Wayfinding in Edmonton inches forward

At Executive Committee today, Councillors discussed a report which outlined why wayfinding is important, a strategy for moving it forward, and initial implementation options and costs.

Edmonton has very little wayfinding information for citizens or tourists and what we do have is confusing and lacks consistency. It has become clear that our city’s haphazard implementation of wayfinding within the pedway system is a disaster and is a mistake we should not repeat. The City’s push to see Edmontonians shift transportation modes is another big reason to support this initiative – finding your way around can be difficult if you’re not in a car. As Edmonton grows and attracts both more residents and visitors, the problem is only going to get worse. And like most things, the longer we wait to do the work required, the more it’ll probably cost.

wayfinding

The good news is that the City seems committed to doing something with wayfinding in a coordinated, strategic way. Administration understands and has articulated the benefits of wayfinding. The risk is that the funding to do it right may not be available.

Here’s an audio overview of today’s meeting & news:

You can download the cloudcast here.

Hooray for citizen action!

Would the City have come around to this position without citizen action? Perhaps eventually. But without question, the work of the Edmonton Wayfinding Project has had a significant impact. They’ve engaged citizens, they’ve conducted surveys and have done some other public engagement work, they have connected with experts in other cities, and they have pushed for collaboration with City Administration. Perhaps most importantly, they’ve shone the light on a topic that could have easily been ignored, and for no reason other than they want to make Edmonton a better place to live and visit.

The founder of the project, Tim Querengesser, was at Council today to speak to the report and to make his group’s case for the importance of progressing this work. The group published a discussion document today as well, which concluded:

“The Edmonton Wayfinding Society recommends City Council support the reports it is examining and follow their recommendations, with one caveat. The Society recommends the City reconfigure the roadmap toward a unifying wayfinding system for Edmonton to include the pedway/LRT system. Further, the Society recommends that its volunteer-driven research suggests a comprehensive study of pedway users, attitudes and behaviours is badly needed to create a wayfinding system that works in all nodes of Edmonton’s transportation infrastructure. In the interim, the Society also recommends that Edmonton introduce, immediately, guidelines for all new developments that add wayfinding as a factor that is examined. “

Be sure to follow @WayfindYEG on Twitter for updates.

Concern about costs

Today’s report included both a business case and a detailed strategy. The two hefty documents (a combined 97 pages) provide all of the necessary background and detail that you could hope for. The opening paragraph of the business case highlights one of the big problems with wayfinding efforts in Edmonton in the past:

“There have been several attempts to create a corporate wayfinding program in the City of Edmonton which have failed at the value for money decision. While it is understood generally that wayfinding offers many benefits to a growing city, it has not so far obtained support as a priority for the investment needed for citywide implementation.”

Cost dominated much of the discussion today too. Councillor Oshry in particular peppered Administration with questions about the cost of implementation, and argued after the meeting that we don’t need “the Buckingham Palace version of the signs.” He told the Sun that the proposed wayfinding strategy “seems excessive”. Mayor Iveson, however, said “to cheap out on these signs is probably a mistake.”

The overall cost of implementing the wayfinding strategy is estimated at around $10 million. That includes the development of signs, apps, plans, artwork, and more. It also includes the rollout of hundreds of physical signs. A big chunk of that cost, $5.5 million, is for the installation of maps at each existing LRT or transit station. Options for funding the project include: direct funding, which Council would need to approve; incremental funding, which would mean signs only appear as projects are completed; and revenue generation, which could be from sponsorship or advertising. Rollout options were also discussed, such as focused on downtown first and other areas later.

The business case concludes that “a pedestran-focused wayfinding system in Edmonton offers a positive benefit to cost proposition” and that “wayfinding has been shown to be a cost-effective means to overcome barriers to modal shift, a way to improve the local economy and a contributor to overall city liveability.”

