Media Monday Edmonton: Update #170

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

“I really wish I could’ve made Edmonton my home, but the truth is, the air-quality, and the pollution made it impossible for me to stay. There really does need to be more public awareness about the air-quality here, and the horrible pollution with the coal in the refineries.”

And here are some less-local media things worth sharing:

Podcasting in 2004
My podcasting setup circa August 2004 (I still have and use that board actually)

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 8/30/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Legislature Fountain
Legislature Fountain, photo by Dave Sutherland

Upcoming Events

The End of the World
“The End of the World” in Edmonton

Coming up at City Council: August 31 – September 4, 2015

Council is back to Committee meetings this week. Below are a few highlights from the week’s agendas with links to the reports and more information.

City Council Swearing In 2013-2017

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Metro Line Update – Testing Results

The report is not yet available, but Council is slated to receive an update on the results of testing at the Transportation Committee meeting on Wednesday. The City is planning to open the Metro Line LRT on September 6 using a modified approach (slower trains, line of sight operation, etc). Last week Council discussed the auditor’s report.

Wildlife Management

A response to an inquiry by Councillor Walters provides some information on the management of coyotes within the city. Here’s what we learned:

  • 311 received 3600 inquiries/complaints about wildlife in 2013, 4500 in 2014, and 2500 so far in 2015. “It is estimated that coyote-related issues represent the majority of these calls.”
  • The City has started tracking coyote-specific inquiries in June 2015.
  • Research shows that coyotes are the top animal predator in an urban area. They help to reduce the abundance of “pests” like mice, rabbits, and grasshoppers, but they can get too comfortable around people and then become a nuisance.
  • Coyotes are considered a nuisance if they attack a human or animal, pose a risk to public safety, loiter in “safety sensitive locations”, establish a den in residential neighbourhoods, or are sick or incapacitated in residential neighbourhoods or parkland.

Coyote
Coyote near Elk Island Park, photo by Shawn McCready

“While most of the existing and future plans seek to enhance and protect wildlife habitat diversity and reduce human wildlife conflict, there continues to be a growing need for a faster enforcement response, improved educational effort and more support for wildlife research and rehabilitation.”

Project Watch

UPDATE: This item has been moved to September 3.

Project Watch is “a collaborative initiative between the City of Edmonton and Province of Alberta to ensure safe housing conditions for vulnerable individuals and families that are temporarily housed in commercial accommodation.” Mayor Iveson made an inquiry about the program back in June and the report being discussed this week provides background and an update on what Administration has done to help.

Here’s how the City has been involved:

  • Research, inspections, and enforcement for infractions to the Zoning Bylaw 12800.
  • Review of business licenses.
  • Coordination and assistance from the Landlord and Tenant Advisory Board and Housing Programs.
  • Enforcement of the Community Standards Bylaw 14600, to address “any exterior aesthetic deficiencies, including nuisances on land and on buildings.”
  • A Fire Prevention Officer attends all Project Watch inspections and provides public safety and awareness.
  • Inspections and enforcement for Building Safety Codes.

Administration is working to “develop clear communication protocols” with the Edmonton Police Service and the two will continue meeting to support the initiative.

While additional budget is not being requested, Administration is assigning one full-time employee to the project.

Valley Line LRT Street Closures

Wednesday’s Transportation Committee meeting will include a non-statutory public hearing for 38 different road closure bylaws. These closures are intended to “promote the safe interaction of trains, vehicles and pedestrians along the Southeast to West LRT (the ‘Valley Line’) alignment.” The associated documents say that “construction of the Valley Line is scheduled to begin in 2016 and will result in changes to various streets and vehicular access points along the alignment.”

Implications of the Alberta Wetlands Policy in the Edmonton Region

Implementation of the Alberta Wetlands Policy began on June 1, 2015, but there are still plenty of details yet to be released. Council previously recommended that the Mayor write a letter to the Province outlining concerns with the policy. The Province responded acknowledging the concerns and committed to working with the City to address them.

The report identifies a number of implementation issues, including a risk that “if the Province maintains current compensation rates it may result in further loss of wetlands in the City.” Other potential issues include “hydrological impacts that make it difficult to sustain natural wetlands,” “an increased number of wetlands regulated by the Province within the City of Edmonton,” and “the transfer of compensation funds collected in Edmonton and spent on wetland restoration/conservation projects outside of Edmonton represents a flow of money from one municipality to another municipality without any benefit to the citizens of Edmonton.”

