A $30 Million Empty Parking Lot
By Grant Ainsley | Tips | [comments] | Posted [date]
Many years ago, I was a radio reporter covering City Council in Edmonton. I'm not going to say how long ago that was, but let's just say the biggest issues Council faced in those days were keeping up with massive city growth and an annual inflation rate that ran around ten percent.
This week's blog takes me back to those days as I ask questions about a development in the area where I live. There's an Edmonton Transit park and ride facility that sits empty, even tough it's finished, and to make things worse, we're not sure now when it will open.
The other interesting point is that the story hasn't been covered in the news media, so here's the story of an empty $30 million parking lot.
A Big, Beautiful Empty Lot
I was recently driving on Ellerslie Road at the far south end of Edmonton, on my way to the Jagare Ridge Golf Club. As I was driving west, I looked to my right as I passed what’s called the Heritage Valley Park & Ride.
It’s a big park and ride lot for Edmonton Transit. I thought back to the original plan for the lot. Large shuttle busses were supposed to run every five minutes during the morning and afternoon rush hours to take passengers to and from the Century Park LRT station, just northeast of there. For years, Edmonton Transit allowed the parking lot at Century Park to crumble, saying it was only a “temporary” lot. It turned out that temporary lot was used for over a decade with few improvements.
That’s ok, our new park and ride facility will open soon, or so I thought over the past couple of years. However, as I drove to the golf course, I realized nobody was working on the Heritage Valley lot. It appeared to be done and looked really nice. Even the landscaping had been completed. It looked like it was ready for busses, parked cars and people.
The new Heritage Valley Road also opened a few months ago, to take traffic from the nearby Anthony Henday Drive, right into the transit station lot. This would be great for people living in Heritage Valley communities like Rutherford and others. People living in Windermere, to the west, could zip down the Henday in the morning, turn into the lot, park, and hop on a shuttle bus to take them to Century Park and then downtown in a matter of minutes.
It sounded too good to be true that the lot was finally done. It was.
Opening Date: TBA
I eventually discovered the lot was supposed to open at the start of this year, but a budgetary decision by City Council last November meant it wouldn’t open for service until this coming December.
Great. That decision was made BEFORE the pandemic hit. Who knows when the lot will open and shuttle service will be offered now?
Let’s remember, Mayor Don Iveson mused this spring that the City was in such bad financial shape the entire transit system might have to be shut down this summer. He backtracked on that right away, but it’s pretty clear adding expensive transit services likely won’t happen in this environment.
Who knows when the lot and shuttle service will open. 2021? Later? We don’t know because Edmonton Transit won’t say. Service is supposed to begin in December. That’s all it says on its website and that hasn’t been changed for months, but how is that supposed to happen now?
As a result, the lot sits there with all the entrances blocked. It looks really nice, but that’s little consolation to people who drive by there every morning on their way to parking in a residential area, so they can continue to take a bus to Century Park.
The bottom line is, the City of Edmonton spent around $30 million dollars to build a state-of-the-art park and ride lot, but then decided it shouldn't open for a year. No reason has been given, other than it was a decision related to the City's budget.
Now, that’s some good planning right there.
To make the decision to delay the opening even more puzzling, almost exactly two years ago, Council recommitted to park and ride as a key part of the city’s transit strategy. Less than a year and a half later, it put the opening of the lot and its operation on hold.
Just two and a half months ago, Council voted to extend the Capital Line south to Ellerslie instead of going north into Castle Downs, as it bets on further expansion to the south.
I should note, work continues to widen Ellerslie Road, east of the lot. Taking buses through there now would be an issue, so it may have been a factor in the delay. With proper planning though, this shouldn't have been a problem.
There's that phrase again - proper planning.
Nothing to See Here
The other puzzling thing about this story is that it isn’t a story.
Nobody from the media has reported on the delay, unless I missed something in an extensive Google search of the issue. A delayed 20-bay transit centre, with 1,100 parking stalls at a cost of $30 million dollars, but for some reason that’s not a story the media wants to cover.
A road from the Henday has been completed to the west of the lot and 127th Street to the east has been upgraded too. Millions more has been spent on roadway construction around the lot. A storm pond north of the facility was supposed to be completed as well.
Yet it has received no coverage and maybe Edmonton Transit is happy about that. It has enough on its plate these days as it continues to run on a Saturday schedule. It’s scheduled to return to normal service on August 30th, but that service won’t include the Heritage Valley Park & Ride facility.
The list of items the City of Edmonton hasn’t handled well during the pandemic continues to grow. The decision to delay the opening was made before the pandemic hit, but we’ll be feeling its effects as business will pick up for the LRT as soon as school goes back and more companies have employees return to their offices this fall.
Taxpayers deserve better.
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