[singlepic id=39 w=320 h=240 float=left]I had a discussion on Connect2Edmonton recently, in which someone had expressed a wish that there was more parking available at Century Park in order to be able take the LRT downtown.  I see statements like this fairly frequently in discussions about transit in Edmonton, especially when new lines are being proposed and designed.  Park-and-rides around the stations are highly desirable to a lot of people.

These people want to take the LRT, but they also want to be able to drive and park there.  They see it as the best of both worlds: the flexibility and option of driving, and increased transit usage by accommodating drivers and regular transit users.

I disagree with this entire thought process, and reject all premise behind it.  It is the worst of possible worlds; the worst use of both land and transit.

One of the arguments for it is that it reduces the amount of driving on city streets, and thus reduces congestion and reduces emissions and the city’s collective carbon footprint.  In reality all you have done is reduce some congestion on some roads, but only by shifting that congestion to the area immediately around the LRT station.

More importantly, though, driving to the LRT station is still driving; you may have shifted some of the duration of driving on your daily commute, but you have done nothing to reduce overall dependence on your vehicle. Chances are good that he vast majority of LRT park-and-ride users still need their private vehicles for everything including grabbing a quick coffee to stopping at the grocery store for milk.

Building transit in this way only rewards and encourages further outward and low-density sprawl, and further subsidizes it through the cost of the land it requires, building the lot, and servicing and maintaining it, not to mention the roadway infrastructure still needed to accommodate the traffic in and out of the area.

The only way to make transit a true long-term, viable, and sustainable solution is to build real, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods around it.  In so doing, you will build a community where being able to walk or bike to a nearby coffee shop or to grab a few groceries for dinner from the store is a normal activity rather than a rare outing, and where hopping on transit for work, school, or going out for dinner is simply part of the community’s DNA. Such a community will provide Edmonton with far more stable, long-term transit riders than any parking lot ever will.  They will also provide much needed density and infill to help take the pressure off our expanding, sprawling borders.

[singlepic id=38 w=320 h=240 float=right]We have an addiction to cars and driving in this city, and it is not healthy or sustainable.  Too many people say “Edmonton is a car city” far too often as an excuse to not do anything to try and change things.  But things have to change, and it doesn’t have to be bad or scary.  Human beings are arguably the most adaptable species on the planet, even despite how much we kick and scream when we feel we are being forced to do so.

And we will adapt just fine to having less or no parking around transit.  We will learn to live closer to where we need to be, and learn that we don’t need our cars to drive us every possible place we need to go.  People in other cities have been doing this for centuries and those cities are still growing, thriving centres of culture, business, and commerce with communities and neighborhoods to be envied.  It is because communities and neighborhoods are what make cities great.  Parking lots cannot do that.  They never have, and they never will.

Do we want more of what’s in front in this picture?  Or more of what’s in behind?  Do we want to build an Edmonton where people just go to park their cars?  Or an Edmonton where people want to be and want to live?

Posted by Dave Sutherland Sep - 3 - 2010 4 Comments Categories: Blogography