Whitemud Wetland
Whitemud Wetland, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Administration has identified three options for addressing recommendations of the Wetland Task Force (which was formed in 2014 to consider the impact of the new policy). The first is to advance work with existing resources, the second is to add a full-time employee and spend $500,000 on “external services” over two years, and the third is to add a full-time employee and spend $700,000 on external services over two years.

Other interesting items

  • The Community Services Advisory Board 2014 Annual Report and the City of Edmonton Youth Council Annual Report will be discussed by Community Services Committee on Monday.
  • Bylaw 17297 will amend the Public Places Bylaw to prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco products.
  • Bylaw 17298 will amend the Community Standards Bylaw to “formalize the creation of a nuisance condition related to backyard fire pit activities.”
  • A response to an inquiry from Councillor Knack provides information on the Home for Life Initiative, part of Age-Friendly Edmonton, “focused on promoting home design features that allow seniors and people with varying abilities to live in their homes independently.”
  • The first Neighbourhood Structure Plan (NSP) with the Decoteau ASP is being developed. Currently identified as the North Neighbourhood, it will include parks, roadways, and sewers as you might expect, but will not include a library, fire station, or police station. Development is slated to start in 2020.
  • A new report outlines the authority of Administration to grant variances as part of Development Permit applications.
  • Bylaw 17353 is an update to the Procedures and Committees Bylaw to ensure compliance with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision on prayer at Council meetings. “On April 15, 2015, the Supreme Court of Canada issued its decision in Mouvement Laique Quebecois v. Saguenay (City) 2015 SCC 16, 2015 CSC 16. The court ruled that municipalities must be neutral in matters of belief and non-belief.”
  • Amendments to the Zoning Bylaw are being considered to reduce parking requirements for minor eating and drinking establishments.
  • Currently you don’t have to be a resident of Edmonton to be appointed to civic agencies, but a new report details a couple of options to change that. Many other municipalities require residency but allow Council to make exceptions.
  • Council will receive a private update on the Vehicle for Hire bylaw on Tuesday. We must be getting close the proposed changes for Uber. UPDATE: This item has been moved to September 3.
  • The only item on the agenda for the Performance Evaluation Committee is a verbal report on Consulting Firm Interviews.

Wrap-up

You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #169

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Media Room at City Hall
Waiting for a news conference to start at City Hall

And here are some less-local media things worth sharing:

  • Another National Post uproar! A column written by Margaret Atwood criticizing Stephen Harper was posted, taken down, then reposted. Why? First the claim was a lack of fact checking, then it was because it didn’t align with the values of the Post and its readers. The issue was dubbed #hairgate on Twitter.
  • “That Conservative Leader Stephen Harper dislikes the media is well known,” writes Jeffrey Simpson in The Globe and Mail. He goes on to say that the party “beats up on the press to raise money” and is successful doing so.
  • Did you read the massive New York Times feature on the culture of Amazon’s workplace? Public Editor Margaret Sullivan examines whether the portrayal was on target or not.
  • The Columbia Journalism Review asks, is it ethical to write about hacked Ashley Madison users? “On Thursday morning, the hosts of an Australian radio show invited listeners to call in if they suspected their partners of cheating. The hosts would then search for the supposed cheaters’ names in the membership rolls of Ashley Madison, a dating Web site that appeals to married adults…” Yeah, it didn’t take long for that to go south (or do they say “go north”, being down under and all?).
  • Another interesting one from CJR: How local papers are looking ‘over the top’ as part of a new model for video. I’ve definitely thought about this in the context of the Edmonton Journal. They’ve been doing more and more audio and video, and it’s good stuff, if you’re willing to deal with the horrible website to launch. But what if they had their own digital streaming channel?
  • Reading long-form journalism is a part of my weekly routine now, but the idea of ‘slow journalism’ takes that to another level, with long pieces written over long periods of time. “Slow journalists measure reporting time in months or years, rather than days, and see the form as something more than just a reboot of long-form narrative nonfiction.”
  • This one is only tangentially about media, but I found it fascinating: The Creative Apocalypse That Wasn’t. “In the digital economy, it was supposed to be impossible to make money by making art. Instead, creative careers are thriving — but in complicated and unexpected ways.”

