Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Edmonton's Existing LRT

Edmonton's existing Clareview-Century Park LRT is highly successful attracting just under 100,000 daily riders or 10% of Edmonton's population.  The success of this line could be greatly improved with some minor modifications.  Portions of the LRT line run along abandoned CN right-of-ways using the the existing corridors.  This makes sense in a expense sort of way as your land purchase costs are significantly lower, however this does not make sense in a social way.  Some of the existing right-of-ways run through industrial areas with little opportunity for community integration.

Edmonton's LRT Right-of-Way

When you enclose the LRT corridors with fences you exacerbate pedestrian travel routes and times.  Instead of being able to cross the LRT corridor right away a pedestrian or cyclist needs to travel north or south several blocks.  Eliminate the fences and install signal systems for pedestrians/cyclist, creating an awareness of any incoming train.  When you make the LRT corridor less of a impenetrable barrier the more likely people will embrace it, the LRT becomes a symbol representing unity and connections for every community it passes through.

The corridor in the picture is extremely wide (35m), certainly much wider than it needs to be.  The corridor should be limited to the width of the LRT tracks (6m).  You could easily fill this space with a linear park or housing.  The slimmer corridor would create less of a dead zone, and would increase the appeal of the area.

Map of Edmonton's LRT

The entire system spans 20 km across the entire length of the city, with 15 stations and a one way trip takes 33 minutes.  However there are a few sections of the LRT line that could do with a station.  As I have stated before the optimal spacing between stations at least should be 800 meters, this is approximately 10 minutes of walking time. 

Most cities often overlook infilling their current systems as a way to boost ridership.  However this being Edmonton's only LRT line, I think they can be forgiven for its pursuit of LRT expansion as opposed to infill right now, we will however take a look at the possibilities for infill.  The following table shows the travel distances and corresponding travel/walking times between stations.

Keeping in mind that the maximum optimal spacing is 800 meters, eight sections fail to meet this criteria.  Closer station spacing is vital to ensure that the greatest number of people have access to the LRT system.  If you build stations far apart you reduce the chance of spontaneous transit usage since you have to walk 20-40 minutes just to get to a station.   Infilling is a great way to increase ridership for cheap as it does not require the massive capital investments that comes with building completely new lines. 

Of those eight sections the section between Southgate and Century Park should be one of the first to be infilled.  With a staggering void of 3.17 km between stations, this section begs for at least one station, possibly two.  This section of the LRT corridor is surrounded for the most part by residential properties, which would provide the catchment that is necessary for any station.  The Belgravia-South Campus and Stadium-Churchill sections possess similar situations, being surrounded by residential properties making them most suitable for an infill station.  The South Campus-Southgate section should also be considered, however this may take a little bit more work as portion of this section is buried underground.

Brownfield with Smokestack
Image Credit http://www.panoramio.com/photo/20030040

The Clareview-Belvedere, Belvedere-Coliseum, and Coliseum-Stadium sections should be considered as long term infill stations to coincide with redevelopments.  These sections run through mostly industrial sections and would require extensive rehabilitation to create a livable environment.  There is an interesting opportunity for redevelopment on the large 37 acre brownfield where the old meat packing plant smokestack now stands.  You could easily place a station just north of the Yellowhead to service a new neighbourhood on the brownfield property.  Such a development would support the planned transit oriented development around Belvedere.

The section between Grandin and the University presents a unique opportunity to build a bridge station, taking advantage of the spectacular river valley view.  You would be able to whisk away joggers enjoying the river valley, and help establish the river valley as a attraction.

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