The other day I took a walk along Jasper Avenue from 100th Street to 106th Street with the intent of determining what could be done to make it something we could all be proud of.
The first thing I would do is get rid of those ugly things in the centre of the street. What they were intended to be is anybody’s guess. Ugly is too kind a word for them.
Then I would get rid of the on-street parking and narrow that six-block section of Jasper to two lanes. Doing so would create a hue and cry that it would make it harder to find a place to park and make it more difficult for traffic to move through that part of the city. My response would be that was exactly the intent.
If you make it easy for people to bring cars into the downtown, they will do exactly that. If we want people to use transit, we are going to have to do more than ask them to do so. Every kilometre of expanded LRT should go hand in hand with reducing the number of parking spaces in the downtown.
The next thing I would do is expand the width of the sidewalks to take up the space left from reducing the traffic lanes. Over the past few years, new restaurants have opened on Jasper Avenue and we should be encouraging more to do so. If we expanded the sidewalk space, the current restaurants would be able to create patio space in the summer. Wouldn’t it be nice to see people out enjoying lunch on a sunny summer day? In the initial stages, those restaurants shouldn’t have to pay anything for the extra space they are provided.
The other thing I would do would be to light the hell out of the street. I’m not talking about sodium vapour lights, but something warm and interesting. Perhaps we could create lighting that reflects the early days of Edmonton or we could give it some character with some interesting neon lighting. Neon lights are one of the things all interesting cities seem to have in common. Well-designed street furniture would also add some sorely needed panache.
In the end, it would be nice if we could turn those six blocks into a pedestrian area. But I can only dream.