Design standards

A lot of design work has already been done, which you can see in the report but also in the prototype signs that were installed around Churchill Square back in April. Future signs will include both “Walk Edmonton” and the City of Edmonton brand, and they’ll likely look a bit different than the prototype signs based on feedback and other lessons.

wayfinding

Icons are meant to be based on national or international standards, to ensure widespread recognition. The Benton Sans typeface is proposed for use across maps and signs, because it has good legibility at both large and small sizes, comes in a wide range of weights, and is a little more unique than Helvetica or other commonly used typfaces.

wayfinding

Consideration has already been given to colors, themes, cartographic elements (like the “you are here” markers), 3D landmarks, and incorporating the pedway.

Governance and maintenance

There was some discussion today about the need for a wayfinding czar, or as the detailed strategy calls the position, a “Wayfinding System Manager”. Harry Finnigan, who worked on wayfinding in Winnipeg and who spoke at Council today, said he wished they had implemented a similar position in Winnipeg. Ultimately though, Administration today decided they would rather have a team of people take responsibility for wayfinding, and Council didn’t push the point.

wayfinding

On the topic of maintenance and operations, the strategy identifies the importance of both a procurement strategy to efficiently buy and maintain signage, and an asset management database, to record information about each sign. That database of information is sorely lacking from the pedway system currently, and would certainly be important to have going forward.

The wayfinding strategy will be managed by Walkable Edmonton, under the Walk Edmonton brand. ETS and Great Neighbourhoods are the two main internal partners. Mayor Iveson also suggested that the Edmonton Design Committee be involved.

What’s next?

To some degree, the City is going to move ahead with its efforts to develop the corporate wayfinding program. At some point however, more funding will be required. There are four capital profiles being recommended for funding in the proposed 2015-2018 Capital Budget, which is when we’ll likely hear about wayfinding next. If those four profiles were funded, that would enable the City to complete roughly 60% of the wayfinding strategy.

That means Edmontonians need to keep pushing for wayfinding if they think it is important! Tell your Councillor if you want to see more funding go into this important project.

For more on wayfinding, check out the City of Edmonton’s website here and the Edmonton Wayfinding Project here.

Potholes in Edmonton: A closer look at 100 Avenue

Every Sunday for the last couple of months I have driven down 100 Avenue, so I know firsthand just how bad the potholes on that street are. Every week they seem to get worse, but not evenly across the street. Some places are far worse than others. It got me thinking – why are some areas of 100 Avenue so rough while others are smooth?

100 Avenue

I considered the section road from 170 Street east to 149 Street. Closer to 170 Street there definitely seem to be few, if any, potholes – for the most part the road is smooth. Right around 163 Street, the potholes get really bad. For a while there was a pothole big enough that I’d describe it as a crater! As you approach 149 Street there seem to be less, but still more than the section closest to 170 Street. Why aren’t there potholes along the entire route?

My first thought was that perhaps the traffic volumes are significantly different for each part of the street. Fortunately, the Open Data Catalogue contains average annual weekday traffic volumes for the period 2006-2011, so we can find out. Here’s the result:

Unfortunately there isn’t data for the part of the street closer to 149 Street, but I can’t think of a reason it would be much different (especially since there is nowhere to go but north or east once between 149 Street and 156 Street, more on that in a minute). So it doesn’t appear that traffic volumes would have had much of an impact on the number of potholes.

My next thought was around the maintenance of the street – maybe sections were repaved at different times. I asked the City of Edmonton on Twitter, and was very happy to receive a response:

That actually aligns really well with my empirical evidence! The newest section of road, from 163 Street to 170 Street, is in good shape. The oldest section of road, from 156 Street to 163 Street, is in really rough shape. And the middle-aged section, from 149 Street to 156 Street, is a bit better. Clearly there seems to be a connection between the age of the street and the number of potholes it contains, at least in this example.

Remember that crater I mentioned? It was located right around 161 Street. Here’s what it looked like on April 16, 2013:

100 Avenue

And here’s what it looked like in May 2012, courtesy of Google Street View:

Looks like this is one of those potholes the City patches every year! Given that the street hasn’t been repaved in nearly 20 years, perhaps it’s time?