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 8/23/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Treaty 6 Recognition Day
Premier Rachel Notley, Mayor Don Iveson, Treaty 6 First Nation Grand Chief Tony Alexis, and Chiefs representing the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations

Upcoming Events

DSCF7201
Neat shot of a crane downtown by Dennis Cambly

Who or what is to blame for Edmonton’s Metro Line LRT delays?

Why was the Metro Line LRT delayed and when will it become fully operational as designed and intended? We still don’t know the answer to the latter question, but the reasons for the delay have become more clear thanks to the latest report from the City Auditor.

Metro Line LRT
A train! On the Metro Line!

The Auditor’s report found that project management roles and responsibilities were not clearly defined or understood, opening dates targeted were unrealistic, status reports were not written down or communicated effectively, contract management practices were inadequate, and Council was not sufficiently kept informed. Incredibly, “Council did not receive formal updates on project progress until December 2013 when construction was supposed to be complete.” The report makes three recommendations, all of which Administration has accepted.

The Metro Line is a hot topic in Edmonton right now, and Edmontonians are not happy about it. Lots of folks are looking for someone to blame, and for good reason – the project is more than year behind schedule and we still don’t know when it’ll be “done done” as opposed to “done but”. And while I think holding Administration accountable is going to be a critical part of restoring public confidence in the City’s ability to manage large projects, what’s less clear is who that blame should fall upon.

Dorian Wandzura
Dorian Wandzura

Dorian Wandzura started as the GM of Transportation Services on September 3, 2013. He took over from Bob Boutilier, who retired from the role on July 31, 2013. Formerly a deputy GM with the Toronto Transit Commission, Boutilier was credited with getting “80% of Edmonton’s long term Light Rail Transit network has been designed, planned or constructed” during his tenure. He may now also be credited with leaving the Metro Line project in a state of disarray. While Wandzura has made some mistakes along the way, it’s pretty clear now that he inherited a mess. And not just one actually, as he’s also having to deal with the Walterdale Bridge and 102 Avenue Bridge delays, among other projects.

Bob Boutilier
Bob Boutilier

What about Charles Stolte, the former GM of ETS who was fired in June? It’s not clear exactly why Wandzura let him go, but there’s some suggestion it was because of philosophical differences rather than as a result of delays to the Metro Line. He would no doubt have been involved in the signalling work, but it’s unlikely that he was primarily responsible for the debacle.

ETS Execs
Charles Stolte, right

Then there’s Wayne Mandryk, who has been in charge of LRT Design and Construction since 2008. Until the last major city reorganization in June 2011, his branch was part of a separate department known was Capital Construction. Since then it has been part of Transportation Services. The branch “manages contracts for design and construction, identifies and evaluates project delivery strategies, and coordinates construction with other city departments and utilities.” Until the spring, it was most often Mandryk that handled public communications about the Metro Line. Now Wandzura has been handling that himself. But it doesn’t appear that switch has anything to do with confidence in Mandryk as he’s currently filling Stolte’s role as well until a replacement is found.

Wayne Mandryk
Wayne Mandryk

The Auditor’s report seems to place quite a bit of blame on both Boutilier and Mandryk:

“Schedule risks emerged as planning and procurement activities progressed. However, we found no formal documentation from LRT Design and Construction to the Transportation Services General Manager advising him of emerging issues and potential delays. We were advised by LRT Design and Construction that the culture at the time was to provide verbal rather than written reports.”

Mandryk’s department didn’t provide written reports when they should have but Boutilier would have been most responsible for allowing a culture of verbal updates to flourish.

Simon Farbrother
City Manager Simon Farbrother with Councillor Amarjeet Sohi

So up we go, to the top. City Manager Simon Farbrother started at the City of Edmonton in January 2010. That’s after the Concept Plan for the Metro Line was approved, but before the contracts were awarded and long before work began. Certainly he’s going to have to answer some difficult questions from Council next week, and I expect he’ll be ready to make some changes, but it’s hard to find fault with Farbrother in this case. Throughout his first five years with the City, a key initiative of Farbrother’s has been changing the culture. He’s led a transformation that has made the City more open, creative, and aspirational. Additionally, Boutilier had already been in charge of Transportation for three years by the time Farbrother joined, and so far hiring Wandzura seems to have been a smart move.

Still, the comment Councillor Andrew Knack made this week suggests Farbrother could have done more:

“For such a major city project, there should be a desire for those in the highest (positions), especially if they haven’t heard anything, to get a status update. That’s the discouraging part.”

