Data on Edmonton’s new 12-ward system

Last night City Council voted in favor of changing from the current 6-ward system to the more common 12-ward system used throughout North America. The change will take effect for next year’s municipal election. For more background, check out Dave’s post. You can also check out the City of Edmonton’s page for more information.

As an advocate of open data, I thought I’d share with you some data related to the new wards below. All of the data is available on the City website somewhere, but not in an easily consumable form. I’ve done the legwork to make it accessible.

Amendments made to the motion last night affected the wards a little:

  • Grovenor and McQueen neighbourhoods moved from Ward 1 to Ward 6.
  • CPR West moved to Ward 8 from Ward 10.
  • Calgary Trail North and Calgary Trail South moved from Ward 11 to Ward 10.
  • Some ravine boundaries were changed from “in-the-middle” to “top-of-bank”.

Here are the stats on the new wards:

In a table (download CSV file here):

Ward Population Electors
1 62,625 51,061
2 67,306 54,704
3 63,819 49,465
4 67,811 52,666
5 62,424 49,615
6 70,840 62,152
7 63,549 51,865
8 66,196 57,189
9 68,214 53,889
10 61,276 49,935
11 64,770 51,329
12 63,609 48,529

The average population of each ward is 65,203 and the average number of electors for each ward is 52,700. This data comes from the 2009 Municipal Census.

Here are the number of neighbourhoods in each ward:

I’ve also compiled a list of neighbourhoods in each ward which you can download in CSV here. Or if you’d rather just look, you can download the list in PDF here.

I’m trying to track down or create a good quality map of the 12 wards, but this’ll have to do for now. What I’d really love is lat/long coordinates for each ward. If you have something better than that graphic, let me know!

Go do something useful or interesting with this data, and then tell me about it. I’m looking to collect local examples to strengthen the case for open data at the City of Edmonton!

UPDATE: Here’s a better map in PDF format.

UPDATE2: Here’s an even better color map showing the wards and neighbourhoods in PDF format.

Highlights from the Alberta High Speed Rail report

Yesterday the Alberta government released a report assessing the potential for high speed rail service in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. The report, which has been sitting on the shelf for about a year, was commissioned by the province and was prepared by Transportation Economics & Management Systems, Inc. (or TEMS). There are actually three parts to the report, which you can download here:

The press release included a few highlights, but nothing incredibly satisfying:

  • Nearly 10 million passenger trips took place in the Calgary-Edmonton corridor in 2006, with the breakdown as follows: 91% were by automobile, 6% were by air, and 3% were by bus.
  • The faster the high speed train, the greater the ridership and revenues.
  • People said they were willing to pay fares ranging from $56 to $120 for a one-way trip. (To compare: the lowest fare in the next month on WestJet currently is $99, or by car I can make the trip on about $20 of gas.)

I decided to dig into the report a little further. I was struck initially by the numerical nature of it – if numbers and formulas scare you, avoid reading the report. There is some useful, easy-to-understand data as well though.

The diagram above illustrates the Calgary-Edmonton corridor, and the five stations that would be part of the high speed rail system: Downtown Edmonton, Suburban Edmonton, Red Deer, Suburban Calgary, and Downtown Calgary. Each of the three major centres is called a “super zone”, and includes the surrounding communities, at least for the purposes of the report.

The images above illustrate the four types of generic train technologies used to represent various technology classes.

  • Talgo – 125 mph or 200 km/hr – diesel
  • JetTrain – 150 mph or 240 km/hr – turbine electric
  • TGV – 200 mph or 320 km/hr – overhead electric
  • Maglev – 300 mph or 480 km/hr – magnetic levitation

According to Wikipedia, the fastest conventional train in the world is the French TGV which set a speed record of 574.8 km/hr. The fastest non-conventional train in the world is the Japanese JR-Maglev which set a speed record of 581 km/hr.

