News / Edmonton

Election Primer: With changing bus routes and new LRT, council has big transit decisions to make

Kevin Tuong / Edmonton Freelance

Whether it's bus or LRT, Edmonton's current city council has made some notable changes to how Edmontonians use transit to move around the city--and those decisions are shaping up to be a major force in Monday's election.

Metro did an online poll to ask readers which election issues you wanted to know more about, and the top answer, by far, was public transit.

It's not just our readers, either. From LRT construction to changing bus priorities, transit reared its head in almost every councillor and mayoral candidate forum. According to Twitter Canada, Edmontonians have tweeted about transit in regard to the election about 2,130 times, which is twice the number of times infill, the next most popular topic, was mentioned.

So here's a backgrounder on the debate about transit to help you make a decision about where a candidate stands on transit.

One of the biggest concerns for bus riders this year was the new transit strategy the city introduced in July, which will eventually see more high-frequency routes in the core, but at the expense of local bus routes in the suburbs.

The changes have been applauded by those who say busing will now be easier for people living centrally, but the plan also means the bus isn't quite as accessible as it used to be, and critics have wondered what this means for seniors and those with disabilities.

“I feel like city council is treating transit users like a cost-effectiveness study and not a public service as it should be,” rider Jared Pachan told Metro back in July. Pachan was a frequent user of the 103 route, that no longer runs on weekends and evenings.

Meanwhile, LRT construction in the city continues, with ripple effects for both transit riders and drivers.

Some new LRT services have been slow to get up to speed--think the Metro Line--and riders leaving their cars at the park and rides at Century Park or Clairview continue to face a lack of parking, making the service difficult to use.

Valley Line LRT

The long-awaited new Valley Line LRT was planned to make the commute easier for people travelling between downtown and the south side. City council approved $1.8 billion for the project back in 2012, a price tag which includes maintenance for the next 30 years.

The amount of money being spent on the project and the driving delays caused by construction of the 13-kilometre track have raised questions.

Some mayoral candidates have raised concerns about the plan, however. Steve Shewchuk called it too expensive and Carla Frost, who has a farming background, said people in her position would not find LRT useful.

But other candidates, including incumbent Mayor Don Iveson, have come out strong in favour of transit, with plans to expand the network and make it cheaper for kids under 12.

Sandeep Agrawal, director of the urban and regional planning program at the University of Alberta, points out that LRT issues, especially those related to construction, are only temporary.

“This argument about congestion and noise because of a new construction is for any new development, not just LRT,” he said. “That is just for the time being, it’s going to go away when the whole system is built.”

He said having an LRT will make the city more sustainable and a more complete community.

“There is probably those that mostly drive cars and don’t want their cars to slow down,” he said.  

“But I think with the new LRT coming in, it will have some impact on our cultural values as Edmontonians and hopefully it will take us off our cars and sort of push us into using more public transit.”

You asked, we answered: We get you up to speed on the election issues you told us you wanted to know more about.

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