There are a few other interesting things to note about 100 Avenue. If you haven’t driven down there in a while, take a gander on Google Street View. Here’s a quick summary:

  • From 170 Street to 163 Street, there are four lanes of one-way traffic (east). For most of this section, there are sidewalks and commercial property on either side of the street.
  • From 163 Street to 156 Street, there are two lanes heading east, one lane heading west, and one lane of parking on the north side. There is residential on either side of the street, with a sidewalk on the north and a sidewalk separated by a landscaped buffer strip on the south. Traffic is restricted from turning south.
  • From 156 Street to 149 Street, there are two lanes in either direction (though in some places the west-direction is down to one lane). There is residential on either side of the street (except for a few strip malls on the north), with a sidewalk on the north and a sidewalk separated by a landscaped buffer strip on the south. Traffic is restricted from turning south.

One of the things you’ll notice as you drive down the street is that all the potholes seem to be on the south lanes where traffic is going east. No doubt this is due in part to traffic volumes (there’s a lot less traffic heading west). But I have a hunch that there’s more to it than that. I think there are two key features that contribute to the potholes, especially for the section between 163 Street and 156 Street.

First, I think the lane of parking on the north prevents potholes from forming there. Remember that you need water and traffic to create potholes. Even if the water drains toward the sidewalk as expected, the parking lane prevents the vast majority of traffic from causing potholes. Second, I think the landscaped buffer on the south encourages more water pooling. With less sun to melt the snow, more soil to hold the moisture, and more traffic, it’s no wonder that more potholes appear there. It seems there is so much water, in fact, that it overwhelms the drains in the area.

100 Avenue

I read the consolidated 100 Avenue Planning Study, and discovered there were good reasons for that landscaped buffer strip:

A number of concerns have been identified with respect to the impact of the 100 Avenue roadway improvements on the neighbourhoods of Jasper Place and Glenwood. These include traffic noise, speeding, pedestrian safety, and the possibility of traffic shortcutting, north-south between 95 Avenueand 100 Avenue.

The Stony Plain Road/100 Avenue Facility Planning Study, approved by Council on January 8, 1985,  recommended that these problems be dealt with by the installation of pedestrian crossings, the closure of some local streets south of 100 Avenue, and the development of a landscaped buffer strip along  the south side of 100 Avenue.

The study did mention that the existing stormwater system was “inadequate” but I’m not sure if or when that was originally addressed. I’m sure the authors of the study weren’t thinking about the possible impact of the design on potholes, but we can see the effects today.

All of this just reaffirms to me the complexity of the problem! Solving the pothole problem will have an impact not just on the way we maintain streets, but how we design them too.

Potholes in Edmonton

Every year the City of Edmonton spends a few million dollars to fill a few hundred thousand potholes. Are potholes just a fact of life, or can we do something about them? I think the latter. It’s time for a more sophisticated and creative discussion about potholes in Edmonton!

Pothole
Pothole photo by More Bike Lanes Please

We hear the same thing every year. As spring approaches, dozens of stories are published about Edmonton’s pothole problem. We hear all about the freeze/thaw cycle of the winter and that’s why the potholes are bad. We hear that the City has crews out all the time fixing potholes, on average about 400,000 per year. We hear that a lot of money is being spent on the problem!

Here’s what Mayor Mandel said a few weeks ago:

“If you look at this winter — we’ve had freezing and thawing, freezing and thawing way more than any other year,” said Mandel, “and we have had a little more snow than normal. It creates havoc.”

“It’s not our intention to create a pothole … but it is a fact of life in our city,” said Mandel. “It will be there forever and we’ll never catch up.”

That sounds like a challenge!

I started digging into potholes, well figuratively anyway. I started with a series of questions, and then I just began researching. I went through old council minutes, I looked at City reports, I searched through old newspaper articles, etc. What was supposed to take a few hours turned into days! After a while I realized I had better stop and share what I had gathered, so that’s what you’ll find in this post.

