In just a few short years Edmonton will be home to 1 million people, cementing our place as one of Canada’s big cities. Edmontonians aren’t used to thinking about their city in this way, but our rapid growth – coupled with being one of the youngest cities in Canada – is putting pressure on our city to adapt and change in new ways.
Anyone who’s spent time in our city over the last few years knows what this change feels like. We’re spending more time in traffic than ever before, our house prices have been steadily climbing and our downtown is alive with activity – both with new construction cranes and people living and working closer to the core. How we respond to these pressures will very much determine Edmonton’s trajectory.
In order to retain the top talent who will drive our city’s growth, and to keep our city moving, we must commit to a series of critical decisions that will help us meet our big city challenges head-on. These include:
- Building more affordable infill – I will push for more affordable infill housing for young families and seniors in communities where it makes the most sense, including along major transit routes in mature neighbourhoods and near significant employment centres. This is the so-called ‘missing middle’, and it includes townhomes and apartments that are close to amenities like schools, neighbourhood stores and transit. I am committed to addressing the zoning and pricing challenges that come with building this kind of critical housing.
- Aggressively build our LRT with the long-term funding I secured from Ottawa and with provincial funds that will match what Calgary recently received. Building the West Line is Council’s next priority, which I fully support, and I will push for moving the LRT above or below traffic at key intersections to keep Edmontonians moving. We also need to plan and build mass transit in the northwest and further south, perhaps with rail, perhaps with bus rapid transit – depending on funding..
- Delivering a big-city public transit system that serves people more efficiently – This means changes to today’s bus routes for a more efficient transit system that supports the busiest routes and connects to the LRT as its backbone. This will mean increased productivity, reducing traffic congestion, stimulating our economy and achieving our ambitious environmental goals.
- Putting people first in urban design – I will push to widen sidewalks, narrow traffic lanes in key pedestrian areas and improve intersection design for people, not just cars. I’ll also continue advocating for expanding our bike lane network to give more people the safety and the confidence to choose cycling, lower speed limits in more areas where we know pedestrians will be clustered, and increasing signal timing so seniors and those with mobility challenges can cross safely.
- Develop a new approach to prioritizing and building interchanges and on-ramps in new communities to ensure suburban residents have greater certainty over when new links will be built and that we have a plan to cover the huge costs of these roadways.
In the past four years we have done a lot of work to improve the lives of commuters. We secured funding for the Valley Line LRT, and to upgrade Yellowhead Trail. We repaved hundreds of kilometers of roads, and renewed sidewalks and roads and pipes in dozens of neighbourhoods. We reduced the number of potholes and increased the number of crosswalks. And yet, in spite of all of our efforts, traffic congestion will worsen as our growth continues, as it always does, in every city.
I recognize that change can sometimes be difficult and there is a spirited debate around much of the points above. But we need to work together to ensure our city is prepared for the future, and ready to handle a million + residents.
For me, this isn’t a car vs. train vs. bike debate. It’s about recognizing that we are a big city that keeps getting bigger – and that we need to build and think like a big city. Big cities plan for the next generation and the generation after that, and they thrive because they have vibrant neighbourhoods and have done the work to keep residents moving as efficiently as possible.
We should expect nothing less for Edmonton.
“If we are going to bring more people into our core neighbourhoods, and make our city more sustainable, we need to make it easier to build a variety of housing types for families of all sizes and incomes. Don will champion the changes needed to make infill more affordable for buyers and more attractive for builders.”
– Mick Graham, President, Singletree Builders
“The quality of life in our communities depends on making it safer and more enjoyable for people to use our streets and sidewalks. Don will push for ‘people-centred planning’ that protects vulnerable road users like seniors, children and cyclists so we can grow a better Edmonton for all people.”
– Julie Kusiek, Chair of QA Crossroads and Co-Lead of Engage 106-76
“If we want to attract and keep the best young talent, and if we want to manage our growth responsibly, we have to shift our thinking to a big city mentality. That means giving people more options when it comes to choosing where they live and how they commute. Don’s leadership on better transit will enable that choice.”
– Doug McConnell, Principal, DIALOG