I marvel at our civic leader’s ability to think small. When we should have opened up the discussion of a high-speed rail link between Edmonton and Calgary, our mayor’s comment was that it might have some merit, but money for public transit in both cities would be a better investment.
There’s no doubt that we need a more integrated transit system and extending the LRT is crucial to our development as a city. But the real question is why we have such a pitifully small rapid transit system when we compare it to Calgary’s? One part of the answer is that we just don’t want to think in terms of decades rather than years.
If we had taken the financial risk that Calgary did, we would have a much bigger and more effective system. But instead we thought small. For many people, the city wasn’t big enough at the time to justify the expense. Given how the city has grown since our LRT came into service more than 30 years ago, that was short-sighted thinking. And that brings me back to the high-speed rail link.
For the life of me, I cannot imagine how a high-speed rail link would be anything but positive for Edmonton and for the environment. Having such a link would certainly put us on the map in North America. As far as I know, there is no such link anywhere else on the continent.
We also have engineering, fabricating and construction companies in Edmonton that would no doubt benefit from this kind of mega project. And depending upon the type of train we choose, I suspect there would be lots of opportunities for technology transfer and development that would benefit Edmonton.
The positive environmental impact of a high-speed link would be profound. Thousands of single-occupant vehicles travel between Edmonton and Calgary every day. I can’t believe I’m the only person who would much rather get on a train and be in downtown Calgary in an hour.
It’s true that we probably don’t have the needed population right now. But the operative words there are “right now.”
Does anybody really think Edmonton, Calgary and the rest of Alberta is not going to grow during the next two or three decades? Maybe we should change our slogan to “Edmonton — City of Myopic Leadership.”