Here’s a video for those of you in the TL;DR camp:

Here are some of the highlights of what I found:

  • Potholes form when water and traffic are present at the same time.
  • The City has filled more than 5.6 million potholes since 2000.
  • On average, the City fills about 433,000 potholes each year, with a budget of $3.5 million.
  • Annual pothole budgets have ranged from $1.5 million to $5.9 million since 1990, for a total of about $85 million (or $104 million adjusted for inflation).
  • Edmonton seems to fill twice as many potholes as any other large Canadian city.
  • The City maintains more than 4,600 kilometers of roads. The average quality of an arterial road is 6.1 out of 10, just below the industry standard. There is not enough funding in place to prevent this from falling.

There’s a lot more information in this PDF report that I’ve put together:

I put all of the data I gathered into an Excel document that you can download here. You’ll find some data in there that is incomplete – if you have the missing information, please let me know! If you use it to generate your own analysis, I’d love to learn from you so please share!

How can we solve the pothole problem in Edmonton? I don’t know. But doing the same thing over and over isn’t going to change anything either. Here are some ideas on how to make progress:

  1. Information is only useful if we can bring it together to turn it into knowledge. I’ve started to do some of that in the report above. In the absence of good data about weather patterns or traffic patterns, it’s easy to make assumptions. I feel as though I’ve only scratched the surface – there’s a lot more information that could be correlated to develop a better picture of the pothole problem.
  2. We need to make better use of the tools and expertise that we have in Edmonton. I’m thinking of tools like the Open Data Catalogue, for instance, and expertise like the transportation engineers and soil experts we have. Edmonton is one of the few cities that tracks the number of potholes filled, let alone makes that data available online, but we can do more! We also need to do a better job of harnessing the collective power of all Edmontonians for crowdsourcing ideas and data. Potholes don’t have to be just a transportation problem.
  3. There’s lots of interesting things happening elsewhere – Edmonton is not the only city that has to deal with potholes! What can we learn from others? There are self-heating roads, nanotechnology is being used to create crack-proof concrete, and all sorts of different polymers designed to make roads less brittle. How can we apply some of that knowledge?

What if we brought together engineers, scientists, designers, programmers, and other citizens for a one-day pothole unconference? What would they come up with? I think it’s an idea worth exploring.

Splash
Splash photo by Owen’s Law

I don’t think we’ll solve the pothole problem in Edmonton just by throwing more money at it, and we certainly won’t get anywhere with cheap gimmicks. Instead I think we need to get a bit more holistic and creative in our approach.

For now, I have two calls-to-action:

  1. If you’ve never reported a pothole using the City’s online form, give it a shot here. Don’t bother with forms or maps on other sites – use the official one.
  2. If you found anything in this post valuable, please share it with others.

Thanks for reading and happy pothole dodging!

The Past, Present, and Future of Food Truck Bylaws & Guidelines in Edmonton

Well it was bound to happen sooner or later – Edmonton has joined the long list of cities that have had disputes between restaurants and food trucks. As you’ve probably heard, Grandma Lee’s in Petroleum Plaza has complained about Drift, one of our city’s most popular food trucks. It’s an attractive media story as we head into summer and that has contributed to the issue becoming a bigger deal than is necessary. On the plus side, the situation has highlighted the need for a review of the Street Vending Program.

Truck Stop in Old Strathcona

I have been learning about and researching the bylaws and guidelines and how everything works for quite a while now, and this seems like a good opportunity to share what I know!

Why are food trucks allowed in Edmonton?

The Traffic Safety Act (TSA) sets out the basic rules for streets in our province. Among other things, the act outlines how the Alberta Transportation Safety Board should work, the rules for operator’s licenses and vehicle registrations, speed limits and other rules of the road, and the powers of municipalities with respect to streets. Specifically, section 13(1) states that municipalities can pass bylaws that govern the use of highways under its direction, provided they are not inconsistent with the TSA. Here in Edmonton that is bylaw 5590 (Traffic Bylaw, PDF) and in Calgary, that is 26M96 (Traffic Bylaw) and 20M88 (Street Bylaw).

A useful way to think about it is this: All streets in Alberta are governed by the basic rules set forward by the province. In cities like Edmonton and Calgary, bylaws enable each municipality to manage its own streets, building on top of those basic province-wide rules.

