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Obstructionists jam up new transit route

In 2008, the Transportation Department preferred routing the West LRTline along 87 Avenue and across the river to Health Sciences. The line,implicitly, would have used high-floor cars and continued on to NAIT orClareview.

In 2008, the Transportation Department preferred routing the West LRT line along 87 Avenue and across the river to Health Sciences. The line, implicitly, would have used high-floor cars and continued on to NAIT or Clareview.

In 2009, the Transportation Department now prefers turning up 156 Street at Meadowlark to run down Stony Plain Road into downtown. The line, explicitly, is to use low-floor cars and continue to Mill Woods.

Make no mistake, this was a political decision. Little has changed except the metrics for making the decision — produced, unsurprisingly, by council. Political meddling in minutiae can be problematic, but a decision between two options so completely different in approach can’t be made any other way.

The 2008 route was faster to downtown and faster yet to the University of Alberta.

By creating a river link to take a more direct path to downtown than any road, the 2008 route would have converted drivers through sheer speed.

The 2009 route, by contrast, serves more neighbourhoods with more stations.

It facilitates a transit-supportive, mixed-use, human-scaled environment.

By giving priority to transit, the 2009 route will convert drivers by providing rapid transit access and urban amenities outside of downtown.

The downsides follow from the upsides. The 2008 route doesn’t connect as many places where mixed-use could succeed, while the 2009 route looks to be slower than existing service for many passengers between LRT stations west of Meadowlark and south of the river.

Of course, some things never change.

The 2008 route upset some residents of Laurier Heights and Parkview — home to Daryl Katz, among others.

The 2009 route upsets the Glenwood community league, which has, ironically enough, accused the city of bowing to community pressure.

In addition to neighbourhoods, the 2009 route passes through the commercial strip along Stony Plain Road. There’s some early indication of opposition from, of all people, a property management company president. Presumably he doesn’t know rail transit lines increase property values or believe the city will relax zoning restrictions. On the latter I’m concerned as well — if they don’t, this route will be a huge flop.

It’s nice to hear that they want to reallocate existing street space rather than expropriate properties. It’s great that one of the major criteria for changing the routing was redevelopment potential. But in order to make this all work, the city will have to deal with the obstructionists.

 
 
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