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Signal woes add fuel to anti-LRT fire

Good morning, south LRT riders. Enjoyed your first three weeks on thenew extension? Might want to speak up, because there’s a lot ofnegativity to drown out.

Good morning, south LRT riders. Enjoyed your first three weeks on the new extension? Might want to speak up, because there’s a lot of negativity to drown out.


Take the Edmonton Journal’s front-page headline from two days before the first real commute: “LRT extension brings parking woes.”


It’s in present tense, implying that some sort of parking apocalypse has occurred, destroying the neighbourhoods around Southgate (due to its lack of a park-and-ride lot, naturally).


I guess all the follow-up articles — you know, the ones written after the system actually opened — were bumped by whining about delays for drivers at 51 Ave.


Now I do have some sympathy, especially for the bus riders also stuck at the lights, but that really shouldn’t mean giving a little quirk more attention than the project itself.


It also shouldn’t contribute to the kind of anti-surface LRT sentiment that’s been festering lately. Unfortunately, the city hasn’t done a great job of explaining what went wrong — likely because it’s rather embarrassing.


The problem was partly due to trains tripping the lights back to green for 111 St. every two and a half minutes on average during rush hour. However, this wouldn’t have been a problem if the signals weren’t programmed to take more than three minutes.


It isn’t hard to figure out that whatever is in that last minute (the green for eastbound traffic) isn’t going to come up very often. The inconvenienced drivers — not used to waiting five, 10, even 30 minutes for ETS like the rest of us — unsurprisingly became rather irritated.


In order to fix that problem, the city actually needed to send someone out to fiddle with the box of gears, switches, and motors that they’ve left in charge of an intersection that handles around 100,000 people every day.


Apparently, the several hundred million dollars didn’t include upgrading this glorified egg timer — unfortunate, since even a computer can figure out that the skipped east/west greens should come up as soon as possible after trains clear the intersection.


The results of this silly mistake are a distraction from the benefits of LRT and ammunition for a vocal minority that believes “urban LRT” is a synonym for “streetcar” and taking lanes from Stony Plain Road means imminent disaster.


Public consultation just started for the west to southeast line. We can’t let a mistimed signal help stall out the only real LRT momentum we’ve seen in years.