Edmonton Notes for May 1, 2016

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Path To The City
Path To The City, photo by Jeff Wallace

Upcoming Events

Training Day
Training Day, photo by Kurt Bauschardt

Coming up at City Council: May 2-6, 2016

The future of Edmonton’s LRT planning and funding will be one of the major topics for Council this week, alongside updates to the Capital Budget and a look at the funding impacts of the Federal budget. The downtown arena will also be before Council again, as there’s a bylaw to increase borrowing through the downtown CRL to make up for the Provincial funding that never materialized (but which was part of the original financial agreement).

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

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

Spring 2016 Supplemental Capital Budget Update

Part of the City’s budget process is to adjust the Capital Budget in the spring “in response to changing project needs, new funding opportunities and to respond to emerging issues and changing priorities.”

“The funding available for reallocation in the Supplemental Capital Budget Adjustment is $34.9 million, and is comprised of $10.3 million in Pay-As-You-Go funding, $20.6 million in Municipal Sustainability Initiative funding and $4 million of Neighbourhood Renewal Program tax levy funding (released from Profile 12-66-1073 Pavement Management Relocation), which will be directed towards the Neighbourhood Renewal funding deficit.”

Of that, $19.5 million is recommended to go toward the 2016 Neighbourhood Renewal Program shortfall (the $4 million plus $15.5 of the MSI funding). That leaves $15.4 million available for reallocation. The City is recommending using the funding as follows:

  • Manning Drive ($5.7 million)
  • St. Andrews Surplus Park ($0.8 million)
  • Bus Fleet Replacement ($4.9 million)
  • Fire – Dispatch System Radio ($1.5 million)
  • EPS – Helicopter Replacement ($2.5 million)

The report also notes that Edmonton is projected to see a $15 million decrease in MSI funding as a result of the 2016-2017 Provincial Budget and that Administration will bring forward a strategy to deal with this. You’ll also find an overview of projected savings, 2015 carry forwards, new profiles recommended for funding, and other information on changes to the budget.

One of the new profiles recommended for funding is Pedestrian Wayfinding (CM-21-6000):

“Edmonton’s streets and parks are envisioned to be vibrant places where citizens and visitors can walk, access public transit, visit local businesses, and live healthy active lives. The provision of accurate, consistent, public information to help people find their way to local destinations is a key element of improving the livability of a City. Funding this $2.6 million profile is recommended to come from two funded Transit profiles: LRT Facilities & Right of Way Renewal (CM-66-3200) & Bus Facilities Renewal (CM-66-3500) and one Information Technology profile Enterprise Applications Growth (CM-18-1508).”

I really hope that funding goes ahead!

Federal Transit Stimulus Update

This report looks at the most recent federal budget, which “announced $60 billion in new infrastructure funding, delivering on the new government’s promise to nearly double infrastructure spending over the next 10 years.” The plan will be implemented in two phases – the first will provide $11.9 billion over five years. Here’s what that means for Edmonton:

  • Edmonton will receive $50,000 in base funding plus about $140 million from the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund.
  • Alberta will receive about $196.7 million from the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund.
  • “Under the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund and Clean Water and Wastewater Fund initiatives, the federal contribution will be up to 50 percent of total eligible costs for projects, with eligible costs expanded to include design, engineering, and other planning costs not currently eligible for federal funding.”
  • “Federal Budget 2016 also announced $250 million for municipal capacity building programs to be managed by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities to provide funding directly to municipalities.”
  • “Removal of the mandatory P3 screen across the New Building Canada Fund, allowing municipalities to determine the best procurement model for their local circumstances.”

The report also identifies some potential projects that could be eligible for funding under these programs. For the Clean Water and Wastewater Fund, the only project identified is the Malcolm Tweddle/Edith Rogers Dry Pond at $20 million. For the Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, twelve projects have been identified:

  1. D.L. MacDonald Transit Yards Traction Power Substation ($5 million)
  2. Future LRT Planning, Phase 1 ($1.5 million)
  3. Future LRT Design Phase 1 ($32.7 million)
  4. Bus Replacement ($10.8 million)
  5. Growth LRVs ($116 million)
  6. Bus Camera Systems ($7 million)
  7. Growth Buses ($47 million)
  8. Bus Priority Signals ($2 million)
  9. Heritage Valley Transit Centre and Park and Ride ($29 million)
  10. Station Lands Pedway ($26 million)
  11. Electric Buses (No cost estimates)
  12. Design for the Refurbishment of Stadium and Coliseum Stations ($2 million)

The next step could be that Council chooses to submit some of these projects for federal funding.

