Transportation and the Edmonton election: Where candidates stand on bus routes, roads and LRT

·4 min read
A city rendering of the Valley Line West LRT street-level stop at Alex Decoteau.  (City of Edmonton - image credit)
A city rendering of the Valley Line West LRT street-level stop at Alex Decoteau. (City of Edmonton - image credit)

With less than a week until election day, debates over optimizing Edmonton's roads and public transit continue to dominate campaigns for mayor and city council.

Local advocacy group Paths for People recently surveyed more than 60 candidates about transportation and safer streets.

"What we heard consistently is that candidates definitely want to see our transportation system change," executive director Stephen Raitz told CBC Radio's Edmonton AM last week.

CBC Edmonton analyzed the mayoral candidates' transportation commitments and interviewed candidates in the west Edmonton ward Sipiwiyiniwak about light rail transit (LRT) and other key transportation topics.

Though many candidates have similar criticisms of the City's bus redesign network and say they would work to reduce the negative effects of construction, they offer different visions of the future of public transit.

Not all mayoral candidates on board with LRT

A majority of candidates who answered a Taproot Edmonton survey question about LRT said the City should continue with its current LRT expansion plan, but multiple mayoral candidates were among those who suggested examining bus rapid transit (BRT) and autonomous vehicles.

Amarjeet Sohi has said he wants to see LRT extended to the west end, southwest and eventually Castledowns, but Brian (Breezy) Gregg, Michael Oshry, Kim Krushell, Rick Comrie and Diana Steele all indicated in the survey that they support pausing the City's plan and exploring other options.

Mike Nickel, a critic of the West LRT plan, has called for it to be reviewed.

Cheryll Watson has said she would pause West LRT construction but her platform supports extending the Capital line to the airport.

Freezing fares

Taproot Edmonton's survey showed most mayoral candidates support freezing transit fares, but Watson's platform calls for free transit downtown and Sohi's supports reducing the cost for "targeted groups."

Gregg supports free public transit, but he has suggested the City address other issues first.

Rethinking routes and roads

In their platforms and during public forums, many mayoral candidates have criticized the City's bus network overhaul.

When it comes to managing traffic and accommodating active transportation, they have proposed a range of different policies.

Krushell, Oshry and Watson have called for smarter construction — especially downtown.

Watson has promised to work with the province to collect revenue from non-Edmonton residents who use Edmonton's roads.

Nickel supports ending photo radar and widening some city sidewalks. His platform says he would neither remove bike lanes in the core nor remove traffic lanes to support new bike lanes.

Comrie's platform says the city's bike lane system is not working and he considers free public parking a priority.

Augustine Marah said he would work with other branches of government to support trains running between Edmonton and Calgary, as well as bringing back inter-city bus service.

Vanessa Denman did not respond to a request for her mayoral platform and Malik Chukwudi has endorsed Mike Nickel for mayor.

Transit a top issue in west Edmonton

In Ward Sipiwiyiniwak, which covers the southern part of west Edmonton, candidates say public transit access is a top issue.

Candidate Scott Hayes said residents bring up buses and the West LRT most often at the doors.

Hayes, who lives in a new neighbourhood without bus service, said voters often ask when bus service will arrive in their communities or when cancelled routes might return.

"We shouldn't be removing them," he said.

Scott Hayes
Scott Hayes

Incumbent Sarah Hamilton said she did not support the bus network redesign and would fight to restore fixed service for west Edmonton communities if re-elected, but some residents have told her they appreciate the flexibility of the new on-demand service.

Hamilton said she fought for that option as a councillor and was grateful to learn it was working for some residents.

One voter in Cameron Heights told her on-demand service expanded her son's employment opportunities since he does not drive and previous bus service connected him only to West Edmonton Mall.

What to do about the West LRT?

Most ward Sipiwiyiniwak candidates don't support scrapping the West LRT line, even if they would not have green-lit the project themselves.

Hamilton said cancelling or pausing the project would be "irresponsible" at this point.

"The financial penalties the city would incur for cancelling a project of that magnitude would not only jeopardize the city's own financial situation with nothing to show for it, but also jeopardize our relationship with the funding partners at the provincial and federal government," she said.

Giselle General
Giselle General

Candidate Giselle General said she agrees with residents who say the line is "long overdue." She said its purpose is not just to link the west end with downtown but connect people to places like Stony Plain Road and Lewis Estates.

Hayes said he would prefer a different route, but supports the line.

"I don't think we can stop it at this point, even though it certainly wouldn't have been my first choice to spend that much money on," said candidate Derek Hlady.

Daniel Heikkinen did not respond to an interview request on Monday, but his platform says the city should refocus on BRT.

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