This table outlines the strategies/predictions for each of the above:

  125 mph 150 mph 200 mph 300 mph
Average travel time (h:min) 2:00 1:45 1:35 1:00
Frequency (roundtrips/day) 8 10 14 17
Fare (in cents/mile) 25 35 40 60
Maximum fare one-way (Calgary-Edmonton) $56 $80 $90 $120
Maximum fare one-way from Red Deer $28 $40 $45 $60
Ridership (in thousands) in 2051 2821 4301 7656 10745
Passenger revenues (in millions of 2006 $) in 2051 137.1 269.0 610.0 1127.9
Market share (2011-2051 is constant) 1.85% 3.10% 4.84% 6.73%

Some other data points:

  • Demand for travel in the corridor is predicted to triple in the time period 2006-2051.
  • Total benefits by super zone are as follows: Calgary (40-45%), Edmonton (30-35%), Red Deer (20-25%)
  • Economic impact from building the system would range from $4.6 billion to $33.4 billion, depending on the type of technology used.
  • Growth in the economy of 0.2 to 0.5 percent, depending on the type of technology used.
  • Between 3400 and 7162 long-term (40 year) jobs would be created across the province.

There’s a lot more data available in the report if you want to take the time to read it.

What’s next? The government says it will continue to look at various options for the province’s future transportation needs, including high speed rail. No decisions have been made at this time, and the report itself makes no recommendations. There doesn’t seem to be a lot of support for the idea at the moment.

I personally think if the province is going to be spending money on transit, it should be on city and regional transit. Both Edmonton and Calgary could use the assistance to improve their respective transit systems – something akin to MoveOntario 2020 and Toronto’s Transit City.

This issue certainly has legs, however. It has been brought up and discussed many times over the years. You can follow along and participate on Twitter using the hashtag #abhsr. For more general Alberta political topics, use #ableg. There’s some great commentary up on the stream already.

ICLEI World Congress Edmonton 2009: Opening Day

The ICLEI World Congress 2009 started here in Edmonton today. The conference is taking place at the Shaw Conference Centre through Thursday. Over 600 delegates from around the world will be discussing a range of topics related to sustainability and municipalities.

Shaw Conference CentreICLEI World Congress Edmonton 2009

A series of opening keynotes this afternoon set the tone for the event. Mayor Stephen Mandel, ICLEI President Stephen Cadman, Minister of Municipal Affairs Ray Danyluk, Chairperson of the World Mayors Council on Climate Change Bärbel Dieckmann, and Leader of The Economics of Ecosytems & Biodiversity (TEEB) Pavan Sukhdev all shared remarks this afternoon.

I thought the most passionate speaker was David Cadman, recently elected to his third term on the ICLEI Executive, and his second consecutive term as President. He discussed a range of issues, but focused on the need to transform the way we live. In particular, he stressed that water is going to become a larger and larger problem.

Epcor Water Station

Also during the opening plenary was a video to “pass the torch” from Cape Town, which hosted the congress in 2006, to Edmonton. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except for the fact that the video included B-roll footage of Calgary, not Edmonton! The Calgary Tower was clearly visible in a couple of the shots. I’m sure most in the audience didn’t notice, however.

Organizational and Program Implementation reports followed the opening speeches. Here are a few nuggets:

  • About 54% of ICLEI members are from North America, but 39% of the populations represented by ICLEI live in Asia. Europe is more balanced.
  • ICLEI’s USA office is moving from Oakland to Washington, DC. One wonders why it wasn’t there in the first place.
  • There are 27 ICLEI members in Canada. Our country’s office was created in 2003, has 3.5 staff, 5-10 projects per year, and a budget of roughly $300,000 USD.
  • Global budgets for ICLEI are expected to increase 22% this year compared to last. Revenue sources include membership, fees for service, host contributions, and by far the largest segment, grants.
  • Municipalities around the world are targeting a 30% reduction in emissions by 2020, and an 80% reduction by 2050.
  • ICLEI by the numbers in 2009: 223 staff, 1078 members, 102 projects, and a budget of $16.8 million USD.

I learned a lot about ICLEI today, and I absolutely see the need for such an organization. An increasing portion of the world’s population lives in cities, yet cities are often absent from landmark discussions related to climate change and sustainability. ICLEI gives municipalities a voice and a mechanism for pressuring their provincial and national governments to do more. Membership in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years, something ICLEI attributes to the Bush administration which largely ignored municipalities.

ICLEI World Congress Edmonton 2009ICLEI World Congress Edmonton 2009

Following this afternoon’s session was an opening night reception in Hall D. Councillor Don Iveson hosted the event which featured entertainment from Kita No Taiko and others. I had the opportunity to chat with a number of people, including Roy Blumenthal, a visual facilitator who was drawing caricatures of all the speakers on his Tablet PC. Such beautiful work!

