Media Monday Edmonton: Update #167

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Finance Minister Joe Ceci 131
Finance Minister Joe Ceci addresses the media today in Edmonton, photo by Premier of Alberta

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 8/9/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

City of Edmonton tower
City of Edmonton tower rising, photo by Jason Woodhead

Upcoming Events

Animethon 22 (2015)
Animethon 22, photo by IQRemix

10 days with Windows 10

Windows 10 was released on July 29 and I was one of the millions who upgraded my PCs right away. I had been running the preview builds for a few months on a test machine as one of Microsoft’s five million or so Windows Insiders, so I knew more or less what to expect. After running Windows 10 for ten days on my main PCs, I’ve found some things I like and some that I don’t. The upgrade process was smooth, Cortana and Continuum are great new features, but Edge is disappointing and OneDrive integration could be improved. Here are my thoughts.

windows 10 hero
This is the new Windows 10 hero image, which you can learn more about here

Upgrading

If you’re running Windows 7 or Windows 8 and have all the latest service packs installed, you can upgrade to Windows 10 for free until July 29, 2016. So should you upgrade and if so, when?

I don’t think there’s any compelling reason to stay on Windows 7 or 8. The design philosophy for Windows 10 seems to have been to combine the best of both its predecessors and for the most part, I think they have succeeded. If you avoided Windows 8 because it took away the Start Menu, you’ll be happy to hear it has returned for Windows 10. And likewise if you enjoyed the touch features of Windows 8, I think you’ll find the approach that Windows 10 takes is familiar, if a little incomplete. Users of both Windows 7 and Windows 8 should feel right at home in Windows 10. It’s new, but it’s still Windows.

If you reserved your upgrade then it’s probably best to wait until you’re notified that the upgrade is ready. That way you can be sure that drivers and other aspects of your computer will continue working properly after the upgrade. If you’re a little more adventurous, you can of course go ahead and upgrade now using this tool.

I got the notification to upgrade right away on one of my PCs and of course went about manually upgrading the rest of them. The only problem I ran into was on my Surface Pro 3, because I had VPN software installed. The good news is that it takes just a couple of clicks and a few minutes to go back to your previous OS, which I ended up doing a few times while troubleshooting. It’s incredibly comforting to know that you can revert back to exactly the way things were before if the upgrade doesn’t go well.

Windows Central has a solid roundup of other upgrade issues you may encounter and how to resolve them.

You should note that not all Windows 7 PCs will be upgradable to Windows 10. They still need to meet the minimum requirements. I tried to upgrade my old Toshiba Portege M200 for example, but of course it didn’t work because just like Windows 8, the PAE, NX, and SSE2 processor features are required for Windows 10. So if you have really old hardware, don’t be surprised if it won’t upgrade. Anything in the last five years should be fine though.

Start

As mentioned, the start menu is back in Windows 10. When you turn your PC on, you’re presented with your desktop rather than the start screen that appeared in Windows 8.1. And when you click the Start button, you now get a more or less familiar looking menu. There’s “all apps” from Windows 7 and also tiles from Windows 8. You can resize the start menu to be skinny like Windows 7 or to take up more of the screen, similar to Windows 8.

start menu
My start menu right now

I like the live tiles, so I have made the start menu on my desktop PC three groups wide. On my Surfaces, where there is less space available, I’ve shrunk this down. If you had groups of live tiles in Windows 8.1 those will be combined into a single group in Windows 10, so you need to reorganize them again. It’s annoying but only takes a few minutes.

My main complaint about the new start menu is the wasted space on the left. It doesn’t seem like “Most used” is actually accurate and there’s an awful lot of blank space between that and the primary commands at the bottom (because I have resized the menu to be taller). It feels like the perfect spot to let me pin a few more things. I wish the tiles for desktop apps looked better too.

On the plus side, opening apps is done the same way it has been since Windows 7: simply press the Windows key, start typing, and hit enter.

Tablet Mode (Continuum)

Windows 7 worked on touch-enabled devices, but it was horrible to use because everything was designed for mouse users. Windows 8 focused on making the touch experience great, but many feel that negatively impacted mouse and keyboard usability. Windows 10 tries to find the middle ground.