In Calgary, the Street Bylaw states in section 5(a) that you cannot sell things on streets. Section 5(b) outlines some exceptions to this, including pushcarts and ice cream trucks, but does not specifically mention food trucks. In Edmonton, section 67 is far less specific, and simply states that you must have a permit in order to sell goods and services. It also grants authority to the City Manager to basically bring the bylaws to life through policies, procedures, guidelines, and enforcement.

That’s why Edmonton has been allowed to have food trucks – our Traffic Bylaw enables permits for selling goods and services on city streets, and it does not specify any restrictions as to what those goods and/or services might be. As long as you have a valid permit, you’re good to go. In Calgary, you’d need to get a letter from the Director of Roads unless you fall under one of the allowed exceptions. Obviously that’s not a very scalable solution, hence the pilot that is underway in Calgary.

How does the City of Edmonton manage food trucks?

Nearly thirty years ago the Street Vending Program was created. According to a City report from 2005, it “was initiated by City Council to aid in the revitalization and enrichment of the downtown core.” Parks & Recreation was originally responsible for the program, though it has also called Community Services home. Currently responsibility falls to Sustainable Development.

The program today consists of the coordinator, the application forms, and the guidelines. You can download the latest package here. If you look at the package, you’ll find that the Street Vending Program deals with all kinds of vendors, not just food trucks. Hotdog carts, ice cream trucks, and any other vendor wanting to sell things on city streets must have four things: a business license (specifically a Travelling or Temporary Food Sales license), a health permit, a minimum of $2 million general liability insurance, and a vending permit. In order to get a vending permit, you need to talk to the Street Vending Coordinator and you need to follow the guidelines. There are slightly different guidelines for sidewalk vendors as opposed to street vendors, and altogether different guidelines for ice cream trucks.

Until very recently, the coordinator was a seasonal position, which means that throughout most of the winter there was no staff person at the City working on street vending. That meant that there was limited time to make improvements to the guidelines or changes to the program, which is part of the reason why they have remained largely the same for years.

What are the guidelines for food trucks in Edmonton?

There are a number of guidelines that apply to all kinds of vendors. For example, vendors are only allowed to operate from 7am until 11pm. Permits apply to a single location only – if you want multiple locations, you need to have multiple permits. Vendors must adhere to a code of conduct and “conduct themselves in a professional manner”. Vending units must not be left unattended, vendors cannot sell illegal or counterfeit products, etc.

In addition to the general street vending guidelines, there are roughly fifteen bullet points under the section for street vendors. Most of these are fairly straightforward, including things like “all existing parking restrictions apply” and “overhead canopies or vertically operating doors must not obstruct or hinder safe pedestrian traffic”. I encourage you to read the document for yourself as it isn’t very long. I’ll highlight the two points that deal with disputes between existing businesses and vendors:

  • Permission will not be granted to Vendors where a conflict with an existing business is evident.
  • Where a conflict arises with an existing business, the Sustainable Development Department reserves the right to relocate the contentious Vendor.

Nowhere else in the guidelines does the topic of conflicts come up. There is no section on how such complaints are handled, nor is there any information on how to appeal a complaint. Under the current guidelines, if you’re a vendor that someone has complained about, you’re automatically labeled “contentious” and there’s not much you can do about it. There are no rules to fall back on, and there is no process to follow to try to resolve the issue.

When was the Street Vending Program last reviewed and updated?

While minor modifications have been made over the years, mostly with respect to title and department name changes but also fees, the current street vending guidelines are largely the same as they were in 2005 (the oldest copy I was able to find). And according to a report from that year, the “program has not had an Administrative or City Council initiated review”. In other words, they haven’t been formally reviewed since they were created!

