WATCH ABOVE: The Metro Line LRT is officially open to passengers, but many people are concerned about the Tuesday morning commute. Lisa Wolansky reports.
EDMONTON — It’s the day transit users and the City of Edmonton have waited nearly two years for: the Metro Line LRT is open for service. The first train went into operation at 5:42 a.m. Sunday.
“There were people on the train, wanting to be the first on the train, and we’re happy to have it in service,” said Dorian Wandzura, the City of Edmonton’s Transportation Services general manager.
Wandzura said it is a huge relief to finally have the system up and running.
“I think it would be an understatement to say that I’m the happiest person in Edmonton that this is finally running.”
Things were running smoothly Sunday morning with limited to no traffic delays, Wandzura said. Some adjustments were made to the length of time trains were waiting at some stations, in order to better synchronize the trains.
“We’re very pleased with the operation. Trains have been synchronizing back and forth nicely, they’ve been flowing smoothly across the intersections,” he said. “Right now we’re seeing traffic clear out within one green cycle.”
WATCH: Metro Line LRT train takes first journey with passengers
Those on the train Sunday morning told Global News they were pleased with the service, but the true test will come Tuesday morning once the train system meets rush hour traffic and students heading back to class.
While Sunday’s opening has been a long time coming, the line still isn’t running to its full capacity. Due to ongoing troubles with the signalling system, trains will run on a 15-minute frequency between the Churchill and NAIT stations. They will also be travelling at a slower speed of 25 km/h.
Last week, city council once again voiced its frustrations after a city report revealed there could significant traffic delays on key routes during peak rush hours. Testing of the Metro Line found drivers could wait upwards of 16 minutes at two specific intersections in the Kingsway area.
“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,” said a city report last week.
The NAIT Students’ Association warned students to leave early in order to make it to class on time Tuesday.
“I think that it’s going to be a challenging morning,” said Jason Roth, the students’ association’s advocacy director. “Leave early. If you take a bus, take an earlier bus. If you drive, give yourself some extra time or take a different route.”
Roth said waiting for the LRT line to open has been frustrating for the school and its students.
“I think that there is just a mood of profound disappointment. Nothing has seemed to have gone right from the beginning and we always seem to find out about problems through you guys. We don’t think that that’s necessarily fair.”
Every third northbound train leaving from Century Park to Churchill Station will be a Metro Line train, turning northwest after leaving Churchill Station. LRT passengers are asked to give themselves more travel time to make connections.
Because of the staged implementation of the Metro Line, LRT service between Churchill and Clareview stations will be reduced. During peak periods, the north part of the main LRT line will operate on a five or 10-minute frequency. To offset the reduction in frequency, the city added more capacity by using five-car trains.
Transportation officials expect traffic wait times at Metro LRT-impacted intersections will go down as drivers adjust to the changes and others choose other routes to avoid those intersections.
Wandzura said he is “optimistic” that things will go smoothly Tuesday morning.
The $755 million Metro Line came in approximately $90 million under budget. It was originally scheduled to be ready for passengers in April 2014.
Late night bus service on five city routes also started Sunday.
For more information on the Metro Line and the delays, visit the City of Edmonton’s website.
With files from Emily Mertz.