The new thing is called Tablet Mode, or Continuum as it also known. If you’re on a touch-enabled device, you can turn on Tablet Mode which expands the start menu to take up the entire screen (kind of like on Windows 8.1), opens apps in full screen mode, and adds a handy back button to the taskbar. When you swipe in from the left, you get the new Task View, which lets you pick from the running apps. And of course the on-screen keyboard pops up as appropriate in this mode. The other big change is that you can swipe an app down from the top to close it, just as you did with Metro apps on Windows 8.

tablet mode
Same start menu, but in Tablet Mode

On devices like the Surface that have a detachable keyboard, you’re prompted to switch in and out of Tablet Mode when you disconnect or reconnect the keyboard. By default Windows will ask you every time but you can tell it to remember your selection too.

You can see a video of how this works here.

After using Tablet Mode for a while, I’m finding I like it a lot more than I thought I would. It’s a really great experience on my Surface Pro 3 and I don’t mind the prompt to switch modes at all. The marketing speak is that it “puts you in control” but I’m finding that to be true, sometimes I want one mode and sometimes I want the other mode and I get to pick when.

Cortana

One of the compelling new features of Windows 10 is Cortana. I’ve been using Cortana on my Windows Phone for a while now and was eagerly awaiting a version on my PCs. Unfortunately Cortana is not yet available in Canada, though Microsoft has promised that’ll happen before the end of the year. If you want to use Cortana now, you can change your region to be the US instead of Canada. The only downside I have found to this is that the Calendar app will display temperatures in Fahrenheit instead of Celsius (the Weather app let’s you choose and the News app still lets you pick Canada as your region).

I’m a big fan of Cortana and the Windows 10 implementation is off to a great start. You can enable an active listening mode so that simply saying “hey Cortana” engages the assistant, or you can simply click the button. Cortana will surface your calendar, news related to your interests, weather, stock prices, and much more. I’ve found the speech recognition to be surprisingly good and am thrilled that Cortana does an increasingly useful list of things, like converting measurements. For anything else, you’ll get kicked out to Bing.

cortana
Cortana telling me about Edmonton and Microsoft

Probably the most useful aspect of Cortana is reminders. You can set reminders by time, place, or person (“remind me to tell Mike congrats when I speak to him next”). It’s very handy to be able to quickly ask Cortana to remind me about something. Unfortunately, reminders don’t currently sync from Windows 10 to Windows Phone 8.1, but that problem will go away as soon as Windows 10 Mobile is released in the fall.

I really like the direction Microsoft is going with Cortana.

OneDrive

One of the biggest differences between Windows 8.1 and Windows 10 is in how OneDrive is handled. In 8.1 we had placeholder files, so you could open up your OneDrive folder and see all of the files there even though they weren’t actually there. If you tried to open one, Windows would magically download the file then launch the correct application. It was pretty handy, because on devices with limited disk space you could see everything without wasting gigabytes of space.

Well in Windows 10 none of that works. Now you have to select which folders you want to sync, and after you’re done choosing, OneDrive does a more traditional sync where the files actually exist on disk. But if you have folders you haven’t chosen to sync, you won’t see those unless you go to OneDrive on the web as there’s no longer a OneDrive app either.

For the most part, this hasn’t bothered me too much. There are some folders that I use all the time so I set them to sync, and others that I use almost exclusively as cloud storage, so I don’t need those on my PCs. Depending on how you have your files organized, this may or may not be an issue. I hope there are improvements on the way though, because it would be nice to have an app again to manage all my files without necessarily syncing them.

The other point to make here is that if you use Office, the placeholders were always unnecessary and so your experience in Windows 10 shouldn’t change much. You can simply open Word, Excel, or PowerPoint and choose your OneDrive files from there without syncing. Same goes for OneNote, it loads your notebooks from OneDrive automatically.

