Train Rider

I left a comment a few days back on the Edmonton Journal, Edmonton Commons blog post “Does Chinatown Actually exist in The Quarters?”.  The Journal’s commenting system doesn’t exactly encourage longer entries, and the limit based on characters not words certainly enforces that.  I started with a longer train of thought and hacked and slashed it down to fit it in.  Anyways, here’s my original, unedited writeup in case somebody finds it to be of interest.

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If you’ve walked down Stony Plain Road in the Jasper Place area, or navigated the commercial strip with a stroller or a wheelchair, you know for sure it’s a “difficult” environment for pedestrians.  Few buildings are set back from narrow sidewaks which are dotted and obstructed by lightstandards and other obstacles.  The business corridor from 170st to 149th and the communities flanking it are the focus of their own revitalization efforts.

The uncertainity and debate following the rejection of the 87th avenue corridor for the West LRT and the subsequent refocus on a northernly route, namely SPR, in ways derailed and chilled those efforts.  Once Council approved Bylaw 15101 establishing the Millwoods-Downtown-Lewis Estates low-floor corridor, the discussion in the westend shifting into how to establish the best possible environment for pedestrians, businesses, residents and revitalization/redevelopment before, during and after construction. 

To that end, about a year and change ago, my Community League (Glenwood) made the decision to push for a bylaw amendment which have split the West LRT between 156st and 149th, with one track taking Stony Plain Road, and the other shifting onto neighboring 100th avenue.

The reasoning was to allow for enhanced public realm, by reducing the demands on SPR’s vehicle corridor, to allow for the possibility of taking space from traffic lanes to widening sidewalks on both sides of the street.  The other issue was that of service to the community.  While understanding the desire by the city to limit the commute time from the distant suburbs to downtown, we were adamant that the route be configured to best serve the established communities it would need to be retrofitted through.  In this regard, we had expressed a strong desire for an additional stop along Stony Plain Road, which was ultimately rejected, primarily on the grounds of property impacts.  It was our hope splitting the route in the area, would allow for an additional stop with limited impacts.

The end result of this brief lobbying was rejection by city administraton, and little discussion at all by City Council.  During this however, I was CC’d on an email by a fellow Community League volunteer in McKernan, who had been extinselvy involved in that communities surface running LRT expansion.  He had proposed using a similar solution in the Chinatown, as a way to mitigate community concerns and local impacts.  That letter called for splitting the line with one on 102 avenue, and the other going a block north onto 102a.

I don’t recall any Council discussion resulting from this, and I don’t know if a compromise solution like this would satisfy local concerns.  I am however, confident saying that the corridor selection process was disjointed, it did suffer from being far too top-down from City Administration, rather than community and commutter up.  I haven’t seen the metrics used by the city used to select 102 avenue, however I have looked at them closely for the westend leg, in particular internal documents acquired through a freedom of information request.  In terms of development potential, the difference in rankings between Stony Plain Road, and 107th avenue were definitely closer than advertised.  In the end though, communties are finding themselfes between a top-down approach to route selection, and a desire to move forward with line quickly, rather than make amendments to it’s course through established neighborhoods and infrastructure.  It’s a difficult situation to be in when you find yourself staring at your leg of the route, and left feeling that it’s harming rather that serving your community as an amenity and a draw for human and financial investment.

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