Council votes down rapid transit plan
Mayor cites incomplete transit projects in argument against funding request
By: Peter Boer
| Posted: Wednesday, Oct 31, 2012 06:00 am
Planning for rapid transit in St. Albert’s future is on hold after city council rejected a proposal for a $250,000 master plan.
Mayor Nolan Crouse could not hide his concern over both the timing of the proposal as well as transit’s recent history of not completing major projects, fearing the department was understaffed and overworked.
“I’m not prepared. I think we need to do this after the south park and ride is open,” Crouse said. “I think it’s just a little too early.”
Prior to the 5-2 vote, with only Couns. Wes Brodhead and Len Bracko voting in favour of the plan, Crouse extracted from transit director Bob McDonald a series of admissions focused on large transit projects that have not been completed over the last three years.
McDonald admitted that his department hasn’t completed handibus scheduling software approved earlier this year, a $140,000 approved transit corridor study and a $60,000 LRT task force. He also said that work to install security cameras, approved in 2009, was only now being put together into a request for proposal.
McDonald did not say why those projects have not been completed and was not available for an interview before the Gazette’s deadline.
Money for the rapid transit master plan would have come from the city’s LRT reserve fund.
Transit is also conducting a long-term department plan and in 2013 wants to implement the recommendations from the handibus review, which forms part of the budget.
Crouse was also concerned that council was voting on the proposed master plan on the same day the draft 2013 budget was being presented. He said the money could be better spent on planning for the future south park and ride, the land for which is still being negotiated with the province.
“It will require a project team, an immense project team. The list is long for public works alone on transportation,” Crouse said.
In total he outlined 13 reasons why he couldn’t support the master plan, ranging from pressures on transit staff to the fact it was not linked with any of transit’s priorities. He pointed out transit has recently lost two staff members and wondered how the department would be able to complete more work with fewer staff.
“Mr. Mayor, I’m not going to say it’s going to be easy,” McDonald said. “But we have filled both positions that were vacant and we have in-house expertise.”
As proposed, the master plan would have looked at what methods of rapid transit would have best suited St. Albert’s future needs, especially with construction of Edmonton’s northwest LRT line ending at the south park and ride. Alternatives ranging from bus priorities, bus rapid transit and LRT would have been examined.
Glenn Tompolski, general manager for infrastucture services, which includes transit, said Tuesday the plan’s defeat would have no impact on the proposed 2013 budget.