A few other notes about the Edmonton event:

  • All attendees can ride Edmonton Transit for free simply by showing their conference badge.
  • Recycling facilities will be available at all locations visited by participants.
  • There are around 100 delegates who don’t speak English. There were headphones on hand today providing translations in English, French, Spanish, and Korean.
  • The City of Edmonton has turned on Wireless Edmonton service throughout the Shaw Conference Centre, providing attendees with free wi-fi.
  • There are guided walks of the river valley for attendees starting each morning at 7am.

I won’t be attending all of the sessions this week, but I’ll tweet and blog what I can. Dave Cournoyer also wrote about today, and will be covering ICLEI all week. Search Twitter for #ICLEI for updates. You can see the rest of my photos here. For a list of events taking place during and after ICLEI, click here.

You’re asking the wrong question

Last week’s issue of SEE Magazine was a “theme” issue, focusing on the future of the media industry (“print in peril”). In addition to this interesting article, there was a panel comprised of four local newspeople with lots of experience: Linda Hughes (U of A, formerly Edmonton Journal), Ron Wilson (CBC), Jeremy Lye (iNews880), and Roy Wood (MacEwan, formerly Edmonton Journal). They discussed a range of things, including the fact that the industry didn’t develop these problems overnight. The general consensus is that journalism is important, but what it looks like in the future is up in the air.

Of course, you can’t have an article on the future of media without asking who’s going to write about City Council, and the panel didn’t disappoint! Linda Hughes asks:

But with breaking news and local-level news, who is going to go sit in a courtroom all day for a three-paragraph story that is important to know about but isn’t sexy and is just part of the pubic discourse? Who is going to do that? Bloggers often provide a lot of insight, but most bloggers are not going to go to sit in city council committee meetings for five hours to keep track of what city council is doing.

Ask a sports writer about the future of news and he’ll probably use this defense, even though he never sets foot inside City Hall! It’s the easy way out, and it’s an incredibly common response lately from journalists in the hot seat. To make things worse, SEE asked the question again later in the piece:

If newspapers and mass media outlets do dwindle, then, who will be the watchdogs in society to ensure politicians don’t run wild? Who will pay for the investigative reporters who can zero in on one thing for months and all of a sudden have the biggest story of the year?

Sigh. There will still be passionate individuals who follow specific topics and do investigative reporting. Probably more now than ever thanks to easy publishing systems (blogs, wikis, Twitter, etc). And they’ll produce much more interesting content than someone who does it just because they get paid to.

Let’s ignore that argument for a minute, however. Asking how to pay a journalist to sit through meetings to get three paragraphs is still the wrong question!

The real question is, why have we ever had to pay someone to sit through five hours of City Council committee meetings? Let’s get rid of that absurd need altogether and this discussion becomes irrelevant.

This is why I’m so excited about ChangeCamp and the possibilities it represents. If we can change the way our government communicates with us, the need for a newspaper filter could go away altogether.

Let’s focus less on how we’re going to pay a journalist to sit with Council all day and more on how we can get Council to communicate with us in a meaningful way. If we can do that, the journalist will have much better things to cover!

Will Speaker Ken Kowalski come to ChangeCamp?

I’m not sure how much overlap there is between the readers of my blog and the readers of Dave Cournoyer’s blog, but I wanted to highlight a post that Dave made on Wednesday. He wrote a letter to Ken Kowalski, current Speaker of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta. Here’s a small excerpt:

I would urge you to revisit your initial reaction to the use of online communications from the floor of the Assembly. I agree that Members should respect the institution and proud traditions of the Legislature, but it is important to understand the limitless potential that these technologies now play in connecting elected Members to citizens outside the Dome.

I think Dave’s letter is very well-written, not to mention incredibly important. Banning the use of Twitter and other online communications tools from the floor of the Assembly is shortsighted, to say the least. I suspect that Speaker Kowalski, like so many others, is just afraid of social media because he doesn’t understand it.

This is the kind of issue I hope we can address with ChangeCamp Edmonton. We need to help politicians like Speaker Kowalski get over their fear of social media. We need to help educate them about its power. And we need to make it clear that we want social media to play an important part in our democracy.

I look forward to the discussion, should Speaker Kowalski be willing to participate.