He’s right. It seems perfectly reasonable to expect the folks in charge to ask for updates. Except that Council doesn’t seem to have asked for updates either, at least not in an official, there’s-a-paper-trail capacity. There were about ten agenda items from mid-2011 through until mid 2013 related to the NAIT LRT, and none of them were about project status.

Mayor Iveson wrote on Monday:

“Not only were the city’s senior managers seemingly out of the loop when contractor performance started to slip in 2011, but City Council was left totally in the dark until late 2013 – which made it all the more difficult for us to hold staff accountable and explain to the public what was going on.”

All of this begs the question, what the heck happened between 2011 and 2013? Why were senior managers and Council so out of the loop on the Metro Line LRT?

Well, there was one thing that pretty much consumed Council and CLT’s attention during that same period of time: the downtown arena.

New Edmonton Arena Construction
Rogers Place rises next to MacEwan LRT Station on the Metro Line

Think about it. The arena debate dominated attention across the city throughout 2011 and 2012. It also included a lot of secret, private meetings between Administration, the Katz Group, and City Council, which plenty of people picked up on and criticized, myself included. That could have contributed to the culture of verbal reporting.

Here’s the timeline:

Most other attention-hogging projects were done by the time problems with Metro Line project started. The Quesnell Bridge expansion was completed in September 2011 and the 23 Avenue Interchange opened the following month. The winter of 2012/2013 was a particularly bad one for potholes and that did attract a lot of attention and criticism, but we have potholes every year.

I’m not saying the downtown arena project is to blame for the Metro Line delays. Correlation does not imply causation, of course. And that project is currently on time and budget because of solid project management, and I don’t want to take anything away from that. But the timeline above fits together just a little too well, doesn’t it?

As Paula Simons wrote in her column on the auditor’s report, “there’s no smoking gun in this audit – just smoke and murk.” There are also a lot of assumptions being made in trying to explain the delays – the splitting of the contracts, the inadequate project management practices, Thales missing deadlines. Maybe the simplest answer is the right one: the City and Council were distracted.

My slightly more complicated take? The arena distraction didn’t help but the biggest issue was that the culture of Transportation Services needed to change, which is happening now that Boutilier is gone and Wandzura is in.

We’ll find out more on Monday afternoon as Council discusses the auditor’s report.

Coming up at City Council: August 24-28, 2015

Council really hit the ground running on Monday with a big discussion on the Metro Line LRT. That topic looks set to dominate the news next week too, as Council discusses the City Auditor’s report on the delayed project. The other topic you’ll probably hear some grumbling about is the report on what to do with our city’s entrance signs. Replacing them could take two years and cost up to $2.5 million!

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Metro Line LRT

As it was last week, the biggest item before Council will no doubt be the Metro Line LRT. On Monday morning Council will start with a special Audit Committee meeting, to discuss the City Auditor’s report on the issue.

Metro Line LRT
Metro Line LRT testing on August 21, 2015 at 106 Avenue and 105 Street, photo by Sharon

There are some pretty shocking things in the report, including the fact that senior management at the City seemed to be completely in the dark about potential delays until late 2013, as Mayor Iveson wrote about. Delays in planning were identified as early as January 2010 and construction delays were identified as early as August 2010, but these delays were not adequately communicated.

One of the key issues identified was the decision in February 2010 to split the Communication Based Train Control (CBTC) signalling contract and the civil construction contract. This meant that the construction activities were not coordinated and that contributed greatly to the delays. On top of that, the contractors involved seem to have agreed to timelines that were unrealistic and unlikely to have been met even if everything else had gone smoothly.

In addition to identifying a number of lessons learned, the Auditor made three recommendations:

  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services ensure that for all major projects consistent principles and methodologies of Contract Administration are adhered to including quality assurance and quality control activities.”
  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services ensure that project roles, responsibilities, lines of communication, management of working relationships, and decision authority levels are clearly defined, assigned, and communicated for all major projects.”
  • “That the General Manager of Transportation Services in conjunction with Financial Services and Utilities’ and the Corporate Centre for Project Management staff develop a standard corporate reporting methodology for major capital projects which includes schedule, scope, and budget status as well as overall risk assessment and quality management.”

City Administration did accept all three recommendations. They’re still going to get grilled hard by Council though.

Entrance Signs

The other item I’m betting will have lots of Edmontonians talking is the update on our city’s entrance signs. I wrote about the history of our current entrance signs here and discussed some thoughts on how they should change here.