Microsoft Edge

While Windows 10 does ship with Internet Explorer 11, the default browser is a new one called Edge. In theory it is a faster, slimmer, more compliant browser without all of the legacy cruft that IE carried. And while it is those things, it lacks key features right now that make it feel like a step backward in many ways.

edge
My blog in Edge

Let’s start with the things I like. The minimalist interface is great, and I love that there’s an option for a dark theme. I like the integrated reading mode and reading list features. The ability to draw all over a web page and send it to others is also extremely handy as a Surface Pro 3 user. I’m also optimistic about Cortana integration. And…that’s about it. Yes, it renders web pages correctly. But that’s its primary and most important job so I don’t count that as a positive.

There are many, many issues with Edge right now. Simple things like the fact that it won’t remember window locations (so if I open it up, move it to my second monitor, close it, and then open it again, it appears back on my first monitor). More significant things like the fact that back and forward gestures are gone from touch devices, something that made Metro IE a joy to use. Favorites do not sync between PCs like they did with IE. When loading pages in many cases scrolling doesn’t work until the entire page has loaded, which makes it feel frozen or slow. There’s no ability to choose where to save a download, nor is there a proper download manager that will continue when the browser is closed. Actually you can’t even choose whether or not to start a download, if you click a link to a file it just downloads it. You can’t hold the back button down to access recent history. There are no jumplist options, so you can’t right-click on the taskbar icon and start an InPrivate window, for instance. The list goes on, as you’ll see in the Windows Feedback app. Edge is half-baked at best.

I want to like Edge, but it’s just not there yet. Hopefully some of these shortcomings are addressed in an upcoming update. And I know Microsoft has already said that some features would be coming in the fall, like support for extensions. I’m using it day-to-day for now, but if it doesn’t improve quickly I may have to switch.

Also: I think it’s pretty ridiculous how many “reviews” of Edge I have seen that are positive, apparently just because the reviewer has some hate for IE. Have you actually used IE11? It’s a good browser.

Other things I like

  • Dark theme. I like that Windows 10 by default has a dark look to it, and I hope that this is expanded on in the future. You can of course change the color to suit your mood.
  • Task View (WIN+TAB) I know that OS X users won’t be impressed as they’ve had Mission Control (Expose) for a while now, but the new Task View is fantastic. You can still Alt-Tab of course to get to your apps as you always have, but Task View is critical for touch devices and works well.
  • Multiple desktops. I guess this is a bit of a power user feature, but having the ability to turn on multiple desktops baked into Windows is a win. I can keep my email, notes, and other productivity stuff on one desktop and my development apps on another. You can switch between them using Task View, or by pressing WIN+CRTL+(RIGHT/LEFT).
  • Feedback app. Have a problem? Don’t like something? Fire up the Windows Feedback app and see if someone has already reported it. You can upvote things or you can submit your own feedback. Hopefully Microsoft acts on all this feedback quickly.
  • Groove Music. It’s basically the same as the old Xbox Music app, but with a new name (which I like) that hopefully means it can stand on its own (this is a good sign).

task view
Task View is pretty great

Other things I don’t like

  • Too much white. There’s no contrast anymore! File Explorer is blindingly white for instance, and most Win32 apps now have all-white title bars and menu structures. Some color would be much appreciated.
  • Lack of features in Mail. It’s inexcusable that with an apparent focus on keyboard and mouse users, the Mail app in Windows 10 doesn’t let you select multiple messages using CRTL+SHIFT+ARROW like pretty much every other app in history does. There’s a long list of other limitations too (switching between accounts feels half-baked, for instance). Outlook, it is not.
  • Battery life. I haven’t measured it, but anecdotally the battery life on my Surface Pro 3 seems to be maybe slightly less than it was with Windows 8.1. But on my original Surface Pro, it’s abysmal. There’s definitely room for improvement.
  • Volume mixer still needs work. I was really hoping for change here, but no such luck. Some apps have individual volume controls, but others (like Songza) do not. It’s annoying. I want better control over this!
  • Minor bugs. There are still little annoying bugs all over the place. On my desktop, choosing what apps to show on the lock screen doesn’t work. On my Surface, the Mail live tile never seems to update. Once or twice in tablet mode Windows has seemed to get stuck in right-click mode, requiring a logoff to fix. That kind of thing. If you’re concerned, wait til the fall when I’m sure these and other issues will have been largely addressed.