Priorities for Future LRT Funding

Last week Transportation Committee discussed the priorities of future LRT funding. The City is recommending the following order:

  1. Valley Line, Downtown to Lewis Farms (LW-1, LW-2, LW-3)
  2. Metro Line, NAIT to Blatchford North (HNW-1)
  3. Capital Line, Century Park to Ellerslie (HSW-1)
  4. Downtown Circulator, University to Bonnie Doon (LE-1)
  5. Metro Line, Blatchford North to Castle Downs (HNW-2)

The item was referred to Council by the Committee without a recommendation.

Edmonton Light Rail Transit
Edmonton Light Rail Transit, photo by IQRemix

There’s also a report on future LRT concept planning that identifies the remaining projects in order of priority:

  1. Downtown Circulator, Energy Line and Festival Line to City Limits
  2. Valley Line, Mill Woods to Ellerslie Road
  3. Capital Line, Gorman to Edmonton Energy and Technology Park
  4. Capital Line, Heritage Valley Town Centre to the Edmonton International Airport

Administration had identified $1.5 million for LRT concept planning in the 2016-2018 Operating Budget, but Council did not approve it. The service package will be updated and presented at a future supplementary operating budget adjustment.

Other interesting items

  • If Council approves, a Special City Council meeting will be scheduled for August 31 at 1:30pm to hold a non-statutory public hearing on Northlands’ Vision 2020.
  • Councillor Henderson intends to make a motion that would direct the City to investigate becoming a biophilic city, which are “cities that contain abundant nature; they are cities that care about, seek to protect, restore and grow this nature, and that strive to foster deep connections and daily contact with the natural world.” You can learn more here.
  • There’s a recommendation “that the Mayor, on behalf of City Council, write to the Minister of Environment and Parks, to advocate for the development of a regulatory compliance framework for commercial waste haulage and disposal that promotes sound environmental sustainability including incentivizing private haulers.”
  • Council had allocated $50,000 to the Downtown Proud program in 2013, but it was never spent as matching funds were not raised and circumstances changed. The City is now recommending that the money be used to help transition to a new fee-for-service delivery model and to ensure a “living wage” for program workers.
  • Bylaw 17639 would increase the borrowing authority for the downtown arena by about $32 million to replace provincial grant funding that was not secured. This bylaw is ready for first reading only.
  • Bylaw 17589 would designate Phyllis Grocery, located at 10631 96 Street NW, as a Municipal Historic Resource and would allocate funding of $91,822.50 from the Heritage Reserve Fund for the building. “The total estimated cost of the restoration portion of the project is over $183,000.”

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 #200

Wow, 200 updates on Edmonton’s media scene! I did my first weekly roundup back in February 2011:

“Like many others, I’m interested in the continual evolution of journalism and media. And given my passion for Edmonton, I’m particularly interested in that evolution at a local level. Where have we been, and where are we going? What’s next?”

“I’d like to start devoting an entry each Monday to this changing landscape (it’s all about experimentation, right?). Some weeks it’ll be a review of relevant news (like what you see below), other weeks it might be an opinion, or a critique, or an interview, or some statistics, or something I haven’t thought of yet.”

Obviously a lot has changed since that post. The media industry looks very different and I think the line between “traditional media” and “new media” has indeed blurred. Through my weekly updates I’ve chronicled most of the media moves, changes, and experiments that have happened in Edmonton over the last five years. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I hope you’ve found this service useful and interesting. I appreciate all of the tips and suggestions from readers, and I encourage you to keep sending them in!

I plan to keep writing these weekly updates and I also plan to do more experimentation. More on that soon!

