Tag Archives: Edmonton

(Part 1) A few thoughts on parking in Edmonton…

If asked to list Edmonton’s problems, a typical Edmontonian would likely mention potholes, snow removal, and taxes, which, when you think about it, are the things everyone wants from their municipal government: good infrastructure, effective services, and a reasonable cost of providing the two. Parking, being plentiful and inexpensive here relative to other similarly-sized Canadian cities, would probably escape mention.

Unless they were asking me. I’d put parking at the top of the list, and definitely not because we have too little of it. On the contrary, I’d argue that the abundance and cheapness of parking in our city directly and significantly contribute to the very problems listed above. When regulated incorrectly, as I think it is in Edmonton, parking drives up the costs of just about everything by wasting land that could be otherwise used more productively.

Although one could argue for a long time about whether, say, a consistently full lot that provides a employee parking for business during working hours is more or less productive than a mixed-use, medium-density commercial/residential complex, one thing that is not debatable is that an empty parking stall is less productive than just about anything. Unfortunately, empty stalls are something most North American cities (ours included) have no shortage of, thanks in large part to antiquated parking requirements like those found in Edmonton’s municipal zoning bylaw.

Such regulations generally prescribe a minimum amount of parking that is required for each development, based on some index of the development’s size or occupancy. (For example, apartment housing within the boundaries of the Downtown Area Redevelopment plan requires a minimum of 0.5 spaces per bachelor suite, 0.75 spaces per 1 bedroom dwelling, 1 parking space per 2 or-more bedroom dwellings, and 1 visitor parking space per 7 dwellings;  commercial developments with area greather than 28 000 m² require 4 parking spaces per 100 m² of floor area; etc). These minimums consistently result in an oversupply of parking spaces (particularly in the suburbs) because, most commonly, they are not determined using logical means (eg, research and analysis of the jurisdiction within which they are prescribed). Instead, they are usually based on either flawed and outdated handbook data or surveys of neighbouring/similar districts  — districts which themselves most likely use similarly illogical techniques to set their parking regulations. Because the handbook data (typically from the Institute of Transportation Engineers) is intended to represent peak conditions (and generally skewed toward providing an oversupply of parking), and because almost every district in North America oversupplies parking, determining parking regulations in this manner consistently results in a surplus of parking stalls.

So why are too many parking stalls a problem? Because they cost money –although parking is (usually) without a price, it is not without a cost. Someone has to acquire, upgrade, maintain, and pay taxes on the countless hectares of land our city uses to store automobiles:  businesses, residents, or governments, community groups, etc. Forcing these parties to build a minimum amount of parking reduces the efficiency with which they can allocate their resources. They force public officials, for example, to devote money (sometimes very significant amounts, particularly if parking structures of any kind are required) to parking stalls that may or may not be used, instead of letting the officials determine levels of parking at which additional stalls would not serve the public better than enhancements to the facility they’re building. Such inefficiency drives up the costs of all buildings, which increases the cost of doing business and of housing and ultimately reduces the city’s standard of living and  competitiveness vis-a-vis other districts.

Effectively, parking minimums represent a subsidy to drivers on behalf of property owners. (In the absence of parking minimums, many property owners would undoubtedly continue with standard practise, but I would argue that they should at least be given a choice). The imposition of such a subsidy could potentially be acceptable if it served societal goals, but this subsidy does just the opposite: by reducing the intensity with which land is developed and engendering automobile use, parking minimums reinforce and underlay sprawl, further entrenching a mode of growth cities continent-wide are trying to escape.  Research has also shown that excessive, artificially inexpensive parking frustrates efforts to increase transit usage, and makes sites on the urban fringes more attractive as their lower land costs significantly reduce the cost of providing parking. In short, parking minimums actively work against almost every long-term development goal our city has.

So, what’s to be done? That will be the subject of a subsequent blog post. For now, I’ll point out that I’m certainly not advocating the eradication of parking in Edmonton. Rather, I’d simply like to see thoughtfully designed parking policies that further our city’s objectives replace the current set of regulations, derived from outdated convention, that frustrate progress in almost every respect.


