First Look at Edmonton’s South LRT Extension (Southgate & Century Park)

On Saturday, April 24, the two newest LRT stations in Edmonton’s network are officially opening to the public, and ETS is hosting a Community Fair to celebrate (on ShareEdmonton). Yesterday, the local media got a sneak peek at the new Southgate and Century Park stations, both of which have been under construction since the Summer of 2007.

South LRT ExtensionSouth LRT Extension

The total budget for the South LRT Extension from Health Sciences station to Century Park was $690 million, the vast majority of which ($573 million) came from tax supported debt (to be repaid from the New Deal for Cities & Communities). Construction included two new tunnels: one beneath Belgravia road and one beneath the southbound lands of 111th Street. There are also two new bridges: a one-way bridge over Belgravia Road (connects South Campus to Fox Drive) and one across Whitemud Drive. A total of 26 new light rail vehicles were added to help service the extension.

The total length of the South LRT Extension is 7.361 km:

  • Health Sciences to McKernan/Belgravia: 0.9 km (roughly 1 minute, 56 seconds)
  • McKernan/Belgravia to South Campus: 1.375 km (roughly 2 minutes, 24 seconds)
  • South Campus to Southgate: 2.032 km (roughly 3 minutes, 20 seconds)
  • Southgate to Century Park: 3.324 km (roughly 3 minutes, 46 seconds)

The McKernan/Belgravia and South Campus stations opened a year ago, and at the time I complained that the media advisory encouraged driving and parking. I’m happy to report that the media advisory for yesterday’s sneak peek said this:

Please note that there is no public parking available at South Campus Station. Members of the media are urged to use LRT to travel to the event.

Much better – I hope future advisories look the same!

We boarded the train at South Campus, and headed for Southgate station (located on 111th Street between 51st Avenue and Whitemud Drive):

For another view, here’s Southgate back to South Campus. Of the two new stations, I think Southgate is my favorite. It mirrors the recent renovations done to Southgate Shopping Centre very well, so it looks like it belongs. The artwork in the station is called “Immense Mode” and was created by Dawn Detarando and Brian McArthur. We learned about all of the new safety features (including the secure washrooms) and got to wander around. Here are a few photos of the new station:

South LRT ExtensionSouth LRT Extension

South LRT ExtensionSouth LRT Extension

Next up – Century Park (located on 111th Street just north of 23rd Avenue). Unfortunately the batteries in my flip died on the way there, so I don’t have video of Southgate to Century Park. I have the return trip though:

As it is the end of the line (for a while anyway) Century Park will probably be the busiest of the new stations, housing an 1100-stall temporary Park & Ride lot, in addition to 130 existing parking stalls. When the bus routes are changed later this month to feed into the new LRT extension, Century Park will receive the bulk of the traffic. The artwork in the station is called “Continuum” and was created by Cezary and Danielle Gajeweski. Here are a few photos of the new station:

South LRT ExtensionSouth LRT Extension

South LRT ExtensionSouth LRT Extension

If you’d like to check out the new stations for yourself, don’t miss the Community Fair on the 24th. It’ll also be a great opportunity to learn more about the changes to bus routes.

What’s next? Well in addition to needing funds to expand the LRT in other directions, the City is already planning for the next south extension to Ellerslie Road. The preliminary design was approved by City Council in July 2008. You can learn more about the future extension here. The currrent LRT network was built to accommodate four-car trains, but work is underway to upgrade capacity to five-cars. The McKernan/Belgravia and Health Sciences stations are being upgraded now, work which is expected to be complete in October. South Campus, Southgate, and Century Park already support five-car trains.

In just a single year, we’ve had four new LRT stations open in Edmonton. Let’s keep it up! You can see the rest of my photos from the preview here.

Touring the Edmonton Transit D.L. MacDonald LRT Garage

Edmonton Transit held an open house today at its D.L. MacDonald facility, known as the LRT garage, as part of Transit Centennial Week celebrations. Sharon and I decided to check it out, and arrived at Clareview just in time for the second last tour. I’ve always been curious to see where the LRT cars are housed and maintained, so I thought the open house and tour was pretty darn cool.

We were led throughout the facility, and got to see where the LRT cars are stored, where their various parts are worked on, where they are painted, etc. The D.L. MacDonald garage is an absolutely massive building, and apparently they are under construction to expand it further. It’s really quite impressive to see.

ETS D.L. MacDonald LRT GarageMack on the new LRV

The highlight of the tour was definitely getting to check out the new SD160 Light Rail Vehicles. ETS will be receiving 37 of them at a rate of two per month, finishing in December 2009. Each car costs approximately $4 million CDN. As the new cars come in from Siemens in Sacramento, the old ones are shipped out for retrofitting. The cost for retrofits is estimated to be another $25 million in total.

At first glance there doesn’t appear to be much difference between the old cars and the new ones, but I’m sure there are extensive differences to the underlying systems (better electronics, for instance). A few of the noticeable changes include: cameras instead of mirrors, digital signs throughout, windows that do not open (which means they must have A/C), more comfortable seats, and slightly different mechanisms on the doors. They also seem a little larger.

The first of the new LRVs will go into service late this year. You can see many more photos of the new cars and the rest of the D.L. MacDonald garage here.