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Councillor McKeen in front of the cameras
Councillor McKeen in front of the cameras and microphones

And here is some slightly less local media stuff:

  • From the Globe and Mail: “Ottawa is ready to blow up the rules governing Canada’s $48-billion broadcasting, media and cultural industries, arguing that decades of technological changes and government inaction have left a broken system in need of a revolution.” Apparently everything is on the table for the $47.7 billion a year industry.
  • CBC reporter Connie Walker announced on April 21 that “CBC will now capitalize the words Indigenous, Aboriginal & Native when referring to Indigenous people.”
  • Gannett Co. has offered to buy Tribune Publishing for $815 million. Gannett publishes USA Today and more than 100 other properties, while Tribune owns the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, and 9 other dailies.
  • As a long-time reader of gadget blogs, I find this move by Vox Media really interesting: “Circuit Breaker will be, in the words of The Verge’s editor, Nilay Patel, a ‘classic gadget blog,’ one that publishes news and gossip about technology products at a frenetic pace.”
  • Netflix’s content obligations “soared to $12.3 billion as of the end of the first quarter of 2016, up 26% from a year earlier” due to its global expansion earlier this year.

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 April 24, 2016

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Springtime Skyline Sunset
Springtime Skyline Sunset, photo by Dave Sutherland

Upcoming Events

21 Minutes
21 Minutes, photo by Jeff Wallace

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #199

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley & Finance Minister Joe Ceci on Edmonton AM6154
Premier Rachel Notley and Minister of Finance Joe Ceci at CBC Edmonton, photo by Premier of Alberta

And here is some slightly less local media stuff:

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 April 17, 2016

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

A Whole Mess o' Concrete
A Whole Mess o’ Concrete, photo by Dave Sutherland

Upcoming Events

Why did the Canada Goose cross the road?
Why did the Canada Goose cross the road? To get to the Edmonton Public Library!

Coming up at City Council: April 18-22, 2016

It should be an interesting week at Council with the controversial Mezzo project in Old Strathcona, an update on the 2016-2018 Operating Budget and property tax increases, an analysis of the snow removal program, a new marketing plan for the Edmonton Waste Management Centre, and many other topics on the agenda.

City Hall

Here’s my look at what Council will be discussing in the week ahead.

Meetings this week

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

2016-2018 Supplementary Operating Budget Adjustment

Council approved its first multi-year operating budget in December 2015 and this report provides an update and recommended adjustments now that assessment growth has been finalized. Here’s the overall result:

“With the approval of the recommendations including adjustments in Attachment 1, the average percentage increase of the combined municipal and education residential property tax for 2016 would be 2.8% (2.2% increase for services and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT). In 2017 the property tax increase would be 3.0% (2.4% increase for services and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT) and in 2018 the property tax increase would be 4.6% (2.6% increase for services, 1.4% increase for Neighbourhood Renewal, and 0.6% increase for Valley Line LRT).”

That compares to 3.4% in each of 2016 and 2017 and 4.8% in 2018 as originally approved.

Here are some other highlights from the report:

  • “The increase in tax revenue available from growth over what was approved in the 2016 interim budget is $5.7 million.”
  • “Transit fare revenue is forecasted to be $2.3 million less than the approved budget, mainly as a result of fewer rides due to the economic slowdown.”
  • “The debt servicing costs have been revised to reflect the most current forecasted capital project cash flows and results in the Corporate Expenditure budget decreasing by $0.3 million in 2016, $2.3 million in 2017 and increasing by $1 million in 2018.”
  • “Approval of the adjustments will result in operating budgets for tax-supported operations budgets having revenues and expenditures of $2,559,813,000 in 2016, $2,603,522,000 in 2017, and $2,736,309,000 in 2018.”
  • Updated economic forecasts have resulted in a recommended decrease in revenue for the Belvedere CRL, but an increase for the Downtown and Quarters CRLs.
  • Using the new funding formula, approved funding for EPS will be $322,995,000 in 2016, $335,284,000 in 2017, and $350,113,000 in 2018.

The resulting recommendation is that the 2016 tax levy budget be increased by $5,654,000.

Analysis of Snow Removal Program

It might seem a little odd to be talking about snow removal given the winter we just had, but you know the snow is going to come back with a vengeance next year. This report looks at the main factors that affect snow and ice removal and reviews the efficiency of the program.

So one of the first questions is, how much snow do we typically get? It’s easy to remember: 1-2-3 (about 123 cm annually).

“In an average winter, the city receives 120 cm of snow and there are 11 “snow events” (snowfalls significant enough to require that clearing activities take place).”

snow removal analysis

The next question is, how much do we spend on snow and ice removal?