More Articles on Alberta High Speed Rail

From the Western Standard:


A case for the Calgary-Edmonton high-speed train

Robert Vineberg with the Canada West Foundation wants to know what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high-speed train?

Robert Vineberg – July 20, 2009

The release, on July 6, of the Government of Alberta’s report on a Market Assessment of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor leads to the consideration of a number of political and policy issues, both provincially and nationally, that might be resolved or, at least, substantially mitigated by a high speed train project.

The Alberta Government faces several problems that could be solved by introducing high speed train service in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor. Alberta has to show the world that it is committed to a greener economy; it has to improve its transportation infrastructure; and, it has to develop more economic alternatives to the oil and gas industry.


An electrified high speed train service between Edmonton and Calgary would take passengers from downtown Calgary to downtown Edmonton in about an hour or an hour and a half, depending on the technology chosen. This would reduce green house emissions by millions of tonnes, as travellers switch from cars that take at least three hours to make the trip or planes that take as long, including time for check-in and security and time to get to and from the airports.

The transportation infrastructure, particularly in the Edmonton-Calgary Corridor, will need massive upgrading as the population of Alberta continues to grow rapidly. Highway 2 can be endlessly expanded in to a “401 West” or be transformed into a true transportation corridor by the addition of high speed rail. A fast, frequent and reliable rail service linking downtown Calgary, Red Deer and downtown Edmonton, with suburban stations at or near Calgary International Airport and Edmonton International Airport, would be an enormous improvement to Alberta’s transportation network.

In addition, if Alberta were to opt for a high speed rail system, it would be in a strong position to ensure that some of the production facilities be built in Alberta. Manufacturing facilities for the rail and related industries would considerably expand Alberta’s industrial base. In addition, the planning and construction of such a major project would create new expertise within Alberta’s engineering and design industry and create thousands of ongoing jobs. The Alberta Government’s accompanying report on Economics Benefits for Development of High Speed Rail Service in the Calgary-Edmonton Corridor, documents the huge economic benefits that might be generated by the project.

A high speed train from Calgary to Edmonton could also serve to get the Federal Government out of a tight spot. It is inevitable that a high speed train service will be introduced in the Montreal-Ottawa-Toronto corridor and, in time, extended to both Quebec City and Windsor. It is also inevitable that federal money will be necessary for a project of such scale. And, it is inevitable that the Federal Government would be criticised for making such an enormous investment in Central Canada. Inevitable, that is, unless the Federal Government had already invested in a “demonstration project” elsewhere in Canada, namely the Calgary-Edmonton corridor. Why would the west criticize the Federal Government for making the same investment in high speed rail in Central Canada that it had already made in Alberta? Therefore, it is reasonable to assume that the Federal Government would also support a high speed rail project in Alberta.

So, given that it is in the interests of both the Government of Alberta and the Government of Canada, not to mention the travelling public, what’s holding up a Calgary-Edmonton high speed train?

12 Councillors, 12 Wards: More Than A Dozen Reasons Why…

Edmonton City Council has passed in first reading the approval of the 12 ward system. The proposal will be coming to Council for a second and third reading on July 22nd. Edmonton will potentially join many other cities in establishing a more accountable and more democratic system of representation. It is expected to pass, but it never hurts to send a note to your councillors@edmonton.ca letting them know that you support this decision.


Philosophically, it is the right thing to do.


Under the old 6 Ward system, the constituent populations had gotten to an unmanageable level. Campaigning required trying to connect with ward populations of over 100 000 constituents- an almost impossible task. Such large wards naturally favored the incumbents during campaigns based on name recognition– no campaign team could knock on every door. 

The increased cost of campaigning over such a vast region left many candidates more dependent on large donations and saddled with the real-or-perceived political baggage that came with them. More ordinary Edmontonians will now be able to throw their hat into the race, leading to a more accessible, competitive, and engaged democratic debate. 

