I normally use this space to critique other people’s plans and actions, meaning I come across as more negative than I would like. Unfortunately, with no direct power to influence most processes, this is my role as a columnist.
With my departure from this space approaching, however, I want to try something a little different: Pretend that I have the power to make certain design decisions and hope that others will have similar ideas.
While the countless LRT planning projects underway would be good subjects, the City Centre Airport redevelopment project provides an enticing blank slate and the design competition is just beginning.
So, where to start? Being that this is a transit column, I should start with the obvious — building on the plans to extend LRT to St. Albert from NAIT with a fully transit-oriented development.
Current LRT plans place only one station on the site, but I’d place at least two to shorten the walks closer to the city’s 400-metre policy.
The stations themselves should be surrounded with the densest and most vibrant uses, tapering off into the quiet fringes, to allow residents to trade off access and privacy while ensuring that most people live within a short walk of the stations.
Because this line will be the old-style high-floor train, it’s important to ensure that the track isn’t a barrier. Building on an open site means that cut-and-cover tunnelling is relatively easy, and shallow tunnels running under a linear park would reduce the cost.
A side benefit is that instead of the usual climb to the surface, riders would only need to mount a single flight of stairs to return topside with platforms located under plazas rather than streets.
Along with high-floor LRT running north-south, I’ve long thought that 118 Ave. would be a good future candidate for urban cross-town LRT. At the very least, it’s currently an important transit corridor that deserves strengthening, and with the airport gone it should be connected through the site in some form.
Redirecting a few major bus routes (the 8, 9, 12, and some reorganization of the 3 and 5 come to mind) and supplying a few community circulators for those with limited mobility would round out the rest of the necessary transit service.
The question then is: How to ensure that new residents and visitors take transit — as well as walk and bicycle — which is a question I’ll address in a future column.