‘It’s taken 12 years’: Iveson reflects on city’s transit system overhaul in year-end interview

In a year-end interview with Postmedia, Edmonton Mayor Don Iveson reflects on the major highlights and obstacles for the year 2019, and what he expects for the new year. Larry Wong / POSTMEDIA NETWORK

It’s been more than a decade in the making, but Mayor Don Iveson’s top priority in running for city council back in 2007 is finally coming to fruition.

Built on the backbone of a significant LRT expansion, the city rolled forward with a new bus network and fare policy in November to revitalize the transit system and hopefully make it more attractive to nearly one million Edmontonians.

“There’s a video from 12 years ago on election night when I first became councillor and I got asked what is my top priority. I said I really think we need to fix the transit system in this city. And it’s taken 12 years, but those decisions are all in place now,” Iveson said in a year-end interview with Postmedia atop the Blatchford air traffic control tower.

“These are major strategic turnarounds in our transit system that, in turn, are going to support better mobility for people and support redevelopment along those high-density transit corridors. Not just where the LRT will go in the future, but also where the priority bus routes are. I think all of that together really supports the redevelopment vision of the city as well.”

But the city’s transit expansion hasn’t proceeded without a few shortfalls along the way.

The LRT system faced major obstacles in construction and certainty. The signalling system saga on the Metro Line ended with the city firing contractor Thales Canada and opting for a backup plan while continuing to run the trains at a reduced capacity. The faster radio-wave communication system was initially supposed to be up and running by the end of 2013.

For the Valley Line, the under-construction southeast leg has been plagued with delays. The future west leg faced some last-minute uncertainty in even moving ahead, but the majority of council reaffirmed their commitment to the $2.67-billion project during budget discussions last week. The city is still in search of a contractor after restarting the procurement process.

After finalizing a 2020 tax levy increase of 2.08 per cent, council is on break until the new year. But Iveson said his work over the holidays now shifts to showcasing the direction of the city to friends who have moved away.

“We just really like to show off the city to our friends and continue to try to encourage them to think about moving back,” he said. “We sort of move into talent, attraction and retention mode over the Christmas holidays.”