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Is Edmonton’s Valley Line LRT designed with growth in mind?

Is Edmonton’s Valley Line LRT designed with growth in mind?
WATCH ABOVE: Ahead of a debate on the most expensive project in the City of Edmonton's history, we're learning more about the potential limitations of the Valley Line LRT. Vinesh Pratap reports.

Is the Valley Line LRT to west Edmonton being designed with future city growth in mind?

Further scrutiny of the design specifications by Global News has revealed that once the first phase of the line is built in 2020, there may not be a chance for the city to increase passenger capacity or train frequency along the busy corridor. The line will eventually run to Lewis Farms in west Edmonton.

The train cars along the Valley Line extension will be 42 metres long, with the capacity to hold about 275 passengers. Due to the length of the cars compared to the length of a city block along the line, the Valley Line LRT trains will be limited to two cars per train, according to a city spokesperson. Adding an additional car to the train would block vehicle traffic.

The city is currently designing the Valley Line trains to run on a five-minute frequency, and any increase in train frequency could affect vehicle traffic, the spokesperson indicated.

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To put this into perspective, this means the line will be able to transport a maximum of about 6,600 people over the course of an hour, based on a five-minute frequency.

By comparison, the current Capital Line is able to transport about 12,000 people – nearly twice as many people – per hour. This is because the 24-metre-long cars can accommodate about 200 people each, and the trains are able to carry up to five cars. Peak frequency on the Capital Line is also every five minutes.

READ MORE: Mystery emerges, leading to delay in Valley Line LRT construction

With the major ways of increasing capacity being adding more cars to a train and running the trains on a higher frequency, is this line being designed for the future?

One west Edmonton resident doesn’t think so.

“You’re going to be having a train that holds 500 people going all the way across the city? There’s not going to be enough room,” said Lori Yaremchuk, who lives in west Edmonton and takes transit to and from work every day.

Yaremchuk is worried the system will already be under capacity by the time it opens.

“It’s only going to get worse,” she said.

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“The biggest thing is the amount of space on the LRT line. If there’s one or two cars running, you have 500 people maximum that you can take downtown. I know at 6:30 in the morning, from West Edmonton Mall, the express bus is already jam packed, standing room only.

“If they were to build it above grade or below grade, there wouldn’t be the issues. They could build more capacity into it. Maybe start off light and add into it as they need.”

READ MORE: Edmonton exploring idea of trenches for northwest LRT expansion

Yaremchuk is also concerned about the lack of information being released about the new LRT line. She said she’s attended open houses and wasn’t able to get answers to all of her questions.

“My question has been, ‘What buses are they replacing?'” she said. “Nobody will answer those questions. When I asked them at one of the meetings, they said they will release that information later. They did not have it on hand.

“Why wasn’t all of this discussed up front? I’ve been a systems analyst for 35 years – you bring all the items to the table at the beginning, you identify everything at the beginning and bring all of the stakeholders in. We’re getting released little tidbits of information day by day.”

Last week, a new city report revealed the cost of the Valley Line LRT jumped by about $440 million, from $1.8 billion to $2.24 billion. The increased price tag is due to design changes at a couple of key intersections, as well as a larger park-and-ride facility at Lewis Estates.

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READ MORE: Projected cost of Edmonton’s Valley Line West LRT jumps by $440M

The contentious topic will be up for debate at city council on Wednesday, with about three dozen Edmontonians signed up to speak at the public hearing.

Watch below: On March 21, 2018, Vinesh Pratap filed this report about a public hearing into Edmonton’s West LRT plan.

Public hearing held for Edmonton’s West LRT plan
Public hearing held for Edmonton’s West LRT plan