Xbox, Phone, and beyond

Windows 10 is not just a desktop OS, it will also run on a variety of other devices. The user interfaces may look different, but the core is the same as are the services that run atop the OS. By the end of the year, Windows 10 variants will be released for the Xbox One and for Windows Phone devices. I’m very much looking forward to Cortana on my Xbox, not to mention an update to my Lumia to better align it with my PC.

Yes I have a slight bias toward Microsoft products, but Windows 10 has still impressed me, and it’s only going to get better from here. I absolutely think you should upgrade!

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #166

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

The Bear at Heritage Festival
100.3 The Bear had a big setup at Heritage Festival

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 8/2/2015

Happy long weekend! Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

Federal Building Plaza Fountains

Upcoming Events

AE3R6229
Panamerican Junior Athletics Championships, photo by Don Voaklander

Transforming the Edmonton International Airport into a destination

When was the last time you lingered – by choice – at the Edmonton International Airport? In the future, you might.

New EIA Air Traffic Control Tower

Earlier this month I attended a tour of the Edmonton International Airport called Taste of EIA with Sharon and Rebecca. We spent the evening eating, sampling some of what the airport has to offer passengers who aren’t rushing to catch their flight. If you’re more interested in hearing about the food, be sure to check out their posts. I’ll touch on it, but I’m going to focus more on how Taste of EIA fits into the bigger strategy for the airport.

EIA has set an “ambitious goal” of reaching 12 million passengers by 2020, according to its 2015-2020 Strategic Plan (PDF). That is ahead of third party projections of 11 million, but seems achievable if recent increases continue (as of June, numbers for 2015 are slightly behind the same time last year).

EIA Passenger Statistics
Stats via EIA, and do not count fixed base operators (FBO) passengers

You might be tempted to compare EIA to YYC, which surpassed 12 million passengers back in 2007. And while passenger traffic at EIA has been growing quickly, so is passenger traffic in Calgary. It seems unlikely that EIA is going to surpass or even compete with YYC anytime soon, so the strategy needs to be different.

EIA wants to become a destination, by focusing on passengers, creating exceptional customer experiences, and by developing non-aeronautical initiatives. You can see the building blocks coming together to make that happen. There’s the Renaissance Hotel at EIA so you can stay at the airport. There’s “over 60 shops and restaurants” available now to passengers. There’s the extensive parking options to make coming and going easier. And there’s the growing list of services and amenities, like free wi-fi, banking, storage, and plenty of power outlets.

Taste of EIA

So can it work?

I’ll admit I’m the kind of traveler who likes to arrive as close to departure as possible, at least when I’m traveling on my own. I’ve heard my name called for final boarding on a few occasions. My goal is generally to spend as little time as possible in airports – I just want to get in and get out. There have been some exceptions, however. The last time I flew to the US I went early because I knew I could get some work done with free wi-fi, Starbucks, and comfortable seating on the other side of security. I’ve never really thought about going to have a meal first though.

Taste of EIA

On the night we visited for Taste of EIA we ate at three places: Houston Steak & Ribs, Belgian Beer Cafe, and Cookies by George. Definitely the latter is my usual kind of airport stop, a quick coffee and a cookie suit me fine. But if I wanted to linger, I’d consider stopping at Houston, if for no other reason than the view (it looks out on the runways). I didn’t find the food particularly unique, but the sliders were good and came with delicious sweet potato fries. I’d order those again.

Taste of EIA

But will I really choose to go early and eat? I’m not sure. Maybe with Sharon.

I suppose it would help to sign up for EIA Rewards which offers members 25% discounts at the Plaza Premium Lounge and monthly discounts for parking, shopping, and dining. You can also win prizes like free parking or even flights. The program is free to join and is just another way that EIA is working to attract regular patrons to help increase non-aeronautical revenue.

Another way they are hoping to increase revenue is by adopting the “aerotropolis” model of commercial development (just like in Vancouver, Memphis, and Amsterdam).