“The Snow and Ice Control budget has varied substantially over the past decade, ranging from $28 million in 2006 to $61 million in 2015. Actual expenditures have ranged from $35 million (2007) to $74 million (2014) over the same period. In seven of the last ten years, the program’s budget has not covered costs, and nearly $75 milllion has been drawn from the Financial Stabilization Reserve to make up the deficit.”

snow removal analysis

Administration suggests that weather variability, changing service levels, and operational practices and constraints are the three main factors in how much our city spends on snow and ice removal. The number of snow events, the amount of snow that falls, the amount of snowpack that the policy has required, and relying on the private sector to plow major routes are all considerations.

snow removal analysis

The City says it is getting better at snow removal:

“The City’s effectiveness and efficiency in snow and ice control operations (success meeting policy) has improved in the last three years. During the 2013-2014 winter the arterial clearing policy was met 50% of the time, while during the 2014-2015 winter the policy was met 85% of the time. During the 2015-2016 winter season the Snow and Ice Control Policy has been met 100% of the time (note this is only based in one major snow storm).”

But obviously it would be better to avoid having to dip into the stabilization reserve:

“In order to reduce reliance on the Financial Stabilization Reserve, Administration recommends a five year balance window where the Snow and Ice Control budget puts back in the Financial Stabilization Reserve the equivalent amount that it uses during high expenditure years.”

snow removal analysis

While the summer and winter road maintenance programs will all be reviewed as part of the full service review, Administration is not recommending any adjustments to the Snow and Ice Control Budget at this time.

Edmonton Waste Management Centre Marketing Update

In the last quarter of 2015, “a comprehensive marketing plan” was developed for the Waste Management Centre by an external consultant and a full-time marketing and client relations position was filled in November.

“A new visual identity and brand for the Edmonton Waste Management Centre is being developed in alignment with the City’s new visual identity program as part of the marketing plan. The focus will be on positioning the Edmonton Waste Management Centre as a community asset and point of pride. The Edmonton Waste Management Centre is committed to environmental stewardship and customer service, and these two benefits will feature prominently in the Centre’s brand.”

The report notes that “Edmonton’s waste management system is highly regarded” and that “residents ranked waste services in the top three of 24 civic services (along with fire rescue and parks) in combined high importance and high level of satisfaction” in last year’s civic services survey.

The financial impact of the marketing plan, both in terms of costs and targets, will be discussed with Council in private.

Other interesting items

  • Bylaws 17620 and 17621 would amend the Strathcona ARP and approve zoning for the proposed 16 storey building in Old Strathcona known as Mezzo. David Staples wrote that the project is “unusual, unsettling even” but also “essential if Old Strathcona isn’t going to start going downhill in the face of stiff competition.”
  • In response to a question about overtime during the 2016-2018 budget deliberations, a new report says that after a review, Administration “does not support creating additional permanent full-time Full-Time Equivalents as a strategy to reduce overtime expenditures and create net labour savings.”
  • The spring Capital Budget update for Utility Services proposes an overall decrease of $400,000 which works out to a potential utility rate decrease of 4 cents on the typical monthly residential bill.
  • Community Services Committee has recommended that Mayor Iveson, in partnership with Alberta Status of Women, “write a letter to United Nations Women requesting Edmonton’s membership to the Safe Cities and Safe Public Spaces program.”
  • Transportation Committee has recommended that “permit fees for road use, set up and usage of City owned roadway barricades, be waived for block parties within the city, and that the corresponding budget revenues be adjusted accordingly.” Hooray for free block parties!
  • Executive Committee referred the analysis of maintaining, moving, or preserving the Graphic Arts Building and the Artery without a recommendation. Should be a lively discussion.
  • Bylaw 17590 would designate the William Lowes Residence at 9837 84 Avenue NW as a Municipal Historic Resource.
  • Bylaw 17104 would designate the Cameron Block at 10543 97 Street NW as a Municipal Historic Resource.
  • Bylaw 17571 will authorize the City to borrow $14,598,000 to widen Whitemud Drive from 40 Street to 17 Street.

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.

