Alberta Dedicates $2 Billion to Transit Programs

Calgary Light Rail

» Commitment will improve chances of new rail transit lines in Edmonton and Calgary.

In the United States, the federal government plays a very important role in the construction of new transit systems through the awarding of billions of dollars annually with the New Starts grants process. Over the past fifty years, virtually every new rail line and most new bus rapid transit lines have been constructed with most money coming from Washington.

In Canada, the federal government plays a similarly important role in many cases; Vancouver’s Canada Line is named as such because of the significant involvement of Ottawa when sources of financing were being established. Yet many other system expansions have been built thanks to the largess of provincial governments, which are more autonomous than U.S. states. Toronto’s huge Transit City plan, though now diminished in scale, remains principally financed thanks to the Ontario government. The announcement last

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Edmonton Expands Light Rail Service South to Century Park

» Completion of city’s first transit expansion program since 1992 emphasizes attracting a suburban clientele.

Rapid transit systems can promote a variety of differing goals, from increasing the number of commuters choosing to ride public transportation during the peak hour to allowing for the multiplication of zones of walkable urbanism.

Many commuter rail systems have the stated purpose of pulling suburbanites into downtown business districts and often include hundreds of parking spots at stations to allow people who live in sprawling neighborhoods to drive right up to the station then jump on the train to make the final hop to work. At the other extreme, streetcar networks are designed for dense, inner-city neighborhoods in which most inhabitants are presumed not to have a car at all — the transit system is purely intended as a complement to a walking lifestyle.

Edmonton’s newest light rail extension, which includes two new stations

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Edmonton, First North American City with Modern Light Rail, Plans Major Expansion

» Network would focus on reinforcing transit in urban communities, rather than speeding suburbanites into downtown.

When Edmonton opened the first 4.3-mile segment of its light rail network in 1978, it was pioneering a new approach to transit in North America. While cities like Montréal and Washington, DC were constructing huge, expensive heavy rail systems that sought to emulate the best features of older subway systems and carry hundreds of thousands of people a day, Edmonton was more modest in its ambitions. Using light rail technology and railroad rights-of-way, the city built a cheaper system that responded directly to the needs of a city whose population was less than half a million strong. As the system expanded, its focus on assuring quick suburb-to-downtown commutes rather than inner-city travel was the system’s hallmark.

Witnessing the extreme costs and the less than projected ridership of the two heavy rail systems that opened in

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Calgary-Edmonton Corridor Next Up for Train Improvements

Alberta government reports on possible high-speed links costing between C$3 and 20 billion.

Last week, yet another North American governmental body announced that it would begin fighting for funds to build a high-speed rail line. This time, Alberta stepped up to the plate, arguing that a fast train link between Calgary and Edmonton, with a stop along the way in Red Deer, would be a appropriate corridor for investment. This is the second serious Canadian effort for high-speed rail, behind the more prominent Windsor-Québec City effort, which would connect Toronto and Montréal, the country’s two largest metropolitan areas.

Calgary and Edmonton are 180 miles apart, putting them about three hours of one another by car. As a result, more than ninety percent of the travel between the cities is done by road, with only a small portion of people choosing to fly between them. Via Rail Canada serves Edmonton along

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The Site / The Fight

by Yonah Freemark

yfreemark (at) thetransportpolitic (dot) com

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