Planning ChangeCamp Edmonton

Tonight we held our first planning meeting for ChangeCamp Edmonton. Though it went a lot longer than I expected, it was definitely productive. Lots of great ideas and discussion. ChangeCamp is an event in the spirit of BarCamp or DemoCamp, but focused on government and citizenship. The central focus is to “re-imagine government and citizenship in the age of participation.”

Here’s how the idea is described at changecamp.ca:

ChangeCamp is an event format, an open community and a set of tools and ideas designed to give citizens and governments the ability to work collaboratively in new ways to make change and to better address real-world challenges in our communities.

We didn’t form any really solid plans tonight about what the Edmonton version of ChangeCamp will look like, but did set some goals and came up with a list of things we need to consider. We’ll meet again in a few weeks to progress things further. In the meantime, check out the wiki for our meeting notes and to get involved.

ChangeCampEdmontonChangeCampEdmonton

Here’s who attended (yes we’re all on Twitter!): @fusedlogic, @Imparo, @ChrisLaBossiere, @JillLaBossiere, @jdarrah, @davecournoyer, @mastermaq, @paulney, @eadnams, @dibegin.

A bunch of us will be at IDEAfest tomorrow at the University of Alberta, so if you drop by ask about ChangeCamp and let us know what you think!

Budget Day 2009 in Canada – track it online

Though a lot of information about the new budget has already been released, there are sure to be some surprises and of course, interesting discussions taking place throughout the day. Finance Minister Jim Flaherty will deliver his budget speech in the House of Commons at roughly 4 PM EST (2 PM MST) today. All the major Canadian media outlets will have coverage, and some even have unique online coverage too.

Here’s how to track Budget Day 2009 online:

And a few other interesting links:

Here in Edmonton, the federal wish list comes in at $2.4 billion. I’m sure the capital notebook blog and Dave Cournoyer will have more on today’s news from a local perspective.

It’ll be interesting to see how the day plays out! I’ll update the post if I come across any more useful links – leave me a comment if you have one to suggest!

UPDATE: There’s a word cloud of Flaherty’s speech available here, and you can read the full text of the speech here.

UPDATE2: Here’s a PDF of the budget, courtesy of The Globe and Mail.

UPDATE3: The official Budget 2009 site also has the PDF and some other information, but is very slow.

UPDATE4: A number of responses from organizations (CUPE, CFIB, etc.) are available at Canadian Newswire.

Following the current Canadian political drama on Twitter

As I’m sure you’ve heard or read by now, we’ve got an interesting situation unfolding here in Canada. Essentially the Liberal Party, NDP, and Bloc Quebecois have joined forces to propose a new Liberal-NDP coalition government that would replace Stephen Harper and the Conservative Party of Canada. You can learn more about the sequence of events at Wikipedia.

Back in September, I wrote about Canadian Politicians on Twitter. My guess is that our political leaders created accounts in reaction to what was happening south of the border, particularly with Barack Obama’s campaign. So I’m not surprised that none of them have updated their accounts with news about the issue at hand, with the exception of the newly launched LiberalHQ account.

Canadians are definitely talking about the news on Twitter, even if our politicians aren’t. At the moment, the hashtag #coalition is the second most popular topic according to Twitter Search. Other hashtags being used include #canadarally, #canada, #democracy, and #libndp.

Click here to see all related tweets.

There are also a bunch of new accounts being created to cover the news. You can follow both @yes_coalition and @no_coalition if you like!

In addition to some really thoughtful, funny, or otherwise interesting comments from fellow Canadians, you can find links and other resources related to the coalition on Twitter. Here are a few of the things I found:

Also found via Twitter – the news made The Huffington Post today! You’ll find dozens of other news articles, but one that caught my eye is the Globe and Mail’s list of Harper’s ten options.

I’m sure even more interesting things will surface over the next few days. The mainstream media will do a fine job of covering the news, but they can’t match the speed of Twitter. If you want to track the situation in real-time, keep Twitter Search open at all times!

Canadian Do Not Call List goes into effect today

do not call Starting today, Canadians can add their numbers to a national Do Not Call list. Nearly four years have passed since the Government of Canada announced that they would introduce what eventually became Bill C-37, legislation which empowers the CRTC to setup and manage the Dot Not Call List and to dish out penalties to violators. You can learn more about the history of the list at Wikipedia.