Edmonton Entrance Sign

As Council previous directed, all the “City of Champions” placards have been removed. So the signs just say “Welcome to Edmonton” now.

The report identifies four options for changing the signs, ranging from low cost to high cost:

  • Option 1 would range from $150,000 to $175,000 and would replace the existing signs and flower beds with an internally designed sign.
  • Option 2 would place a new facade on the existing sign base, which could be developed internally or externally. The cost could range from $500,000 to $600,000.
  • Option 3 would completely replace the signs with an open competition for the design of the new signs. The cost could range from $1.2 million to $2.5 million, and it could take up to two years for the project to be complete.
  • Option 4 is a hybrid recommendation, where some signs could be cheaper and others could be more expensive.

In part to facilitate construction of Anthony Henday Drive, some signs have been removed over the years, and the report says it could be an option to look at adding some of those back.

Where would the money come from? For option 1, existing operating budgets would be enough to cover it. For any other option, an increase of funding or a delay to other projects would be required.

Employees or External Consultants?

One of the reports on the Utility Committee meeting agenda compares the incremental cost of City employees to the cost of hiring consultants. Here’s the key table:

employee vs consultant
(CEA is the Consulting Engineers of Alberta)

As you can see, the hourly incremental rates for City employees range from 42-51% of the hourly rates for external consultants. The report states that based on the above comparison, “increasing internal capacity could be more cost effective than retaining external consultants.” But not in every case, apparently. “There are situations and specific value to retaining external consultants,” the report says.

The report concludes: “Drainage Services will continue to be vigilant in hiring internally while practicing due diligence when retaining external consultants.”

Jasper Place Area Redevelopment Plan (ARP)

The Jasper Place ARP, Bylaw 17260, is ready for three readings after the public hearing has been held. The ARP covers the neighbourhoods of Britannia Youngstown, Canora, Glenwood, and West Jasper Place, as well as portions of the Stony Plain Road BRZ. Developed over the past two and half years, the Jasper Place ARP “provides guidance on future land use and City investment in Jasper Place, and will help to guide change and growth over the next 15 to 20 years.”

In order for the ARP to become the established planning document for the area, the Britannia/Youngstown Neighbourhood Planning Study, the 100 Avenue Planning Study, and the September 1980 resolution known as “Newman’s Resolution” will all be repealed. Newman’s Resolution states:

“Whereas the large majority of home owners have previously expressed a strong desire to remain single family area, therefore, I move that the area from the lane west of 149 Street to the lane east of 156 Street between 95 Avenue and 100 Avenue remain RF-1, which is the equivalent zoning to what presently exists in the area.”

That’s Kenneth Newman, the last mayor of the Town of Jasper Place. When the town amalgamated with Edmonton in 1964, Newman was elected as an alderman. He retired in 1983. The park at 10802 150 Street is named after him.

jasper place arp

The Jasper Place area will eventually receive three new LRT stations as part of the Valley Line LRT, which provides a great opportunity for transit-oriented development. Other goals of the ARP include: “enhancing the Stony Plain Road commercial corridor as a vibrant, mixed use pedestrian shopping area”, “increasing housing choice by introducing more housing options”, and “providing adequate infrastructure now and in the future.”

Committee Recommendations & Bylaws

There are 11 committee reports on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting, including:

  • Community Services Committee recommends that $1.5 million be transferred to the Whitemud Equine Centre for arena replacement and rehabilitation work. Related to that, the committee recommends that the Whitemud Equine Learning Centre Association be allowed to seek facility naming rights.
  • Community Services Committee recommends that $1.8 million in funding be approved for the Fort Edmonton Park Catering Kitchen Project.
  • Executive Committee recommends that Edmonton’s Community Energy Transition Policy C585 be approved.
  • Transportation Committee recommends that the revised Capital Profile for LRT Escalator & Elevator Renewal be approved. This is not a change in funding, just in approach.

There are 28 bylaws on the agenda for Tuesday’s Council meeting, most of which are for the closure of vehicular access. Others include:

  • Bylaw 17256 – To authorize the City of Edmonton to finance the Francis Winspear Centre for Music parking structure with up to $25 million.
  • Bylaw 17257 – To authorize the City of Edmonton to lend money to the Francis Winspear Centre for Music, which is necessary for the previous bylaw!
  • Bylaw 17154 – To rezone from RF1 to UCRH at 14035 and 14039 106 Avenue NW in Glenora to allow for the development of row housing. Interesting because there has been a lot of opposition to infill in Glenora.