“EIA is one of two Canadian airports to adopt the ‘aerotropolis’ concept. We are now transforming EIA from an ‘emerging aerotropolis’ to an ‘operational aerotropolis’ through developments such as the Cargo Village and Highway Commercial.”

Think of the aerotropolis model as a mini commercial city, but with the airport as the core. For EIA, it means expansion of the Cargo Village, the development of an office campus, possibly another hotel, light industrial activity, and other retail opportunities. They might even build a pet hotel!

Outlet Collection at Niagara
Walking into Outlet Collection at Niagara

The big project you’ve already heard about is the Highway Commercial, which refers to the proposed, 415,000-square-foot outlet mall that will be built by Ivanhoé Cambridge (the developers behind CrossIron Mills) next to Highway 2. That shopping centre will be serviced by a shuttle from the airport and is slated to open in the fall of 2017. I’m hopeful that it’ll be similar to the Outlet Collection at Niagara in terms of design, with lots of open, outdoor space.

But that’s a future project and of course by being outside the airport it’ll be open to anyone, not just passengers. Still, it could be another reason to spend time and money at EIA. And that’s ultimately what they’re after in the quest to become a destination.

In the meantime, there are plenty of shops and restaurants at EIA for you to experience. If you give yourself the time to do so, of course!

You can see more photos from Taste of EIA here.

Edmonton needs to keep pushing for LRT funding

With major funding announcements over the last few weeks for public transit in Toronto, Ottawa, and Calgary, many Edmontonians are wondering when our election handout will appear. Some are even suggesting that Edmonton is being shortchanged by the federal government when comparing previous funding commitments to the most recent ones. Mayor Iveson tweeted “no worries” and promised that City Council is “not done asking” for more LRT funding.

Einstein's Train
Photo by Mark Iocchelli

Let’s recap the funding announcements

The total cost of Stage 1 of the Valley Line LRT (Mill Woods to Downtown) is about $1.8 billion, with $800 million coming from the City, $600 million coming from the Province, and $400 million coming from the federal government.

The first federal contribution of $250 million from P3 Canada was made back in March 2013. Nearly a year later, the new Building Canada Fund was introduced which is expected to cover the additional $150 million needed from the federal government. Then in March 2014, the Province committed its $600 million contribution to the project. It consists of $250 million in GreenTRIP funding, $200 million in an interest-free loan, and $150 million to match the federal government’s Building Canada contribution.

In April 2015, the federal government unveiled its budget, called Economic Action Plan 2015. The budget included a new Public Transit Fund that would provide $750 million over two years starting in 2017-2018, and $1 billion annually thereafter.

“Large cities in Canada depend on public transit infrastructure to facilitate the mobility of people and goods and support economic development. Strong and efficient public transit networks help get people to their jobs, students to class and all citizens out in their community to see family and friends. Public transit also helps to reduce overall urban congestion, which helps to get goods to markets faster and supports productive and growing cities.”

Further details were released in June:

“In order to be eligible for support under the PTF, projects must have a minimum of $1 billion in total estimated eligible costs. Federal contributions under the fund will be up to one-third of the total eligible costs and will lever the expertise, ingenuity, and financing of the private sector and alternative funding mechanisms.”

They also announced that federal support provided through the P3 Canada Fund “will increase from 25 to 33.3 per cent of eligible project costs on a go forward basis.” This is why some feel that Edmonton is being shortchanged compared to other cities – the funding commitments we received were made before this change took place.

At the same time, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced that the federal government would contribute one third of the costs of Toronto’s SmartTrack proposal, which equates to about $2.6 billion.

On July 22, the federal government announced a pledge of $1 billion from the new Public Transit Fund for Ottawa’s “Stage 2” plan. Like Edmonton’s plans, the $3 billion project anticipates each level of government covering a third of the cost.

And then most recently, on July 24, a $1.53 billion contribution to Calgary’s $4.6 billion Green Line LRT was announced, also from the new Public Transit Fund, and again covering one third of the total cost.

