On Tuesday evening the proposed Concept Plan for the Downtown LRT Connector was presented to the public at a very well attended event. The plan is the next step in the process that really kicked off on June 21 when City Council approved a street-level downtown LRT route. The proposed 2.1 km route will serve as a connector for the future West and Southeast LRT lines, with 5 stops and opportunities for transfers to the existing LRT system in the downtown core. The route runs primarily along 102 Avenue, connecting to the West LRT via 107 Street on 104 Avenue and to the Southeast LRT on 102 Avenue near 96 Street.
The Downtown LRT Connector was mentioned as a catalyst project for the Capital City Downtown Plan more than once. It forms an importance piece of both the six-legged LRT Network Plan and the so-called Downtown-University circulator.
Here’s what it looks like (the purple line):
The Downtown LRT Connector will use low-floor LRT vehicles, which is the style all future LRT development will use (when possible). Low-floor LRT requires less infrastructure and enables step-free, street-level boarding. And yes, low-floor LRT will work in our winter climate!
There are five proposed stops along the route:
- Campus Stop – Located diagonally between 108 Street/104 Avenue and 107 Street/102 Avenue. Land acquisition would be required, including the AADAC building. Potential for development around the stop. Serves MacEwan and NorQuest. Features a third track, which could be used as a staging area to prepare for large events, etc.
- 105/106 Street Stop – Located in between the two streets, where there are currently parking lots. Land acquisition would be required.
- Centre West Stop – Located across from Manulife Place, in between 102 Street and 101 Street. Requires no land acquisition. Would feature dedicated bicycle lanes in both directions.
- Churchill Square Stop – Located across from the Stanley Milner library. Requires no land acquisition. A second set of escalators/elevators would be built on the northwest corner of the 99 Street/102 Avenue intersection. Easy connections to existing LRT.
- Quarters Stop – Requires no land acquisition. Some traffic impacts: 102 Avenue at 96 Street would be closed to through traffic, and a single eastbound lane would be provided from 97 Street to maintain local access.
Here’s a rendering of the Churchill Square stop:
The question & answer session covered a lot of topics. Here are a few notes I took:
- The Downtown LRT Connector would use a different signal system. Rather than an exemption (the current LRT always has right-of-way) the LRT would receive priority, but may hold at stations to allow traffic to clear.
- Buses that currently run along 102 Avenue would of course be re-tooled to feed into the LRT system.
- The bicycle lanes in the concept plan are primarily shared lanes, but there’s the potential for dedicated lanes in the future.
- The location of the Quarters stop is further west than would be ideal, but as it dives into an underground tunnel to join the Southeast LRT there isn’t much flexibility. There are significant grade changes.
I also asked about the City Market, as the route would run right through the middle of it. I was told that the City has already had conversations with the City Market, and that they’re confident they’ll make it work (either spreading out along 102 Avenue a little more, or potentially just leaving everything the way it is…but with a train running through every 15 minutes).
I’m particularly excited for this route, living at 104 Street and 102 Avenue. It’ll mean I’m a block or less from both the existing LRT (at Bay/Enterprise Square) and the new lines (at 105/106 Street). Can’t wait to see it happen!
You can download the Downtown LRT Connector Information Booklet here (PDF).
The Concept Plan will be presented to the Transportation & Public Works Committee at a non-statutory public hearing on December 8, after which it will be forwarded to City Council for review in January 2011. You can check out the Downtown LRT Connector page for more information.