To sign up for the list, visit the DNCL website or call 1-866-580-DNCL (or 1-888-DNCL-TTY). I just added my number online, and it was a quick and painless process. Two things caught my attention:

  • Your number doesn’t remain on the list permanently. My registration will expire on October 31st, 2011.
  • There are quite a few exemptions, including registered charities, political parties, newspapers, and businesses you are already doing business with.

According to CBC, so many people tried to add their numbers to the list today that the website went down and the phone line was constantly busy. Global TV reported tonight that over 1 million Canadians have already tried to register. The CRTC originally projected that 16 million numbers would be on the list within the first two years.

Michael Geist has been one of the DNCL’s most vocal critics, and setup iOptOut to help Canadians create and manage a personal DNCL. I don’t know how effective the list will be, but I figure it can’t hurt to get my number on there.

City-provided Wi-Fi project to continue in Edmonton

wireless This morning I attended an Edmonton City Council meeting along with Eric. I had never been to a council meeting before, so the whole process was rather interesting and at times even entertaining. That said, I wonder how they get anything done! Item E1 was titled “City-Wide Wireless Internet and Wi-Fi Service – Pilot Project Internal Evaluation” and was marked on the agenda as “time specific, first item at 9:30 AM”. They finally got around to it at 10:30 AM.

Two members of Next Gen Edmonton joined a representative from the city’s IT branch to provide council with an overview of the report on Wireless Edmonton that was published on May 15, 2008. I haven’t actually seen the report, but it outlines the following information:

  • The first eZones were established at City Hall, Churchill Square, Kinsmen Sports Centre, and Commonwealth Sports and Fitness Centre
  • Usage is increasing and currently averages 250 users per day with an average connection time of 30 minutes
  • Public feedback has been generally positive, and indicates a demand for expansion of the service
  • Marketing efforts have been largely word-of-mouth, supported by media coverage, signage, and brochures
  • Ongoing annual operating costs are estimated at $1000 per eZone
  • Setup costs for each new eZone are estimated at $20,000

The current service is built atop the City of Edmonton’s existing Internet infrastructure, which is how they can keep costs fairly low (Eric and I still think it’s too expensive though). That means that future eZones could quite easily be setup at any City-owned location that has Internet/wireless already for administration purposes. Other potential expansion sites include transit corridors (LRT and/or high priority bus routes) and mobile units that would travel to smaller festivals and events.

The council passed the following recommendation/motion:

  1. That the City continue to provide and promote publicly accessible Wi-Fi (Wireless Edmonton) service at Main Floor City Hall, Sir Winston Churchill Square, Kinsmen Sports Centre and Commonwealth Sports and Fitness Centre.
  2. That the City continue to explore opportunities to expand the Wireless Edmonton service where existing City network infrastructure is available and where there is a public interest, as outlined in the May 15, 2008, Corporate Services Department report 2008COT002.

There wasn’t too much discussion, but a few interesting questions were raised:

  • Councillor Ben Henderson asked about the quality of the service, noting that the current practice of filtering means that common services such as email do not work for many users.
  • Councillor Karen Leibovici questioned the business case, and wondered why the city should provide such a service when Telus, Rogers, and others already provide similar services for a fee.

I think Councillor Henderson’s question is extremely pertinent. What’s the point of offering the service if you’re just going to cripple it? I’m definitely in favor of getting rid of the filtering.

Councillor Leibovici’s question is responsible, but largely misses the point in my opinion. The city isn’t operating the wireless service to turn a profit, but rather to facilitate indirect returns. The productivity gains and everything else that comes along with having free wireless is what really matters.

The IT representative (didn’t catch his name…might have been Stephen Gordon, who is Manager of Operations) made a really great point. He said that offering the wireless service is important for Edmonton’s credibility. There’s an expectation that world class facilities have Wi-Fi available, and Edmonton needs to live up to that expectation if it wants to compete on the world stage.

The presentation today made it clear that the City of Edmonton doesn’t want to compete with commercial providers of wireless Internet access. Instead the city can serve a particular niche, offering service in public locations that commercial providers would probably ignore (such as the library). I think that makes sense.

I think more needs to be done to improve the state of wireless in Edmonton, but it doesn’t have to fall on the city. There’s definitely opportunity for the private sector to get involved. I’m glad the city is doing something though, and I look forward to the expansion of their eZones.