That report came about because then-Councillor Michael Phair received a complaint about street vending and “especially concerning vendors that sell food” so he made an inquiry to Administration. They brought a report back to the Community Services Committee on September 1, which outlined how the program operates. The committee voted to have Administration bring back a second report comparing the program with “best practices in cities such as Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.” That report came back on November 4 and outlined some of the things other cities do with respect to street vending. Here are the two key points from that report:

“Community Services Department surveyed service providers directly and asked a series of questions via telephone with counterparts from Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, New York, Winnipeg, Regina, Calgary, Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle.”

“After looking at the street vending practices for ten municipalities, it is concluded that Edmonton’s program equals or exceeds that of the other municipalities.”

As a result no further action was taken, and the program has continued the same way ever since.

Why should the guidelines be reviewed and updated now?

Put simply, a lot has changed in the last thirty years since the Street Vending Program was created! Especially in the last five years, interest in food trucks has exploded across North America and expectations about how such businesses operate has changed very quickly. In 2005, the program had about 40 vendors in total. This year, there are 55 vendors (that number includes food trucks, ice cream trucks, carts, and all other sidewalk vendors). That’s not a large jump, but we are seeing new food trucks joining the fray and I expect that trend will continue.

More important than the quantity of vendors is the type of vendor. Back in 2005, we didn’t really have curbside food trucks like Drift. Now we do, and we should expect more! I think there are significant differences between a sidewalk vendor and a food truck, yet the guidelines for the most part don’t reflect that. Whereas it might make sense to restrict a sidewalk vendor’s permit to a single location, the whole point of a food truck is that it is mobile and can move around.

The food trucks of today are serving a completely different kind of product than mobile carts have in the past, and that has an impact on the program too. Sandwiches from Drift are certainly competition for brick-and-mortar restaurants, so it’s no surprise that some disputes will arise. The current street vending program does not outline any process for dealing with such disputes.

The opportunity to realize Council’s original vision for the Street Vending Program – “to aid in the revitalization and enrichment of the downtown core” – has never been stronger than it is today. If we want food trucks to be viable and sustainable into the future, we need to update the program.

What changes should be made?

This is a topic that will need further discussion, but we could do a lot worse than to look to Calgary for guidance. Because their pilot program is so new, they have been able to capture many of the key points that differentiate food trucks from other vendors and those are reflected in the program’s guidelines.

Note that we don’t need to change our bylaws, just the Street Vending Program. Changing the bylaws is a much more difficult process that would require approval by City Council. Changing the Street Vending Program can be much simpler. Remember it’s the bylaws that make food trucks possible but it’s the Street Vending Program that outlines how food trucks are managed and should operate.

Here are some ideas for positive changes to Edmonton’s Street Vending Program:

  • Grant food trucks a permit that applies to multiple locations or a large area, rather than requiring one permit per location. In Calgary they have the concept of “roll zones” and “no-roll zones” which outline where the trucks can and cannot go.
  • Bring the cost of the permit in line with other cities. In Calgary, food trucks pay a flat fee of $700 per year that is not dependent on actual street usage.
  • Make it easier for trucks to serve in the evening. This could be accomplished by establishing some sort of evening roaming rules, by extending the valid operating times past 11pm, or both. In Calgary, food trucks may operate until 3am.
  • Get rid of the restriction that only one truck may operate on a street at a time. We know that food trucks are often more successful when there are many together than when they are going solo, as long as they are complementary, and we know that food truck operators all talk and already team up from time to time!
  • Clearly outline where food trucks are allow to operate. Calgary’s guidelines clearly state that food trucks cannot operate within 25 metres of any restaurant during its operational hours. (Note: Drift is a lot further from Grandma Lee’s than 25 metres!)
  • Outline a process for dealing with complaints. Food trucks need to have some certainty about their business, and if the processes by which they may be asked to move is completely opaque, it’s hard to have that certainty.
  • Revamp the evaluation process for issuing permits. The current “process” is highly subjective and often relies upon the food truck’s relationship with the street vending coordinator. That leads to inconsistent treatment of food trucks, and in some cases, inconsistent fees.
  • Create a proper website. For the longest time, all the Street Vending page said was to call the coordinator and it gave a phone number. At least now it links to the application package, but we could obviously do so much more.

