The idea of an Edmonton gondola was initially proposed as part of the The Edmonton Project and was chosen as the winning project idea back in March, 2018.
It has since become a topic of debate in the media and will be on the June 5th Urban Planning Committee agenda due to a recent Edmonton Transit System Advisory Board decision to bring it forward.
There have been arguments made both for and against the city moving forward on the proposal.
The ETSAB report outlines some of the anticipated benefits and advantages of this kind of project, but doesn’t have everyone convinced.
There are a number of concerns Edmontonians have shared with me that I hope can be addressed at the Committee discussion.
Among them, is the question of where the money would come from to build it, maintain it, and ultimately to take it down and clean up the mess if it’s not financially viable. The report is proposing a public-private partnership.
There have been a lot of claims that it could be 100% privately funded, but in a statement from March this year a spokesperson for the gondola project said:
“What’s interesting about the gondola idea,” he added, “is that it gives us access to federal and provincial money… It opens a lot of doors. We just need a little bit of time now to collect our people and our thoughts and get organized.”
The report touts gondolas as a way to transport up to 6000 people per hour at the same speed as LRT or rapid transit bus service for less cost and without jamming up traffic. It also notes that it could prevent the need for a new bridge.
I would be interested to see if we would have that kind of demand for cable propelled transit in the area and how the ridership might change throughout the seasons and over time. I also suspect we might still need bridges, even with a gondola.
Given that the route is proposed to be between Old Strathcona and downtown, I also wonder how this would have any benefit for the surrounding communities to help alleviate some of the transit challenges they’re facing.
At the same time that the City is threatening to reduce stops for bus service to residential areas that will impact seniors, parents with strollers, and other residents who might find it challenging to walk over a kilometer to a bus stop, I’m hearing some of those same residents feeling left out by the idea of spending any of their public dollars on a gondola in the downtown river valley.
We often hear people say that the downtown is for everyone. But, not everyone lives downtown or has the opportunity to enjoy the many amenities and novelties of the city’s “gem” that is the downtown core. What some of the residents in Ward 4 are telling me is that they want to see “gems” of their own in their own community as well as downtown.
If there is a strong case for a project that will truly benefit everyone and build our city, I expect to see widespread support from all corners of the city. When I don’t see that support, and instead hear concerns and worries coming from residents, I have to stop and make sure we’re asking the right questions. It’s important that we build a city everyone can enjoy.
One of the other comments in favour of the gondola that I’ve heard is that it could spur development in the Rossdale area. I would certainly love to see that area turn into something incredible and there are ideas of creating an Indigenous gathering space being discussed that I think could be positive.
I would love to see transit-oriented development in our city and I would certainly support re-visioning Rossdale and exploring ideas that make sense for the area. Tying the two together, though, gives the appearance that development possibilities and future use are limited without a gondola station there. Let’s make sure we’re not conflating the two decisions.
I look forward to the discussion in Committee and am confident that Council members will, as always, provide a good analysis and take all views into consideration. Your feedback is always welcome.