Council candidates share views on LRT

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St. Albert residents have until Oct. 18 to decide who should fill the city’s six available council chairs.

In this, our fourth instalment of a six-part Q&A series, the Gazette asked those seeking election to address the future of LRT in St. Albert. Responses have only been edited for spelling, grammar and length. The Gazette does not vouch for the accuracy of candidates’ statements.

Question:

The City of Edmonton appears committed to extending its northwest LRT line to St. Albert’s southern border. Do you think St. Albert should plan to extend the line within its boundaries? Why or why not?

If so, would you be prepared to put city dollars into planning and engineering during the upcoming term or should such work wait until sometime in the more distant future?

Answers:

Cathy Heron

I believe that public transit is important for our future. St. Albert has a huge population that every day commutes to and from Edmonton and intermunicipal transit is financially beneficial. Our city needs to work closely with Edmonton to expedite the LRT arriving at our southern doorstep. This, combined with the southern transit centre and park and ride will be great for our city.

As for bringing the LRT inside our city limits, I believe we are a long way from that commitment. LRT is another one of those dreams that if we had unlimited resources I would fully support, but at this time I do not believe our population can support the expense of a LRT line within our boundaries. Putting city dollars into planning and engineering at this point is premature. Realization of this dream is a step-by-step process. Fortunately we are getting closer.

Read more about Heron here.

Stanley Haroun

Mass public transportation is generally considered a preferred option, reduces greenhouse gases and decreases traffic congestion.

Unlike the LRT system in Calgary, Edmonton cannot claim that the electricity generated to power the system is from a renewable resource. In the absence of a comparative scientific study, one would hope that the Edmonton system is environmentally sound.

Edmonton’s commitment is still in the initial stages of planning. Council has not passed a final motion relative to route and completion date.

Extension of the line within St. Albert is very costly. Regardless of the location, a park and ride lot will be required. If extension is to be contemplated, this would constitute a fundamental departure from what we have come to expect St. Albert to be. The citizens must be consulted first.

Dollars have already been committed by current council. I would be reluctant to commit additional funding at this time.

Read more about Haroun here.

Norm Harley

St. Albert should plan to extend the LRT line within its boundaries, but not for a few years. We would have to do an extensive needs assessment including, but not limited to, the expected ridership and costs for the construction of the line and station.

Most importantly an extensive review of the projected operating costs needs to be done. Will the fare charged cover the operating costs, or will municipal property taxes be needed to subsidize the operation? Will the service ever be expected to break even, or will it need to be subsidized for the long term?

It comes down to four questions: Do we need it? When do we need it? Can we afford it? How are we going to pay for it?

Read more about Harley here.

James Burrows

I am absolutely in favour of having the LRT eventually linked to St. Albert. This is however, not going to happen anytime in the near future. Until the City of Edmonton facilitates the full engineering and construction of the LRT line to NAIT and beyond, it is rather premature for us to spend any tax dollars on planning or engineering for this project.

In good time, I would support the necessary steps to bring the LRT to St. Albert for the benefit of our community. The mayor of St. Albert is the chairman of the Capital Region Board subcommittee which is currently dealing with transit issues for metro Edmonton. I trust that he will keep us apprised of any planning and decisions being discussed by this committee.

Read more about Burrows here.

Wes Brodhead

An individual travelling by public transit produces 65 per cent fewer greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than an automobile user. Additionally, traffic engineers are beginning to realize that planning must transition from the movement of vehicles to the movement of people and goods in order to maximize the finite capacity of our highway systems. These are two fundamental reasons to push for the extension of the NAIT LRT line to St. Albert.

LRT systems provide speed, reliability, minimal environmental impact, passenger comfort and low operating cost per passenger to the daily commute. As well, the introduction of LRT will allow a redeployment of buses to service west Edmonton employment destinations and provide vehicles to improve local service.

Extending the LRT line serves and benefits all Capital region communities. Consequently, all beneficiaries should contribute funds to offset the incremental increases in planning and engineering costs associated with extending the LRT to St. Albert.

Read more about Brodhead here.

Len Bracko

I believe St. Albert needs to strongly support the extension of the LRT from NAIT to St. Anne Street, in St. Albert. This would reduce the number of St. Albert buses needed by one half and reduce transit capital and operating costs.

I support a functional alignment study to be completed in the upcoming term. The study cost is $3 million, of which $2 million is funded through the Green Trip program. It is expected that the federal government will fund $750,000, leaving St. Albert with a cost of $250,000.

The study would provide the information needed to allow St. Albert residents and businesses to make a final decision regarding the extension of the LRT to St. Anne Street.

I support the LRT coming to St. Anne Street because it will give St. Albert the competitive advantage for business, benefit all our residents and enhance downtown redevelopment.

Read more about Bracko here.

James Van Damme

We should initiate the planning phases for the LRT extension to connect with St. Albert from Edmonton.