City for Life: Gil Penalosa in Edmonton

Gil Penalosa was in Edmonton tonight to share his thoughts on building successful cities, healthy communities, and happier people. Gil is the founder of Toronto-based 8 80 Cities, chair of the board of World Urban Parks, consultant with Danish firm Gehl Architects, and former Commissioner of Parks & Recreation in Bogota where he led a transformation of that city’s park system and implemented the “new Ciclovia” program that sees nearly 1.5 million people walk, run, skate, and cycle along Bogota’s roads every Sunday. He spent about 90 minutes with a theatre full of people all passionate about making Edmonton a better place for pedestrians and cyclists and ultimately, for everyone.

Gil Penalosa

He started out addressing winter. We’ve had an unusually mild one this year, but normally it’s all Edmontonians talk about. “It’s a mental problem more than anything,” he told us. “There’s no such thing as bad weather if you have the proper clothing!” Gil suggested we probably have 20 horrible days a year, 60 that are pretty cold and not great, but that leaves more than 200 good days. “When you focus on those 20 horrible days, you end up with a bad city 365 days of the year,” he said. I don’t think he’s talking about ignoring our Winter City Strategy – he showed some great examples of winter-friendly architecture – but he is saying that we shouldn’t let winter prevent us from cycling. He noted that we have an average of 123 cm of snow each year. “Over five months, that’s nothing.”

Gil talked about the 8 80 rule of thumb. Think of an 8 year old child you know, then think of an 80 year old person you know, and then ask yourself if it is safe for them to cycle to the park or to cross the intersection. Would they feel safe? If the answer is no, then there’s work to do. And by making our city great for 8 year olds and 80 year olds, it’ll become great for everyone. “We need to stop building cities as if everyone is 30 years old and athletic!”

Gil Penalosa

He talked about Ciclovia and all of the positive examples of change around the world that it has inspired. He talked about the importance of having quality sidewalks and bikeways, because they result in safety and dignity for pedestrians and cyclists. He talked about how many pedestrians are killed by motorists around the world (1 every 2 minutes) and they are incidents, not accidents, because they are preventable. He talked about the need for equity, not equality. He talked about the public health and noted that 1 out of 4 Edmontonians are obese and 1 out of 3 are overweight. And he spent quite a bit of time highlighting “the grey bloom” as he calls it. “Older adults are our biggest wasted resource,” he said. “We need to rethink how to engage them and how to take advantage of what they have to offer!”

We need more walking and cycling in our cities. So why do people spend so much time complaining about potholes? Why don’t they use the energy spent on organizing to fix the potholes on promoting walking and cycling instead? Gil’s theory is that it’s because 20-35% of our cities are the streets. And if you take away all of the private property, streets are 70-90% of the public space. “That belongs to all of us and we need to make use of it,” he said. “Do we want streets for cars or streets for people?”

Gil Penalosa

Gil did provide some solutions to all of these challenges. To tackle health, promote walking and cycling. It’s the only way that cities are able to encourage the 30 minutes of physical activity needed per day to keep us all healthy. To reduce the number of pedestrians killed by vehicles, install pedestrian islands in intersections because they result in 56% fewer fatal incidents. And to encourage more cycling, don’t waste time and money with sharrows, he told us. “Don’t just paint a line, that doesn’t work.” We need high quality, separated paths.

Gil said all of this with an infectious energy and humor. You can get a sense of that by checking out this TEDxCarlton talk he did back in 2011.

In fact, his talk tonight was pretty similar to that, although much longer. It was similar to the many other keynotes and presentations he has done. He’s been spreading this message for more than five years! What should we take from that? Clearly there are a lot of cities in the world to visit to share this message with. Gil told us he has worked in over 200 cities in the last nine years. But maybe also that Edmonton is late to the party. And perhaps, as Gil himself told us repeatedly, that change is hard everywhere.

I left Gil’s talk feeling excited, energized, and optimistic about what we can achieve in Edmonton. But it didn’t take long for the cynical, negative, pessimistic thoughts to return. Close a street to cars, he says. Except I know how much work that is (and continues to be). Don’t waste your time on sharrows, he says. But of course that’s what we have focused on. Take action in 90 days and definitely within five years, he says. Our Bicycle Transportation Plan, imperfect as it was, began in 1992 and was updated in 2009 and yet what have we got to show for it?

On the other hand, every city that Gil highlighted as examples of what can be done probably faced challenges that aren’t too dissimilar from the ones I cited above. “I know what you’re thinking,” Gil said at one point. “Edmonton is different. You’re unique.” He nodded knowingly at the crowd. “Always remember that you are absolutely unique, just like everyone else!” he said, quoting Margaret Mead.