Other interesting items

  • Three city networks – C40, ICLEI, and UCLG – have come together in a worldwide effort called the Compact of Mayors aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for the impacts of climate change. According to a report on the issue, “The City of Edmonton is well-positioned to participate in this initiative.” Participation would not cost us anything, but a separate strategy coming forward during the 2016-2018 budget process would have funding requirements.
  • There’s a recommendation that Councillor Caterina be appointed as the City of Edmonton representative on the AUMA board.
  • There’s a pending motion from Councillor Henderson called Councillor Absence from Regular Council Meetings.
  • There are a bunch of private reports on the agenda for Tuesday, including: an update on Northlands, an Intergovernmental Update on the City Charter, and an update on LRT Advocacy. The report on the Communications Plan for LRT Funding has been delayed until Q1 2016.
  • On the agenda for Monday’s public hearing is an amendment to the Calgary Trail Land Use Study, “to close an undeveloped portion of the east side of Gateway Boulevard immediately between 34 Avenue NW and 38 Avenue NW and to rezone of the lands from (AG) Agricultural Zone to (CHY) Highway Corridor Zone.” This will allow for “the existing berm to be removed and the land to be developed for highway commercial uses.”

Wrap-up

You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #168

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

  • Edmonton Journal editor-in-chief Margo Goodhand and Edmonton Sun editor-in-chief Dave Breakenridge spent some time on Ryan Jespersen’s show on Friday. They kept things pretty civil, reaffirmed they are editorially independent, and said that they aren’t supposed to know much about the business side. On endorsements, both stated the Prentice endorsement was the prerogative of the publisher, Postmedia, even if such endorsements are written locally. They both agreed the most addictive tool for editors is Chartbeat while acknowledging that often it’s clickbait that climbs the charts. On that note, Dave confirms the Sunshine Girl isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. They also shared some thoughts on the future of newspapers and the impact of digital.
  • While they may keep separate editorial teams, the business sides of the papers are getting cozier. Journal subscribers can now add the Sunday Sun for an additional $4.99 per month. I can’t imagine that’ll be a popular offer, but interesting nonetheless.

sunday sun offer

You can follow Edmonton media news on Twitter using the hashtag #yegmedia. For a great overview of the global media landscape, check out Mediagazer.

So, what have I missed? What’s new and interesting in the world of Edmonton media? Let me know!

You can see past Media Monday Edmonton entries here.

Edmonton Notes for 8/16/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Edmonton downtown 6 am
Downtown at 6am, photo by Rogie 09

Upcoming Events

Murder
Murder, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Coming up at City Council: August 17-21, 2015

The Fringe is underway and Council is back to work on Monday which means summer in Edmonton is winding down. Next week we’ll hopefully learn more about the Metro Line LRT, now slated to open with modified service in time for the start of the school year. Council will also be discussing some other contentious topics like Park & Ride at Century Park and the Traffic Shortcutting trials currently underway in Prince Charles and Pleasantview.

Below are links to the meeting agendas for the week as well as some highlighted items and notes.

Meetings this week

You can always see the latest City Council meetings on ShareEdmonton.

Metro Line LRT

Council is slated to receive an update on the Metro Line LRT project on Monday afternoon (it’s a verbal update on the agenda, so no report to look at). It follows news today that the Metro Line LRT will open to public service on September 6:

“Testing a modified approach to Metro Line operations has already begun and ETS training starts Monday,” said Transportation Services General Manager Dorian Wandzura. “We are confident the Metro Line will be carrying passengers for the start of the 2015 school year.”

The line will open with modified service: “line of sight” operation, a 25 km/h speed restriction, headways of 15 minutes between Churchill Station and NAIT Station, and a decrease in capacity along the existing Capital Line. Instead of getting from Churchill Station to NAIT in 7 minutes, it’ll take 14 minutes.

Dorian Wandzura
Transportation Services General Manager Dorian Wandzura

Shortly after the news conference this afternoon, Mayor Iveson cautioned that interim service is “no cause for celebration”:

This news should make Monday’s meeting more productive, in that Council can focus on what went wrong and how to get the line to full operation rather than spending a bunch of time expressing disappointment that the line still won’t be open. At least I hope that’s the case.

