The Valley Line: What is “Urban LRT”?

We often receive questions about how and why the Valley Line will be different from the existing Capital and Metro lines. People have heard that the Valley Line will run at street level. They’ve heard it will be a low-floor, urban LRT. And they’ve heard that it will be slower than the existing LRT. Many Edmontonians are curious to know what all of this will actually mean for them. What will it be like to live near, travel on, or drive next to the Valley Line?

Urban vs. Suburban LRT

Edmonton’s current LRT is considered a suburban system—it’s designed to quickly move a lot of people over large distances. The Valley Line will be an urban LRT system. It will make frequent stops, and the stops and stations will be closer together than what Edmontonians may be used to. This means that the Valley Line will typically travel at lower speeds than the Capital Line or the Metro Line: usually at or below community traffic speeds.

The Valley Line is being built this way for a few reasons. First, urban LRT will help us meet the goals set out in the City’s vision and strategic plan. The strategic plan includes a transportation master plan (TMP), The Way We Move, which envisions Edmonton’s transportation system for both today and 2040. It also includes a municipal development plan, The Way We Grow, which envisions a more compact urban form.

Second, low-floor, urban LRT offers a number of advantages, including:

  • Smaller-scale stops that are spaced closer together
  • Fully accessible, step-free boarding
  • Maximizing openness of space to create safe environments at stops and stations
  • Reducing vehicle and traffic speeds in congested areas to support safe, pedestrian-friendly communities
  • Investing in landscaping, streetscaping, and architectural features to improve visual appeal and community integration

These advantages, combined with the fact that low-floor LRT requires less infrastructure than the high-floor LRT Edmontonians are used to, means that urban LRT becomes a welcome and vital part of the communities it serves—it’s designed with the look and feel of the local community in mind.

For drivers, cyclists and pedestrians who will be traveling alongside the Valley Line, urban LRT is “road safe.” In areas where the Valley Line runs at street level, it will travel at or under the posted speed limit for all other traffic. Where the train is elevated or below ground, it won’t go faster than 70 km/h. In areas between stops, the LRT will function like any other part of Edmonton’s existing roadway system, with clear signs and signals.

Even though the Valley Line offers a different LRT experience than Edmontonians are used to, safely interacting with low-floor LRT requires the same good traffic sense that Edmonton drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians are expected to show on our urban roads today.

More information about the way that Edmonton is growing its LRT network, and the rationale for these decisions, can be found online: http://www.edmonton.ca/transportation/PDF/URBAN_LRT.pdf

 

Artist's rendering: The Valley Line at Churchill Square

Artist’s rendering: The Valley Line at Churchill Square

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9 Comments
  1. Paul Lucas
    3 years ago

    While I understand the difference between the two I am confused as to why you would allow a slow moving frequent stopping on roadways. This LRT expereince is not a rapid transit system and I think could cause conflict of vehicles driving now at a much slower pace.
    It also make me wonder why on earth we are not working on a consistent transportation model for Edmonton the LRT south has been great accept for the university area traffic hold up area going south bound.

  2. Tom
    3 years ago

    Paul, the new LRT will still run in its own right-of-way. It isn’t going to be mixing with traffic, so it won’t be holding up traffic any more or less than the existing LRT will be.

    The South LRT has indeed been great, but it doesn’t fit into neighbourhoods very well, as this piece notes. It requires huge stations with big elevated platforms. South LRT will be (moderately) slower but will also be easier for people to access and won’t form a massive barrier between neighbourhoods the way the current surface LRT does.

  3. Mike
    3 years ago

    Edmonton’s current LRT has high ridership because the system offers what commuters want, a time competitive trip with the automobile.

    Recent LRT lines in the USA and elsewhere, which are built like the Valley Line, have much lower ridership numbers than Edmonton’s current LRT lines.
    Part of the reason is because these surface LRT’s operating at slow speeds and with close stops do not offer transit trips which compete with the car.

    Minneapolis’ new Green Line LRT was built much like the Valley Line, and is carrying about 30-40% less riders than the original option, which was to build an LRT line like the ones you see in Edmonton currently.

    It is great Edmonton wants to build more compact communities. But building slow transit will not do that. It will just encourage people to drive their cars. Don’t get stuck in the mistakes that many other cities are doing with building slow middle of the street LRT lines. The current LRT system in Edmonton has great ridership, so the city must be doing something right. Don’t stop a good thing. Transit is about moving people first.

