Linda Cochrane, City Manager, City of Edmonton. “These projects are a major step in growing our LRT network, creating another transportation option for thousands of Edmontonians and providing better connections to where people live, work and play.”

With federal and provincial funding in place, the City can finalize its municipal funding requirements for both projects and bring them to City Council for consideration this spring. The City can also move forward with procuring the contractors that will extend the Valley Line by 14 kilometres from downtown to Lewis Farms in west Edmonton, and the Metro Line by 1.5 kilometres from NAIT into Blatchford.

It will take about one year to select a contractor for the Valley Line West LRT project, and another five to six years to complete construction. It will take about one year to complete design and select a contractor for the Metro Line Northwest LRT extension into Blatchford, and another four years to complete construction and commissioning. Construction on both projects is anticipated to begin as early as 2020.

For more information:
edmonton.ca/valleylinewest
edmonton.ca/metronw
 
Not sure if this is the right thread for this, but I was wondering what everyone's thoughts are about the City Plan, and how they are proposing a BRT connection along Whyte Avenue instead of the planned Central LRT. I personally feel it is a missed opportunity, as the thing I liked most about the previous plan was how the central line allowed for so many alternative routes, such as the festival and heritage line, which would not exist with the new plan. I liked how you could take a train from mill-woods to university and then to west ed, without transfers.
 
The full Mass Transit Strategy report has been released and can be found here. Some major takeaways:

- Centre LRT is no longer a thing (effectively killing the Festival and Energy lines), and Capital Line will not be extended to the airport. Instead there is a new 'Airport Connector' line that reuses the CP corridor, which could also be a precursor to an intercity / HSR alignment.

- Like Calgary, the main focus going forward is on BRT routes providing crosstown (i.e. non-downtown) service. New river crossings are proposed for Whyte/87 Ave, and Gateway / 97 St routes (which could also be extended to the airport as an interim solution for the aforementioned Airport Connector).

- As a result, there is no real central interchange for the network; the LRT lines converge on Churchill but the BRT lines seem to fan out from WEM with University as a secondary hub.

-Neither the gondola nor the streetcar are (rightfully, in my opinion) considered in the strategy. Rapid bus routes are considered but I regard them as part of regular transit (i.e. bus network).

-Regional transit is limited to coach buses, of which the majority terminate at the outer hubs of the city.
 
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So now that I have time, here are some thoughts on the conceptual plans shown in the Mass Transit Strategy and Regional Transit Study. It's worth noting that both were undertaken concurrently, but independent of each other and with very different end-goals. This isn't exactly the right thread to post in but there's no point creating a new one - it is planning for transit expansions, even if not exclusively of the LRT kind.


As might be expected, the Mass Transit Strategy is much more Edmonton-centric - the philosophy is that regional services would terminate at the outskirts of the City, where passengers would then transfer to a network of trunk services that bring them to their final destination (assumed to be somewhere in the City). As far as mass transit goes, there are five 'spokes' to the LRT system (Centre - East LRT being effectively dead) that serve as the backbone of the network. This would be augmented by a BRT network and an airport express service of some sort is also shown, but the mode is unknown. Finally, there is a number of express or frequent buses which I haven't really considered as they function as part of the regular bus network rather than BRT.

MTS Citywide Map.PNGMTS District Map.PNG

The network actually compares rather favourably to Calgary's current rapid transit system with both LRT and BRT (Max seems to be their BRT network going forward, with the 300/301/302 routes eventually phased out by the Green Line). However, Max has a somewhat different focus - in keeping with Calgary's downtown-centric philosophy, it serves mainly as a feeder network to the CTrain and provides links to various inner suburb destinations. This is in contrast to Edmonton which (if the City Plan comes to fruition) will develop as a multi-nodal city: The proposed BRT routes are more spread out, service both urban and suburban centres, and (as I mentioned in an earlier post) appear to have West Edmonton Mall as sort of a hub interchange with a secondary hub at University.

CT-RT Map.PNGMTS Citywide Map.PNG

On the other hand, the Regional Transit Study takes a more holistic view of transit service in Greater Edmonton, and as such regional services transition into inner city express routes once they enter Edmonton's borders. This eliminates a lot of interchanges for potential inter-regional trips but service might be harder to maintain given the relatively high number of very-long routes. The LRT network assumes only existing and shovel-ready projects (Capital line still terminates at Century Park/Clareview, Metro line at Blatchford), and it goes without saying that bus is the predominant mode (at most double decker or articulated) although the document is not prescriptive in that regard.

RTSC Map.PNG

In reality some mix of the two will probably occur, as the bus network redesign and regional transit commission are already underway and will have to be amalgamated somehow. As always, there is the possibility that economic constraints kill any sort of expansion plans.
 
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