A 12 Ward system will make for more equitable campaigns, but it will also make for more effective representation. Councillors constantly had to check for duplication of efforts and often the higher-profile Councillor ended up getting the lion’s share of the phone calls and constituent calls. Now there is a clear line of accountability between the Councillor, their constituents, and their concerns. A citizen is always welcome to contact the Mayor, or any Councillor for that matter, with a problem, especially if they do not feel that their elected representative is being effective. However, Councillors will likely have more time to be effective representatives now that they have a smaller constituency base to attend to. 

The concern that Councillors may become too focused on just their ward is mistaken; they are elected to attend to the interests of the city as a whole and judging by how many issues are multi-jurisdictional, it is likely this cooperation will continue.


The map is sound. 


Though it is unfortunate that the Municipal Government Act (MGA) has Councillors drawing up their own constituencies, the wards are well-justified:

– It effectively follows natural geographic boundaries (the river, calgary trail, etc

– It respects community league boundaries, with a couple of minor changes– quite impressive considering that there are 150 leagues.

– It takes into account population variance (61, 276 to 70,840 (-6.1% to +8.6%)) and elector variance (48,529 to 62,152 (-8.0% to +17.9%))

– It takes into account the potential for future growth.


For future consideration:

– Council should not be left to draw up their own boundaries, but they should be established by a non-partisan electoral body.

– The MGA should allow for preferential balloting in elections. This would allow candidates to be ranked according to voter preference. It can easily be done with electronic voting.

– Tax credits should be allowed for municipal campaign contributions.


bettProposed 12 Ward Map

SEE – Edmonton News & Views – News & Views – The Debate That Keeps Going and Going

SEE – Edmonton News & Views – News & Views – The Debate That Keeps Going and Going.


After all, the city grew by 30,000 people this year and is expected to grow by more than a million within the next 40. That’s a lot of people, a lot of housing, and a lot of infrastructure to plan for. “We continue to sprawl,” says Williams. “It’s not sustainable from both a taxable point of view and an environmental point of view. If we develop inside the city, we already have infrastructure there.”  

“Redevelopment is complicated and challenging,” says Schroder. “We won’t simply open the floodgates to development.” Although Schroder is very much in support of redevelopment, he also insists that those on the other side need to be a part of the process. “They can’t be marginalized. They have legitimate concerns, but at the end of the day, we all have to work together.” 

Change is never easy. There is a great deal of nostalgia attached to the City Centre Airport too. But for the pro-shutdown group, what’s in store for the city in the next 40 or 50 years is a more pressing issue than keeping the low-traffic airport alive. The ECCA Lands Impact Assessment Results agree: by shutting down and redeveloping the airport lands, the city could gain 18,600 residential units, 23 hectares of commercial, transportation, and office space, and 24 hectares for NAIT expansion, not to mention $23.5 million in annual property taxes.”

Facebook | Bikeology: Bike to Work Breakie

Facebook | Bikeology: Bike to Work Breakie.

This was a lot of fun last week and it was good to get into work on time! The ‘pit crews’ were great. Need your tires pumped and your brakes checked? Come on down!



26 June 2009
07:00 – 09:00
@ the bicycle bottleneck, Southwest side of the High Level bridge.
Edmonton, AB


Friday, June 26, 7am-9am. @ the bicycle bottleneck, Southwest side of the High Level bridge.

This is our fourth and final breakies for bike month. Food is always a hit with cyclists, turns out. Chat with cyclists, get info, give-aways, music, food, juice, and certified fair trade organic coffee from Earth’s General Store – Free bike tune-ups!

If you’re running late for work,school, or other duties, we have some nifty late slips explaining the value of daily riding to your overlords.

City Centre Airport Lands review…

City of Edmonton :: Executive Committee Agendas.


The City Centre Airport Lands review of possibilities and challenges is in its final stages.


On June 24th, 25th and 26th, Executive Committee of City Council will receive reports, non-statutory public delegations and deliberate on next steps.

You can review the reports being considered here: