The Downtown LRT Connector should run along 102 Avenue

Today City Council is scheduled to vote on the recommendation from the Transportation & Infrastructure Committee to shift the route of the Downtown LRT Connector from 102 Avenue up to 102A/103 Avenue. I’m opposed to this change for a variety of reasons. Here’s what the Journal’s Editorial Board wrote on February 2:

Responsive government is indeed a positive thing, but Edmonton’s city council has done far too much listening at the expense of decisive action on the LRT file. Councillors approved the current east/west downtown leg along 102nd Avenue in 2010 – yes, two years ago – but on Tuesday the smaller transportation committee voted to recommend a route shift and other changes that could increase the project’s cost by $115 million and delay construction by at least a year to entertain more discussion and allow for further planning.

We know that LRT is our top priority, we know that LRT is vital for our city’s future as an enabling technology for our urban centre, and we know it will only get more expensive to construct over time. Further delaying this important infrastructure is not the correct course of action.

I am certainly not a fan of the way the City does public involvement (though there have been some more positive signs lately) but they did do a lot of consultation on this project. It is disappointing to see that if one group screams loud enough, they can render the rest of the consultation process irrelevant. It sets a dangerous precedent for future LRT construction too.

downtown lrt connector

The route that Transportation officials recommended back in 2010 makes the most sense to me. Here are some of the reasons you can find in the report:

  • 102 Avenue is already more developed than 102A Avenue, which means ridership potential is greater along 102 Avenue.
  • Related to that – all of the destinations are along 102 Avenue! The City notes there are 10 activity centres along 102 versus just 3 along 102A. Churchill Square, the Stanley Milner Library, the Citadel, the Winspear Centre, City Centre, the YMCA, Norquest College, the City Market in the summer, the Edmonton Chinatown Multicultural Centre, etc., are all along 102 Avenue.
  • 102 Avenue is closer to Jasper Avenue, and therefore closer for riders to make connections to other routes. 102 Avenue can connect directly to Churchill Station. I also like that 102 Avenue is half-way between 104 Avenue and Jasper Avenue, which will aid connections to MacEwan, the Arena & Entertainment District, etc.
  • Any option other than 102 Avenue will require an amendment to the Transportation System Bylaw and an amendment to the Capital City Downtown Plan. This would further delay any construction on LRT.

There are three key reasons that Council should vote against changing the route from 102 Avenue:

  1. 102 Avenue is more developed, has more people living and working along it, supports connections to existing transit best, and supports the Capital City Downtown Plan best.
  2. The 102A/103 Avenue route would add significant cost and further delays to the construction of this route.
  3. Changing course now sets a dangerous precedent that could negatively impact further LRT construction.

I strongly urge City Council to vote against the recommendation to change the route from 102 Avenue to 102A/103 Avenue.

UPDATE: Well that was a quick meeting! Council voted to keep the route along 102 Avenue as originally proposed. Excellent news!

  • Jodine Chase

    The solution is keep the route along 102 Avenue, move the portal west, and put a stop as close to 95th and Jasper as possible to serve the futures Quarters build-out. I recognize the Chinese Community/Boyle wants 102A/103… this compromise is also on the table and should be considered to keep the project on schedule, reduce the impact on Boyle and the Chinese community, and to best serve the future Quarters community. This whole thing is a mess, in part because the consultation around 102 vs 102/103 through the downtown did not include anyone east of 97th St. and was rushed, and badly botched. (Please note I’m speaking as an individual observer and resident affected by this route – my community league’s position is to support the wishes of Boyle and the Chinese community.)

  • It’s not just always about where people are now. There’s something to consider about where people will be in the future. If City Council is serious about developing a denser downtown (by that I mean turning those parking lots around 103 Ave, 106-108 St), then the LRT going through there would make perfect sense. 

    There’s also something to be said about putting it a certain distance away to make people WALK. Create pedestrian traffic. If everything is going to be on Jasper and 102 Ave, then nothing will EVER be on 103 Ave. I’m sure you’ve driven there. Something MORE should be there.

    But what’s the point of saying all this. It’s too late. Oh well. Now I’m interested in seeing how they integrate the design in the Chinatown area.

    • There has to be a balance between building the LRT where we think/want development to occur, and building it to places that could already support it. With the upcoming redevelopment of Jasper Avenue and the ongoing growth along 104 Avenue, I think there are lots of reasons that we’ll see development occur along 103 Avenue even without the LRT going there.