The Way We Move

The past year or two has seen a real shift in the emphasis the Transportation Department, City Council, and public are placing on thinking about our personal impact and the impact that the design of our city has on the environment, economy, safety, walkability, and livability.

This emphasis is reflected in The City Vision and the City’s Strategic Plan, The Way Ahead, two documents that were prepared to reflect the extensive input from Edmontonians on what we want Edmonton to be. We want a smarter, compact, urban city with accessible transportation. We want travel options. We want a good quality transit system and a city designed to promote walking and a healthy place to live.

The Transportation Master Plan (TMP), The Way We Move, was approved on September 14, 2009 and is the document that provides the framework for how the City of Edmonton will address the transportation needs of the city. It’s based on a 30 year vision and defines goals for how the transportation system will be developed, maintained, and managed. The TMP was developed based on the City Vision and Strategic Plan, as well as input from additional public involvement events, analysis made by the Transportation Department, and input from and coordination with other departments in the City of Edmonton, perhaps most significantly, the Planning Department.

When you think about the design of a city’s transportation system, one of the most important considerations for how effective it may be is to look at how well the land uses (or properties such as residential, commercial, institutional, and industrial) are integrated with the transportation system (the transit, roads, and bicycle and pedestrian routes). As the city expands due to outward growth, more roads are built that require ongoing maintenance, a larger area has to be served by transit, and the distances that people live away from their destinations has a significant impact on how they will decide to travel to meet their daily and weekly needs – personal vehicle vs. transit vs. walking vs. biking.

The moral of the story is that what we do when we plan and build the transportation system has direct impacts on how the land in the city develops and vice versa. Because transportation and land use are inextricably linked, the TMP was developed in conjunction with the Municipal Development Plan (MDP), The Way We Grow, that is currently being prepared by the Planning Department. How successful we are in achieving the TMP goals depends on achieving the supportive goals of the MDP.

So what are the TMP’s goals? They are set out as follows:

Transportation and Land Use Integration
Access and Mobility; Transportation Mode Shift
Sustainability; Health and Safety
Well-Maintained Infrastructure
Economic Vitality

But what does this all mean? How do we achieve these goals? How will the transportation system look in the future?

What we’ll see is a greater emphasis on people moving – enhancements to transit service with transit priority and more bus lanes, expansions of the LRT, and a greater focus on planning and designing the city for pedestrians and cyclists. Goods movements are another focus of the TMP with an emphasis of improving travel time reliability for the movement of goods and services along corridors like the Inner Ring Road (Yellowhead Trail-170 Street-Whitemud Drive-75 Street). Traffic congestion will be primarily managed not by expanding roads but through the use of traffic operational strategies like traffic signal retiming and the use of information systems to allow motorists to better select their routes. The TMP also reaffirms the Transportation Department’s and City Council’s commitment to having well-maintained infrastructure and funding the rehabilitation of our existing neighbourhoods, through initiatives like the Neighbourhood Renewal Program.

And the really good news is that not only do we have a comprehensive plan for transportation in Edmonton, but we are already making progress on a number of projects, programs, or initiatives that will let us achieve our goals. We have been working very closely with the Planning Department to achieve better integration between transportation and land use.

We have seen the extension of the South LRT, there has been a recent commitment to a greater focus on active transportation modes through projects like the Sidewalk Strategy, Bicycle Transportation Plan, and Walkability Strategy (See Aryn Machell’s recent post), and the ongoing development of a Premium Bus Network to complement the LRT and regular bus services. Planning and design have also progressed on the North LRT to NAIT (including some initial construction) and further extensions of the Northeast LRT to Gorman and South LRT to Heritage Valley. On December 15, City Council approved the recommended alignments for the Southeast LRT from Downtown to Millwoods and the West LRT from Downtown to Lewis Estates. And the alignment planning for the Northwest LRT that will connect to the North LRT and run towards St. Albert will be progressing in 2010.

These LRT projects are all based on the internationally award winning LRT Network Plan that was approved by City Council on June 19 which outlines an integrated and interconnected LRT system for Edmonton and the Capital Region.

2009 was a very productive and significant year for the Transportation Department and the Transportation Planning Branch and it is only the start of a lot of very exciting and important work that will progress in 2010 and the years to come as we work to achieve the goals that the public, Department, and City Council have defined.