Public Transit Fund: strings attached

Canadians should be disappointed that it takes an election to prioritize funding for public transit. City Councils across the country have made it clear that public transit infrastructure is critical for dealing with growth and congestion. According to the Canadian Urban Transit Association, $3 of economic activity is generated for every $1 spent on transit. And they say that from 2006 to 2013, public transit ridership increased by 21% in Canada.

Are the Conservatives just trying to buy votes? “The sudden spending announcements across the country merely highlight the total inadequacy of funding for public projects in non-election years,” said Joel French, Director of Communications and Campaigns for Public Interest Alberta, in a statement yesterday. “Rather than reducing our cities to the role of simply hoping for electioneering handouts, we absolutely must fund our urban centres in ways that will allow them to meet the growing needs of city residents in a fair, just and sustainable manner.” Some say it’s this sporadic approach to funding public transit that has caused Canada to fall behind on public transit.

Another concern is that the Public Transit Fund is being administered by P3 Canada. That means that any public transit project funded through the program will need to be a P3, whether it suits the project and context or not. Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi has previously stated that “the real problem is that the only dedicated federal funding at this moment is through P3 Canada” and felt that a P3 didn’t make sense for Calgary’s transit expansion plans. Evidently that’s no longer the case.

And you can’t blame him – he’s going to take what he can get. Whether we like it or not, the Valley Line LRT extension here in Edmonton will be a P3 project because that’s the only way we could secure the required federal funding.

There’s a lot more LRT left to build

While the Public Transit Fund is a step in the right direction, it’s not the solution to Canada’s transit infrastructure needs. Cities across the country have plans for LRT that will require billions of dollars of investment and they need to be able to plan for that.

South Campus LRT
Photo by Mark Iocchelli

Here in Edmonton, the Valley Line LRT is just one part of the long-term LRT Network Plan which will require significant investment over the next 35 years. A full build-out is going to be required if our population forecasts prove to be accurate, with 2.2 million people living in the Edmonton region by 2044 and daily ridership of nearly 500,000 passengers.

I hope the federal government does top up its contributions to the Valley Line LRT, bringing their portion to the same one-third that other major cities are now getting. But even if they do, we’re not done. We need to keep pushing for stable LRT funding.

Media Monday Edmonton: Update #165

Here’s my latest update on local media stuff:

Global Edmonton Weather Team
Global Edmonton’s weather team as of today

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 7/26/2015

Here are my weekly Edmonton notes:

Headlines

yeg stormy (1 of 1)
yeg stormy, photo by Paul

Upcoming Events

Edmonton K-Days Exhibition - 2015
Edmonton K-Days Exhibition, photo by IQRemix

Highlights from the 2015 Growth Monitoring Report

The City of Edmonton released its annual Growth Monitoring Report recently, known as Our Growing City. At 90 pages it’s full of information. Here are some things I wanted to highlight!

Upward, Inward, Outward?

growth

The report (and associated infographic) likes to talk about how Edmonton is growing up, in, and out. But is it really?

Several key initiatives demonstrate how this vision guides Edmonton’s growth. The Quarters Downtown, West Rossdale, Blatchford, downtown redevelopment, and Transit Oriented Development are helping our central neighbourhoods and areas along Edmonton’s expanding LRT routes grow “upward.” Ongoing efforts to enable infill opportunities in our mature and established neighbourhoods help the city grow “inward,” and the construction of new neighbourhoods in developing areas enables our city to grow “outward.”

The truth is that developing neighbourhoods, the “outward” part of growth, account for the majority of residential development. The report states that as in 2013, “developing neighbourhoods accounted for 83% of all residential growth” last year. Our city continues to grow out much more quickly than up or in.

You can see the neighbourhood classifications on a map here.

Core neighbourhoods accounted for 8% of all growth in 2014 while mature neighbourhoods accounted for just 6%. “This is an increase of 18% from 2013 unit growth (704 units),” the report says. “It is, however, a relatively low proportion of city-wide growth due to strong increases in newer neighbourhoods.” Established neighourhoods accounted for 3% of all new units.

Nine of the top ten fastest growing neighbourhoods over the last five years are in the south.