This LRT extension would need to be funded provincially through the Green Trip program or other related transit grants due to the scale and expense of constructing this infrastructure. We also need to obtain studies conducted by our administration and staff on use of local city transit along with surveys to residents on frequency of use for a new LRT system.

The City of St. Albert needs to use these funds as they become available from the province for the LRT expansion, first with a park-and-ride system to be constructed where we would eventually see the completion of the LRT route in St. Albert.

St. Albert taxpayers’ dollars are at stake so our decisions on planning the LRT route need to be sound and timely while we lobby for funds from the province to complete the project in a reasonable timeframe.

Read more about Van Damme here.

Aisling Pollard-Kientzel

I strongly support the extension of the LRT line to St Albert. After examining the benefits in various cities across Europe and Canada it would seem beneficial in several manners.

First, the LRT would prove to be an environmentally sound investment. By creating a faster option to travel to Edmonton, we would see a decreased dependency on personal vehicles and buses. In addition, this extension would benefit residents of all ages. By creating a more efficient manner to get to Edmonton, travel time would be significantly reduced for students, seniors and the large number of citizens who work in Edmonton. Lastly, this would be a smart investment by the city, which would be partly funded by several grants.

By extending the LRT we would see fewer tax dollars being spent on acquiring new buses and developing additional buildings to house them. I feel the benefits of this plan would prove beneficial to our city and its future.

Read more about Pollard-Kientzel here.

Malcolm Parker

No funding should be spent on planning and engineering during the next three years as this is not a priority and will not be for several years.

1. Edmonton influences the pace of LRT expansion. Current plans extend to NAIT.

2. St. Albert’s priorities are to reduce the residential tax burden and control spending.

3. Other levels of government have not committed funding.

4. A population of 60,000 plus several thousand from neighbouring communities does not provide a demand to support this investment.

5. 70 per cent of St. Albert residents travel into Edmonton, so peak travel times would be during the morning and evening. Usage during the day would be sparse.

6. The DARP projects a vision for LRT as a future initiative.

7. Wait for Anthony Henday Drive completion to assess its impact then consider LRT planning so optimal routes and terminal locations are identified.

8. Consider alternatives on how the current transit system into Edmonton can be optimized.

Read more about Parker here.

Robyn Morrison

Yes, St. Albert should plan for the extension of the LRT line into St. Albert. Having this line will provide greater integration between Edmonton and St. Albert, which allows for easier movement of people between the two.

In addition, this line would reduce the amount of traffic between the two cities. With this line we can increase the number of workers available to St. Albert, and the ease in which they reach our city. This increased mobility will also serve as an incentive for businesses to set up in our city.

I would be prepared to begin the planning of this project during this upcoming term. This is a project that will take years to go from beginning to completion, and it is not too early to begin our planning. This is not a project where the City of St. Albert will be alone in funding, and we must be prepared to show potential partners that we are serious about this extension.

Read more about Morrisonhere.

Cam MacKay

I support the Edmonton Transit LRT extension “to” St. Albert. An LRT connection to Edmonton will serve as a valuable economic driver for business and it will reduce traffic congestion and pollution.

The LRT extension arriving from Edmonton to the edge of St. Albert is scheduled for completion between 2018 and 2040, therefore planning or engineering for an LRT extension “through” St. Albert is premature. This project will span successive future councils. The primary role of the next council will be to negotiate an adequate financial arrangement with the City of Edmonton and the province.

The total cost for the LRT line extension without external funding is roughly $1.1 billion or $48,000 per St. Albert household. If we are to bring this idea to reality, we must analyze the costs versus the benefits and bring any potential deal to the voter for ratification through a plebiscite.

Read more about MacKay here.

Roger Lemieux

We would be remiss if we did not consider the possibility of the extension of the LRT line into the city limits of St Albert. It appears that the timing for such a project is around 2015.

The priorities of this council do not include dollars either funded or unfunded for the LRT. I would suggest that the council-elect will have to deal with this issue if in fact there is an appetite for such an undertaking.

Capital and operational funds for maintaining our transit system is significant, therefore we would be able shift large sums of money that are required for new buses, maintenance and operational cost over to LRT if in fact it is the right fit for St. Albertans.

Read more about Lemieux here.

Gareth Jones

I believe that the eventual extension of the LRT line from NAIT to the city is imperative for the future development of St. Albert, although the possibility of this will not occur for a number of years to come. Having said that, the citizens of St. Albert need to have as much information as possible available to them in order to make credible decisions on the LRT expansion.

To this end, I would support a transit corridor framework study and a functional LRT alignment study be undertaken to produce the information required to assist our residents and business community to decide on the final outcome. A decision of this magnitude has to be based on clear and concise data that can only be made available from these studies.

More than 90 per cent of the funding required for these studies could come from the federal government and Alberta’s Green Trip program.

Read more about Jones here.

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