During Council’s summer recess I had the opportunity to knock on doors in Aldergrove, Belmead and La Perle. I want to thank everyone for being so welcoming, sharing their feedback on how things are going in Edmonton and even sharing snacks and water to keep me fed and hydrated. Even those who did not agree with many of Council’s decisions were happy to engage in a positive discussion.
One of the most common questions I received was why I was out door-knocking. In August 2015 I decided to pick a different community in Ward 1 each month and spend a day door-knocking. The reason I have been doing this is because I want to connect with people who may not call or email me or are not able to attend the quarterly Town Hall meetings that I host. It allows me to hear additional perspectives as it is rare to receive calls or emails expressing support for decisions. I am able to find out if others feel exactly the same way or if they have a different opinion. Having visited around 1,200 doors this summer, I want to summarize some of the feedback I heard.
Bike lanes: While most people I spoke with were pleased to see the bike lanes on 95th Avenue and 189th Street removed, people wanted to talk about the future of bike lanes in the city. In particular, there were questions about if similar lanes would be installed in other parts of the city.
This Council provided direction to City Administration that future bike infrastructure should be focused on the Downtown and University areas. These locations have a higher percentage of people that ride and would help reduce the conflict points that currently exist. For example, the future 102nd Avenue bike lane will not take away lanes of traffic from 136th Street to 124th Street. This is a major commuter road for many from the West End into Downtown and will now provide a great path for people that walk and bike. The majority of this infrastructure will be a multi-use trail along the North side of 102nd Avenue. You can already see some of the work that has taken place on the new Groat Road bridge.
The other comment I would offer is that a location like 95th Avenue has a great deal of space on the boulevards and service roads so that any future bike infrastructure could continue to maintain the existing lanes of traffic while allowing for a multi-use trail or separated bike lane from the sidewalk. Bike lanes have been the number one issue raised since I have been on Council. Based off the feedback received, the concerns have been addressed by the removal of the bike lanes.
Project management: I have previously written about the project management changes made over the last two years in the City of Edmonton. Understandably, it is still a concern that many people raised. While people were aware of the change in City Manager, they did not know about the many other changes made. For a full summary of the staffing, reporting and process changes that have been made over the last few years, please read these posts from February and July. Although there are issues that remain, many changes that have come into effect have helped to create a new culture. This new culture has a proper focus on oversight and project management.
West LRT (Valley Line Stage 2): The common question asked about the West LRT was “When will it arrive?” Many people said they want to see LRT come to the West End and were looking for more information. I have previously written about it here but I wanted to share some additional details.
As of a few months ago, Council has now set the priorities for LRT planning and construction. The next step to move the West LRT forward is to complete the detailed planning work. This work will begin as soon as we receive the funding approvals from the Federal and Provincial Governments. It includes designing the extension to the point where it will be ready to implement construction when funding is available. The Federal Government recently announced an increase in funding for transportation infrastructure. This means that it is likely the timeline is much earlier than we once thought.
When the West LRT route was first approved in 2009, the original vision was to elevate the line above the intersection at 170th Street and 87th Avenue with the rest of the line running at-grade. The detailed design work will now include grade assessments for some of the other critical intersections along the route. This will provide Council with additional information around potential costs and partnership opportunities for elevating LRT at other critical intersections. There is interest from residents in exploring an above-grade crossing at intersections like Stony Plain Road/149th Street and 87th Avenue/178th Street. The work that will go into the grade assessments will help inform any possible changes before construction begins.
These were the most common issues raised at the doors but certainly not the only ones brought up. I was encouraged to hear many people suggest they were pleased with the general direction of the city. That did not mean they loved everything but overall they expressed more positive feedback then negative. As there are always a variety of topics worth discussing and over 30,000 doors in Ward 1 to knock on, it is safe to say that I will never be able to connect with everyone in person. Therefore if you have feedback that you would like to share, positive or not so positive, please call or email me to share your views whenever you like. I want to thank everyone who took the time to chat with me over the break and I look forward to even more door-knocking in Ward 1 over the next year.