The fastest growing are Summerside, The Hamptons, and Windermere.

The only potential bright spot here is that recent NSPs tend to plan more dense communities and “contain a more balanced range of dwelling types” than they have in the past. Here’s a look at the density map:

low density residential lot supply by subsector

You can see that the new areas around the edge may actually be more dense than existing communities in mature and established neighbourhoods. If we don’t do anything to increase the density of those areas, that is.

Demographic Shifts

As of June 30, 2014 the Edmonton CMA had 1,328,290 residents, up 3.3% over the same time in 2013. We’re the second fastest growing CMA in the country after Calgary. And we’re comparatively young.

The Edmonton CMA is comparatively much younger than major Canadian city regions with a median age of 36 years.

Most other cities have a media age of 39-40 years. Our city’s largest cohort is 25-39 years of age, followed by the 49-65 age group.

dwelling unit density by neighbourhood

You might think with all of those young people that we’d have more families. And maybe we do, but not in established parts of the city.

A demographic shift is occurring in mature and established areas of the city. The population is ageing and households are decreasing in size. There will be a significant increase in lone person and two person households.

It’s a complicated issue, but ageing in place means that young families are pushed to the developing areas (as shown in the above map), which means we have to build new schools, recreation facilities, etc. It means we continue to grow outward.

Regional Competition

In 2014, 71% of all housing starts in the Edmonton region occurred within the city, which is better than the 10 year average of 66% (our high was 94% in 1982 and our low was 53% in 1996). But remember, the bulk of our growth is happening in developing areas, and that often means single-detached homes.

neighbourhood summary

Our share of regional single-detached housing starts over the last 10 years has averaged 59%. We don’t have much competition when it comes to folks wanting to live in condos or apartments. But for single family homes, there are lots of options just outside Edmonton’s boundaries. And this is a problem because surrounding communities don’t build communities that are as dense as the ones Edmonton is building.

Zoning & Annexation

boundary history

The report states that the Edmonton region is expected to grow to just under 2.2 million by 2044, with the city itself reaching 1.4 million people by that time. Looking further to 2064 our city’s population is expected to grow to 2.1 million. All those people are going to have to live somewhere, so “approximately 270,000 new housing units” are required to handle the anticipated growth.

This is why the City is pursuing annexation.

“The City of Edmonton is quickly running out of room to accommodate anticipated growth. This is especially true for industrial lands but is also true for residential developments.”

We’re only “quickly” running out of room because our growth pattern hasn’t changed much. There is room to grow inward:

Edmonton’s core, mature and established neighbourhoods share a total of 180 ha of vacant land, with the distribution of this land varying widely amongst them. In total, 1,343 vacant lots have been identified within the central core, mature and established neighbourhoods.

That vacant land could house an additional 3,287 dwelling units and potentially 7,725 people, based on existing zoning. If we re-zoned land and consolidated some lots the potential could be even higher. Not enough for all of the anticipated growth, but more than we’re on track to house centrally.

For the last decade or so, a 2:1 ratio of residential to industrial/commercial land area has continued in Edmonton.

“Without annexation, Edmonton will exhaust its industrial supply of land in 10 years and its residential in 12 to 17 years. The proposed annexation ensures that both industrial and residential land inventories meet the policy target of maintaining a minimum 30-year supply.”

The need for more industrial land is what’s really driving the two currently proposed annexations, in Leduc County and Sturgeon County.

In Edmonton the current proportion of zoned land uses is roughly 32% residential, 3% commercial, 12% industrial, 7% institutional and 9% parks and open space, special “direct control” zones account for 4% of land uses, Transportation Utility Corridor (TUC) 6% and 27% agriculture.

That’s a big drop in agricultural and reserve land, which was at 37% previously. “For the past decade Edmonton has been converting an average of 1,000 hectares of agriculture and reserve zoned land into urban zones.”

More Information

You can learn much more about Edmonton’s growth at the City’s website.

There are also some useful data sets in the open data catalogue. Here are a few that are relevant (but there are dozens):

What else did you find interesting in the report?