The good news is that discussions regarding these changes have already been taking place, and I anticipate we’ll make significant progress this year. I think if we can make some of these changes a reality, we’ll have a much stronger vending program into the future.

It’s also worth mentioning that perhaps Sustainable Development is not the right home for the Street Vending Program. Sustainable Development is responsible for business licenses, property management, and economic development strategies, among other things, but food trucks in particular need more than that. They also deal with Transportation, Transit, and other departments. I would recommend folding the Street Vending Program into the Civic Events Office, which already coordinates with the various City departments on a regular basis.

If we’re willing to put even more effort in, I think there are significant opportunities to once again have Edmonton’s street vending program be the standard by which other cities are measured. Here’s just one example. Food trucks are different lengths and so are parking stalls. Why not release a dataset of all the parking stalls in Edmonton, or at least those in food-truck-friendly neighbourhoods that includes the location, length, price and other information? It would then be relatively easy for a food truck to scan for potential locations at which to park. We’ve already got the open data catalogue and the parking meter data exists somewhere, so with a bit of effort we could make something like this a reality.

What’s next for Drift and Grandma Lee’s?

As you might have heard, Drift was granted an extension at their current 108 Street location until Friday. They are supposed to file an appeal by then, whatever that means. There is nothing in the guidelines that outlines how exactly Drift is supposed to respond to the situation. Furthermore, the advantage is clearly with Grandma Lee’s – the City can basically tell Drift that they have to move and there’s nothing they can do about it.

I would rather see businesses like Grandma Lee’s choose to compete rather than complain. With a brick-and-mortar location, a restaurant should be able to offer an experience that no food truck can match. Furthermore, we know from our experience with What the Truck?! that having food trucks in an area often draws more people to surrounding businesses, not less. Unfortunately, as Colby Cosh astutely identified last week, Grandma Lee’s has chosen rent-seeking over delivering a better experience, and that means everybody loses.

Drift Sandwich Mob

I hope Drift is not forced to move, but if they are, then I hope it ultimately results in improved guidelines that clearly stipulate how such disputes will be handled in the future. If we want to make it easier for new food trucks to open up in Edmonton – and I think we do – then we need to make the rules clear and consistent.

What’s next for food trucks in Edmonton?

I think Edmonton’s existing food trucks will become even more successful over time as they build up a larger and larger client base and as the food truck movement really takes hold here in Edmonton. We’ll also see new food trucks launch and enjoy success, such as The Act which entered service on Monday. More food trucks means more pedestrian activity and vibrancy on the streets and that ultimately will make Edmonton a better city in which to live. Unless we somehow take a massive step backward, I don’t see any other outcome for food trucks in Edmonton!

By reviewing and updating the Street Vending Program, we can create an environment for food trucks that better reflects the realities of today, and more importantly, better positions us for success in the future. It’ll take some work, but I think it’ll be worth it!

Snow storm prompts plowing review

Post ImageAfter going most of the winter with very little snow, we received enough snow in the last week to break the record for March snowfall here in Edmonton. Actually, we didn’t just break the record, we completely shattered it:

The blizzard delivered up to 25 centimetres of snow in some spots, easily breaking a 1967 snowfall record for March. That record had been a meagre 9 cm.

And as usual when we get lots of snow, people complain that the city isn’t doing enough to plow residential streets. Forget the residential streets and plow the damn LRT parking lots, I say! Though I am biased – I got stuck in the Stadium LRT lot yesterday morning (floor mats are good for traction if you’re ever stuck). In any case, the city is looking at ways to improve the situation and have come up with a new plan:

But the new plan, which would involve paying contract snow crews to be on standby, could cost the city millions more, says Mayor Stephen Mandel. Mandel says he’s not sure the public would support paying crews to do nothing if the snow doesn’t fall.

Its definitely a possible solution. Apparently the problem this time is that so few of the contract plows responded to the city’s emergency call. Perhaps having them on retainer would make a difference. Depends how much it costs I guess. Either that, or we need someone to invent roads that eat the snow or clear themselves somehow!

Read: CBC News