Gil’s core message is that change is hard and you need five things to make it happen:

  • A sense of urgency
  • Political will
  • Doers (people that actually do things)
  • Leadership from throughout the community
  • Citizen engagement

Change is hard was a common message throughout his talk. “When you try to get something done,” Gil said, “CAVE people show up.” That’s “Citizens Against Virtually Everything”. The audience loved that. Later he said to beware of the “citizen cadavers”. What are those? “They’re the people who haven’t done anything for the community so you thought they were dead but then you try to change something and they come back to life!”

In addition to the five things mentioned above, we need a shared vision and a lot of action, Gil told us. Turn challenges into opportunities, and don’t be spectators! “We have to be smarter about using our public assets.”

Paths for People

The event tonight was hosted by Councillor Michael Walters, who wrote earlier this week on his blog:

“Each time I engage Edmontonians in conversations about active transportation, one thing becomes clear – that we need to shift the conversation away from car vs. bike to one about healthy people and healthy communities.”

So, who is Paths for People? They’re activists, as Michael Phair explained tonight. From their about page:

“Paths for People is an enthusiastic and strategic group of community-builders working to improve conditions for bicycling and walking (and any other human-powered transportation) within the City of Edmonton.”

Today the group launched its minimum grid:

“Our vision for Edmonton’s Minimum Grid – a grid of walk/bike routes that would connect 140,000 Edmontonians into and around downtown and the university safely and pleasantly.”

It’s a start.

I’m thrilled to have been invited to participate in tomorrow’s City for Life summit, where “leaders in the Edmonton community will gather with City Councillors and Senior Administration to create a vision document for a healthier, happier, more mobile Edmonton.” I’m positive that we’ll have a constructive, future-looking discussion and I am hopeful that together we’ll find a way to transform that into meaningful, long-lasting change. We need action, not just more talk, because when all is said and done, a lot more is said than done.

EPark has replaced coin parking meters in Edmonton

Edmonton’s last coin parking meter was converted into a new EPark spot on Rice Howard Way today. Councillor Scott McKeen, the City’s GM Operations Dorian Wandzura, and Downtown Business Association Executive Director Jim Taylor were all on hand for a brief ceremony that saw the old meter replaced with a new EPark post cap. Councillor McKeen said he was not sad to see the old parking meters go, nor were the City parking staff who had gathered for the spectacle as they recalled the challenges of carrying money around. The move to the digital EPark system is a sign of the times, and it’s not the first time that parking meters have helped to illustrate Edmonton’s progress.

Councillor Scott McKeen with the last parking meter
Councillor McKeen cradles the last coin parking meter

Our city’s first parking meters, 854 manual winding meters, were installed downtown on July 26, 1948. It cost a nickel to park for an hour, or a penny for 12 minutes. Fines were $1. A few days later, the first parking meter theft in Canada took place in Edmonton as a meter from 101A Avenue near 100 Street was stolen. “The meter contained no more than a few dollars,” the Journal recalled in a piece recognizing the 50th anniversary of parking meters in the city. “In the first week meters operated, the city collected $598.98 in coins, plus ‘a king’s ransom in slugs, plugs and buttons,’ according to newspaper reports.” The City took in about $50,000 in revenue from the parking meters that year.

Toronto became the first Canadian city to install meters accepting dimes in 1952, but Edmonton was doing its share of experimentation at that time too. A Globe and Mail article on the news reported:

“The latest thing in parking meters is being tried in Edmonton. Installed in municipally operated parking lots are meters which during the day take money for parking but at night take 25 cents to keep a car’s motor warm. A coin in the machine sends current through wires which are attached to the motor.”

That story was published on February 6, 1952 so that’s no April Fool’s joke! By 1954, Edmonton’s parking meter tally had grown to about 2,000.

Parking Meter

At some point Edmonton’s parking meters were upgraded to the now more familiar self-winding or electric style. And in 1991, they were upgraded to stop accepting dimes and to start accepting loonies. The Journal reported at the time:

“Before the increase, quarters and dimes covered the 60- to 80-cent-per-hour parking fees but the goods and services tax and the city’s desire to add an extra $300,000 to its $1.8-million yearly parking coffers has changed that.”