On July 31, the City announced that it had initiated an independent safety audit of the Metro Line signalling system. The audit, to be conducted by Rail Safety Consulting, is supposed to provide confidence in the safety of the system as well as certification in order to open the line. The City is still blaming Thales, saying that “Thales has failed to provide some essential documentation required for the City to accept Thales’ safety certification.”

There has been a lot of concern about the quality of the infrastructure and workmanship of the Metro Line LRT, but the City has said issues are just part of doing business and are dealt with during the warranty period. A separate report on warranty periods for transportation contributed assets says “a warranty period of two years is applied to both City and developer-constructed transportation infrastructure to ensure the construction material utilized and the associated workmanship are performing in accordance with City standards and expectations.”

On a somewhat related note, the City is currently running a survey on “how to make Edmonton’s transit system greater in the future.” You can fill it out online, or look for the street team at events around the city (like the Fringe).

Recreation Centre Security

This report comes to us in response to an inquiry made by Councillor Nickel back in April. He wanted to know more about crime in relation to our large recreation centres. Here’s what the report says:

  • “In general, calls for service to major Community Recreation Centre facilities have been relatively stable year-to-year since 2011, with predictable increases corresponding to the opening of new facilities.”
  • The situation is a bit worse this year, however. “Calls for police response to recreation facilities have more than doubled in 2015.”
  • Why? “The increase in calls for service for 2015 is driven almost entirely by calls to Clareview Recreation Centre.”
  • City staff have also reported an increase in security incidents this year, but say that “these increases can be attributed to the opening of Clareview and the Meadows Recreation Centres and the increased attendance.”
  • The report says that we’ve seen this before, with the Terwillegar Community Crecreation Centre in 2011: “there was a similar surge of incidents, followed by declining incident rates in 2013 and 2014, as facility staff implemented changes to improve facility security.”
  • Which begs the question – are the security incidents taking place at the new centres all different than the ones we saw at Terwillegar?
  • So what’s being done about this? As you might expect, “a strategic planning exercise is currently underway to improve facility security and public safety.”
  • An external security audit for the Clareview Community Recreation Centre has also been initiated.

It doesn’t seem like there’s cause for concern here, just growing pains associated with running such large facilities.

Options & Incentives for Preserving Trees on Private Residential Properties

Mature trees are critical for environmental quality and biodiversity and, as the City says, they “contribute to the livability of our neighbourhoods.” But sometimes they need to be removed, such as “when they conflict with the location of utilities or are unhealthy (diseased/dying).” The question is, can we do anything to preserve them?

“There is no requirement to plant trees or shrubs for low density residential development, thus there is no incentive to retain existing vegetation on site,” the report says.

Mature Residential Trees
Mature Residential Trees, photo by City of Edmonton

There are three options put forward by the City to try to address this:

  1. Create a Minimum Planting Requirement for All Low Density Residential Zones
  2. Develop Planting Ratios and Require Mandatory Landscape Plans
  3. Include Tree Protection in the Zoning Bylaw

Those three are roughly in order of complexity and impact. Option 2 would go beyond the minimum requirements outlined in Option 1, while Option 3 offers the greatest certainty about existing mature trees. The removal of any tree over a certain size would require a development permit, under Option 3.

The City recommends Option 1, “as these changes can be implemented quickly and are supported by stakeholders.” The suggestion is to have landscaping requirements similar to the RF4 and RPL zones, which is one tree and two shrubs per dwelling. “This would allow development officers to encourage the retention of existing vegetation as a way to meet the minimum landscaping requirements.” It would not prevent the removal of existing trees, however.

Century Park Site Park & Ride Options

The current lease agreement between the City and Procura Development (which owns the Century Park Park & Ride site) expires in 2020, so the City needs to decide if its wants to build its own park & ride facility or extend the lease on the existing Century Park site. The original lease with Procura was for five years from 2010 to 2015, with an option for an additional five, one-year renewal terms. The proposed park & ride facility would be located at Ellerslie Road and 127 Street and would be operational by the fall of 2019. It is known as the Heritage Valley Park & Ride.

