WATCH ABOVE: Testing of the Metro LRT Line has found there could be significant delays to key routes during peak rush hour. Jessica Kent reports
EDMONTON — Testing results of the Metro LRT Line found there could be “significant” traffic delays on key routes during peak rush hours and that some delays could be permanent.
At some crossings, a report estimates drivers might wait only two minutes while LRT trains operate on a 15-minute frequency.
However, for two specific intersections being impacted by the LRT line, the wait could be as long as 16 minutes.
The report said, “Princess Elizabeth Avenue/106 Street and 111 Avenue/Kingsway Avenue will be particularly busy and traffic will queue in all directions. The addition of regular LRT service will create situations where queues will persist and lengthen until a train cycle has cleared and vehicle traffic cycles through for the intervening 15 minutes.
“Motorists are being advised to expect delays and be patient as during peaks hours it may take up to four cycles for a vehicle to have the opportunity to clear one of these intersections and that means up to 16 minutes waiting in a queue that extends multiple blocks.”
“This is very disappointing,” said Mayor Don Iveson. “I didn’t expect the numbers to be like this.”
“This is obviously a longer delay than we were lead to believe,” said the mayor. “I think if we had known it was going to be this, council clearly would have made different planning decisions. So we were not given good information. My expectation is that the transportation department will do their best to bring that number down while balancing the safety of all the different users of the roadway.”
“Council feels a little hoodwinked,” added Councillor Bev Esslinger.
The Transportation Committee was told those two intersections currently clear within one traffic cycle.
“I’m honestly so gob-smacked I almost don’t know what to ask,” said Councillor Scott McKeen.
Trains may wait up to five minutes at MacEwan station to deal with traffic issues.
The committee was told the Metro LRT Line is set to open on Sept. 6.
“We’ll turn it on, we’ll see how it performs, we’ll ask for everyone’s patience,” said Iveson. “No matter when it turned on – whether it was a year ago if the signalling system had been working or not – we were going to have delays. there’s going to be congestion when you turn on a new LRT system. At the same time you have more people with a new choice to take the train.”
“But when we’re putting in the lines, if we’re going to create intersections that don’t work, I think this council wants to know in advance and wants to put grade separation in so the train is a win-win.”
Part of the issue with the delays at intersections is because, at first, LRT trains will be travelling at a slower speed, so crossing gates will be down for longer periods of time.
However, once the trains are operating at a higher speed, the service will increase in frequency. The crossing gates will then come down more frequently but for shorter durations.
“We’re going a little slower but we’re going less frequently right now,” said the city’s Transportation Services GM Dorian Wandzura.
Wandzura said the public education campaign had already started to prepare riders and drivers for the start of the Metro Line on Sept. 6.
Transit staff will be stationed at all crossings for the first week of operations.
Training started four weeks ago and train simulations have been done during non-peak hour service.
“I think the delays will go down as we settle into the system,” Wandzura said.
The Transportation Committee heard that even when the Metro Line is operating normally, there may only be a 15 per cent improvement to traffic flows in some areas.
Esslinger said she thought the city should increase public communication about the traffic impacts.
Iveson thought drivers should be made aware of the changes and expected delays so they could choose other routes if possible.
“I’m concerned this will kill the sentiment for the LRT,” said Councillor Michael Oshry.
Late Wednesday, in a motion, the committee asked city administration to:
- report on the feasibility of moving the NAIT LRT Station to east of 106 Street;
- bring a report on other possible measures to mitigate issues identified with the Metro Line;
- report on the feasibility of grade separating the Princess Elizabeth Avenue crossing as part of the next phase of NW Extension through Blatchford and beyond.
“This council needs to take control of these projects and that the info we’re getting can be relied upon,” said Iveson, stressing problems like this cannot happen again.