There was no shortage of complaints about high parking costs and parking meter enforcement over the years. For instance in 1987, about 30 motocyclists protested against parking meter enforcement by using up almost every spot along a block of Whyte Avenue. Not everyone was so peaceful though. Ray Morin was in charge of the city crew that looked after parking meters, and reflecting on the 50th anniversary in 1998 he told the Journal that about three or so meters were stolen each month. “They take the cement, the works,” he said. Vandalism and abuse of parking officers were also problems for as along as we’ve had parking meters.

City Staff pose with Edmonton's last parking meter
They won’t miss the coin parking meter’s problems

Not everything stayed the same though. When parking meters were first installed downtown, the response from the public was pretty negative. People were upset about having to pay for something they previously got for free. But 50 years later, parking meters were being hailed as convenient, less expensive than parkades, and a way to bring some vibrancy back downtown. “There’s a lot of parking out there, but people want convenience,” Ray Morin told the Journal in 1998. “So we brought in the meters.” Now we’re looking to strike a balance, promoting active transportation options while ensuring downtown is accessible for visitors.

The City did experiment with getting rid of parking meters back in 1995. The small stretch of 103 Avenue between 100 Street and 101 Street had 13 angled parking spots and instead of meters the City installed two ticket dispensing machines at a cost of $10,000 each. The machines were expected to be cheaper to operate than parking meters, but they didn’t last and eventually parking meters were installed.

The new EPark cap is screwed onto the parking meter post
Michael May installs the EPark cap

Ten years later, Impark brought pay-by-cellphone to parking lots in Edmonton. They had a transaction fee of 35 cents, but for many it was worth the convenience. Calgary was developing their parking system at that time and made the switch in 2007. Edmonton borrowed some machines from Calgary for a trial in June 2013, and after Council approval the following year, installed the first 16 EPark machines in October 2015.

EPark

Edmonton used to operate about 3,300 parking meters (159 of which were in the garage under City Hall) and collected nearly $15 million per year. The new EPark system was budgeted at $12 million to implement and is expected to increase revenues to about $22 million a year by 2018. More than 375 EPark machines now located in Edmonton, mostly around downtown, Old Strathcona, and 124 Street. The new system means there’s actually more space for parking (thanks to the removal of the lines) and will be more efficient for the City to operate and enforce. Prices can also be adjusted in response to demand.

Edmonton's last coin parking meter
Edmonton’s last coin parking meter

The final parking meter will be taken to the City Archives for safe keeping. If you want to keep a bit of parking history for yourself, you can buy one of the old meters:

“Citizens wanting to buy an existing parking meter, in ‘as is’ condition, at a cost of $100 per meter, are asked to contact 311 by May 31 to express their interest. The City is also hoping to sell the remainder of the meters to another municipality. The next step in the evolution of parking is the move towards automated enforcement with use of vehicle-mounted cameras later in 2016.”

You can learn more about EPark at the City’s website.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #198

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Edmonton Podcasting Meetup
Justin Jackson & Karen Unland at the Edmonton Podcasting Meetup

And here is some slightly less local media stuff:

  • In her latest social media notes, Linda points to this article about the Snap Pack. “Even as they grasp that their postings can draw scorn, the Snap Pack seems unable to relinquish the habit of social media, and the illusion of image control it affords.”
  • Postmedia has “struck a special board committee to oversee a review of its struggling business.” The news comes just after the company posted a Q2 loss of $225 million. “Faced with a continuing free-fall in print ad returns and an inability, so far, to offset those losses with digital revenue, Postmedia is pushing ahead with deep cost-cutting.”
  • Jim Rutenberg argues in the New York Times that the Panama Papers signal a shift in mainstream journalism: “The official WikiLeaks-ization of mainstream journalism; the next step in the tentative merger between the Fourth Estate, with its relatively restrained conventional journalists, and the Fifth Estate, with the push-the-limits ethos of its blogger, hacker and journo-activist cohort, in the era of gargantuan data breaches.”
  • A coalition of US newspapers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Washington Post are concerned about Brave, “a web browser launched this year by Brendan Eich, the co-founder and former chief executive of Mozilla.” The browser blocks ads and apparently a future update will “introduce a feature that will replace the ads it strips out with others from its own advertising network.”
  • Forget apps, bots are the future. NBC-owned Breaking News is now available as a personalized Slack bot.

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.