  • The current site has 1,300 parking stalls, 1,000 of which are leased from Procura.
  • One third of the funding needed for the Heritage Valley Park & Ride was approved in the 2015-2018 Capital Budget.
  • Discussions are underway with the Province to secure land for the site that may fall within the Transportation Utility Corridor.
  • City Policy C554 on Park and Ride states such facilities should be “located primarily at sites where more intensive development is not possible or feasible such as the Transportation Utility Corridor or other major utility rights of way or where such development is not expected to occur in the immediate future.” Since we want to make Century Park a TOD site, having a park and ride site there is inconsistent with this policy.
  • Procura is apparently not interested in extending the current lease, but has been open to discussing various options with the City.
  • The Century Park lot “gets 98% full on weekday mornings” with approximately 1,500 people parking there between 6am and 9am to get on the LRT. It gets to 85% capacity by 7am! Those passengers make up 29% of the total passengers who board the LRT during the morning peak period.
  • Looking at all eight park & ride locations in Edmonton, “the average utilization of park and ride sites on a typical weekday is 97% at LRT stations and 60-70% at Transit Centres.”
  • The proposed Heritage Valley Park & Ride would require a shuttle bus service, which would cost $2.1 million annually after five articulated buses are purchased for $4 million.
  • The City also anticipates an increase in bus usage if the Century Park Park & Ride were to go away, which would require another $1 million annually plus the purchase of ten new 40-foot buses for $6 million.
  • The City does own some land at Century Park where a parking structure could be built but an assessment found that “the high cost of construction would require unreasonably high parking fees or significant subsidies from the City in order to recover the high capital and operating cost.”
  • A position paper developed by the City found that “over 50% of park and ride users come from within 8 km of a site” and are “only willing to back track up to 3 km to a park and ride facility.”

Century Park Station & Park and Ride
Century Park, photo by City of Edmonton

The report does not make a recommendation on what to do. Moving the park & ride from Century Park to Heritage Valley is aligned with the City’s existing policies and future direction, but the question is how to pay for it. The remaining funding required for the Heritage Valley Park & Ride is assumed to come from other sources, but the City says Green TRIP is not an option.

Other interesting items

  • The Edmonton Heritage Council’s 2014 Annual Report is available and talks about the City Museum project. The Heritage Council has focused on “building an audience” rather than acquiring a building thus far, but “anticipates a full business case going forward in 2018 in consideration of the 2019-2022 City of Edmonton capital cycle.”
  • The City recommends that $1.8 million be approved to fund the Fort Edmonton Park Catering Kitchen Project.
  • Utility work on Phase 1 of the new Louise McKinney Riverfront Park project is expected to begin this summer, with construction completed by the end of 2016. Phase 1 includes a new accessible pathway and staircase, while phase 2 consists of a full service restaurant and upgrades to existing facilities, coinciding with completion of the Valley Line LRT.
  • The next priority of Edmonton’s Infill Roadmap is “to conduct the review of the Mature Neighbourhood Overlay.” The City also anticipates updating Residential Infill Guidelines when the new MDP is updated in 2018.
  • The City is recommending that Edmonton’s Energy Transition Strategy and Policy, which I wrote about back in March, be approved, that an Energy Transition Advisory Committee be established, and that the Mayor write a letter to the Province to “explore issues through an enhanced Provincial/City working relationship.”
  • PCL Construction Management Inc. is the construction manager for Rogers Place, and the City is recommending that Council approve consolidating previously approved adjacent construction projects under the same agreement to “provide efficiencies” and “coordination and scheduling of the work.”
  • There’s a report on the Feasibility of Re-Establishing a Natural Channel between Mill Creek and the North Saskatchewan River. Basically in order to build freeways in the 1960s we destroyed many streams and creeks resulting in “water pollution, flooding, erosion, and loss of ecological services.” Now we are looking to mitigate these impacts through a practice called “daylighting”.
  • The overall reliability of escalators in LRT stations in 2014 was 85%. ETS has set a goal of 90% by 2016, with at least 87.5% to be achieved for 2015. As of June 30, 2015, the City says overall year-to-date escalator reliability in LRT stations was 89.3%.
  • An update on traffic shortcutting issues, and in particular the trials underway in Prince Charles and Pleasantview, says that a City Policy for Community Traffic Management will be considered in June 2016. The City says that “the short turnaround time anticipated with this new Traffic Shortcutting pilot project will constrain typical public engagement strategies in favour of faster implementation of traffic management measures to better respond to concerns voiced by the communities.” The next report on the trials is expected to go to Transportation Committee on October 7.

Wrap-up

You can keep track of City Council on Twitter using the #yegcc hashtag, and you can listen to or watch any Council meeting live online. You can read my previous coverage of the 2013-2017 City Council here.