  4. Zub kay
    3 years ago

    With there being so many stops, Is there potential for an express train on the valley line? –It’s nice that it services so many neighbourhoods, but if it’s not faster to take lrt than any other mode of transport in a scenario where you are using a connection between valley and metro/capital, then it loses quite a bit of its draw. I’d go further to say it’s a design oversight.

    I’m also curious to know how much contemplation went into Urban vs. Suburban — prior to the decision. And how much of the decision was based on the pricetag?

    And finally, will this model still work 50years from now? How about 100?

    Thanks

  5. Tony
    3 years ago

    I would have to agree, building a line that runs with traffic and multiple stops is really no different than using a bus. I question the necessity of building a rail line where low floor accordion (stretched) buses can do the same thing.

    I love the current LRT system and continuing with the same type of system would be far more advantages.

    In Toronto where the streetcar has been used for years its no better than driving plus its plagued with issues.

  6. Robert
    3 years ago

    The existing line between Clairview and Century Park was outdated months after opening. Currently it is almost impossible to board at Southgate (just one stop from its beginnning) at peak morning hours. The frequency of the trains has increased creating havoc for traffic moving through or across 111 Street and 114 Street near the University. The traffic situation is now worse than it was before the LRT line was completed as ridership is now over-capacity and riders return their cars on a transit route that has quickly congested from newer developments south of Anthony Henday. The City of Edmonton is 10 years behind in developing solutions to traffic congestion throughout the city while the population has grown by almost a quarter million in the same time frame.

  7. Adam
    3 years ago

    Please Edmonton, do not build an above ground LRT in your most densely trafficked areas. Even with the train on its own right-of-way, you will be jamming up intersections and backing up streets for blocks during rush-hour with train crossings, and creating conditions for collisions with cars, and pedestrians. You need to look no further that the downtown traffic issues and accidents caused by the downtown C-train line in Calgary.

    Above-ground LRT lines are great in areas where there is room to keep the lines from interfering with existing roadways, but cause more issues than they relieve in downtown areas.

  8. Lindsay
    3 years ago

    Thanks for your comments.

    The Valley Line will run in its own right-of-way, but will interact with traffic differently than the Capital Line. Most intersections won’t have gates and bells. Trains will run at or below community speed limits. They’ll also have priority over traffic. There may be times where trains have to stop at a red light or get held up at a station to help balance the flow of trains with pedestrian and motor vehicle traffic.

    Research about what’s most important to people when it comes to light rail transit actually places travel time below things like reliability, comfort and convenience. LRT is more reliable than a bus or car, especially during poor weather and special events. The Valley Line will be slightly slower than the Capital Line, but it will be more accessible and more integrated with the communities it serves.

    The decision to build urban LRT is about planning for the future. We’re changing how we build LRT because Edmonton is changing. Edmonton is the fastest growing city in Canada. As Edmonton grows, more and more people will be using the city’s transportation infrastructure and our roads will get more congested. In 2020 when the Valley Line opens to service, it may be faster to take your car from Mill Woods to downtown (but not cheaper when you consider the rising costs of fuel and parking downtown), but by 2040, it’ll likely be faster to take the Valley Line.

    LRT is a critical part of how we’ll keep Edmontonians moving as our city grows. It isn’t a cure for congestion but it will help to move more people through our city. If you haven’t yet had the chance, please check out this blog post for more info: http://transformingedmonton.ca/the-valley-line-lrt-planning-for-growth/.

  9. Robert
    3 years ago

    +Lindsay I am ok if the train waits for maybe 20-35 seconds at a station, but these trains should not wait at intersections. How does the train know when to move? Does it use lights similar to Minneapolis in Downtown, and St Pauls downtown as well, or does it use signals similar to the ones the Capital Line uses now. I would also be interested to know if the system is to use Communication Based Train control, to increase capacity. Vancouver has CBTC and has frequencies of 90 seconds. Edmonton has Automatic block signals, and some aspects of Rail traffic control, for switches, and has capacity for 4-5 minutes. How fast can trains go through corners, like 153 Ave and 113 St, or 95 Ave and 85 St? I imagine not that fast. 50-60 km/h is probably track speed for the rest of the line, minus downtown and 104 Ave.

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