January 10, 2016

Alberta on our mind …

I ended a recent post mentioning (in passing) Alberta
Thomas Bayer comments that there is no way that at-grade light rail (as an extension of, say, a resurrected streetcar line from Main Street to Granville Island) … referencing the Edmonton LRT-Fail.

A street level LRT through high density neighborhoods is a dumb idea as it is too disruptive to car traffic and takes far too much space.

Ken Ohrn posts a link to the Edmonton LRT story:

Tristan Hopper writes in the Edmonton Journal (and elsewhere) about the on-the-ground effect of the on-the-ground transit line in Edmonton.  Bottom line:  cars have to stop to let trains pass. So, Mr. Hopper seems to say, when not foaming at the mouth in amusing fashion, elevate the trains or put them underground.

But also asks the rather sensible question:

I wonder how the rest of the world survives with at-grade rail in their cities?

Which is also an entirely valid question … as such trains do seem to work just fine in many places – which means either we are somehow unique here (in Canada/Edmonton/Vancouver) … or there is some fundamental detail which wasn’t copied well … a failure again maybe more of Design Thinking than transit substance?
And finally, to round out the post (also from Ken)

“Ya Think the US Has Lotsa Crazy? Hah, Try Alberta.


Admittedly written to amuse and bemuse, here are some deep thinkers who have publicly bashed the NDP in Alberta.  You’ll never guess at their reasoning. Never.  Not unless you go to the same Lunacy U.”


Alert readers will recall how Wildrose Party Finance Critic Derek Fildebrant explained to the Globe and Mail last fall that, as the Globe’s astonished headline writer summarized it, “NDP duped voters by implementing its promises.”

Now Mr. Fildebrandt has been joined in the pantheon of Alberta political aphorists by University of Calgary Professor Barry Cooper, another right-winger who seems to be having trouble coming to terms with last May’s unexpected turn of political events.

On Tuesday, Dr. Cooper exclaimed in his Calgary Herald column that the Alberta New Democrats “have continued to govern as if they actually won the election last spring”!

Admittedly, actually following through with your election promises has become a foreign concept, but it can’t be too surprising. Can it?

…given that up until May 5 last year conservatives of one type or another had won 21 Alberta elections in a row over 80 years without really having to work very hard, it may be possible for us to empathize just a little with Dr. Cooper’s frustration that the cowboy west isn’t being run by his kind of cowboys any more!

Still, Alberta’s Fildebrandt Syndrome sufferers really should brush up on how this democracy thing works.

Here in Alberta, it’s like this: We elect MLAs. The party with the most MLAs gets to form a government. The government gets to implement the policies it campaigned on. In about four years, there will be another election, and voters get to keep the government or change it.

Most of us understand this. It’s been almost nine months now. Surely it’s time for Alberta conservatives to get up to speed!

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  1. I’d point to France as an example of well-designed LRT:
    Having lived in Lyon, I don’t recall any stops requiring a 15 minute wait by cars, as seems to be the case in Edmonton.
    Based on the pictures in the link above, I’m impressed at how well French engineers/planners have integrated LRT systems into cities, from very narrow downtown cores to lower density suburban areas on the outskirts.

    1. Given the signalized pedestrian / bike / commercial traffic crossing density between Main and Alma, I don’t see spending $1.5 billion on a Broadway tram gaining much more ridership over the existing 100,000+ riders packed in like sardines. That’s a lot of public money to essentially change the Number 9 bus wheels to steel.
      Save your money …. or go underground where regional travel can gain another 200,000+ riders not travelling by car, yet still be intimately integrated with local transit at the surface near stations. Going underground merely to alleviate car driver’s tempers is just as ludicrous as putting Number 9s on rails desperately trying to keep up with the crush of passengers while also stopping at eight arterials and 26 secondary signalized crossings. Placing the trams in a dedicated median or giving them signal priority will sever Broadway lengthwise, and that is a solution business owners and street crossers are likely to support.
      In any case, I suggest the two outer lanes of Broadway should be closed off for pedestrian crossings and mini-plazas at stations, and therein encourage a vastly improved pedestrian realm at the surface, especially with a subway. You might be able to do that with a surface tram, but pray tell how it will fit into a 30m wide roadway with stations and sidewalks without getting the traffic down to two lanes and banning all but commercial vehicles. Put pen to paper and try it.
      Those are gorgeous transit vehicles in beautiful ancient cities. But we do not have such an old and stunning architectural and urban design legacy here. Many urbanists and even a few university professors fall into the thought trap that the tram will create a Eurocentric urban context, or at least urge it a little closer. I think we need to find our own solutions throughout the Metro that includes yes trams, but also subways and buses and bike routes and most of all, to establish an economy that will support more walkable communities and meaningful regional architecture with less need to commute longer distances.

  2. The traffic congestion and wait times for example south of UofA at university Avenue are terrible. 51st Ave crossing too is horrible in rush hour, as are numerous crossings of the new Valley Line going north from downtown to NAIT.
    A massive planning failure. Some of these crossings should have been tunneled. The public sector has shifted its cost into the car user by increasing their wait times .. And pollution by idling cars. This is green ? This is sustainable transportation choices ? I’d call it poor transportation planning or poor investment choices.
    Hopefully R learn before we repeat these mistakes in Surrey and Langley. Some folks even suggest an LRT for the Broadway corridor .

    1. “The public sector has shifted its cost to the into [sic] the car driver ….”
      There is tonnes of info out there on the incredible subsidies car drivers have historically received from the public purse. You only need to look for it. The real question is, just how much longer can that be sustained?

  3. I would add the LRT does not have the same travel times as skytrain or metro systems. They don’t seem to have the same pull of traffic from cars to public transit. Vancouver did lots of studies showing that LRT would not work on Broadway. I am not sure if the same studies exist for south of the Fraser? I suspect that votes south of the Fraser are being duped into LRT thinking its better bang for the buck than a skytrain extension.

  4. To be fair to Edmonton, you should use the wait times / speed etc. that would be the case if the system wasn’t broken. From the article above:
    “Part of the problem is that a Thales Canada-designed signalling system continues to malfunction, limiting trains to a top speed of 25 km/h”
    That said, I vastly prefer skytrain myself.

    1. Level crossings in a dense city are a dumb idea to improve traffic flow !
      Rather than building tunnels ( say Univetsity Ave, 51st Abe, 104 or 107 Ave) the public purse shifts these costs on the commuter who pays in time and pollutes the air. That is green and sustainable transportation ? Hopefully we learn in Langley / Surrey.

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