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Monday, June 23, 2008

renovate the federal building, but park the parkade on the drawing board.

Infrastructure Minister and Drumheller-Stettler Tory MLA Jack Hayden announced last week that the Government of Alberta will be renovating the long-empty asbestos-laced Federal Building.

Closed since 1989, it will cost an estimated $200 million to renovate the 1950s art-deco style building sitting on the northeast edge of Alberta's Legislative Grounds. While I agree that renovating and reopening the Federal Building is a smart idea, I take issue with the proposed construction of a $156 million underground parkade to be built during the renovations. I have a hard time believing that building a 650 car parkade in Edmonton's already traffic congested downtown core is a good idea on any level.

It seems to me that it could be a much smarter and more responsible use of $156 million for the Government of Alberta to work with the City of Edmonton to ensure that the redevelopment plans are coordinated with Edmonton's already existing transportation demand management plans and Downtown revitalization plans. This could include directing this funding towards the expansion of public transportation so that Edmontonians working in the area could more efficiently use the Grandin LRT Station, which is directly attached to the Legislature Grounds (especially as the LRT expands southbound).

The $156 million could also go a long way towards the creation of a regional transit service in the Capital Region (eliminating the duplication of services that currently exist between Edmonton Transit Service, St. Albert Transit, and Strathcona Country Transit). With St. Albert Mayor Nolan Crouse chairing a regional committee on transit issues, this kind of investment in a regional transit infrastructure could do wonders in creating a more efficient transportation system in Alberta's Capital Region (and maybe alleviate some of the tough financial situations that municipalities such as Edmonton and St. Albert are in).


Anonymous said...

The Federal Building sitting empty is a waste of prime real estate space in the downtown but the parkade issue brings up an interesting point. How closely should one level of government coordinate development with another? I don’t know if Hayden’s ministry consulted with Edmonton or if they even need to though it would have been a good idea to. With sickly ridiculous costs of gas and construction Infrastructure Minister Hayden should be looking at positive alternatives like working with the city of Edmonton to improve public transit. It’s not to late for them to change their plans!

Anonymous said...



Government frustrates me.


Six meetings said...

Good post Dave. I tend to disagree with you on the parkade point though. As a resident of Grandin I'm excited to hear about the expansion of green space, but I would not want that to mean destruction of the several hundred spots they have on the site already. That means more people parking on the streets in my neighborhood (a problem already). Not everybody can take transit (although the Leg is well connected) so they need to accommodate those who drive somehow. Steps in the right direction in my view. Your post speaks to a problem that is not going to be solved overnight, but putting the parking stalls underground with a park on top is better than a lot of other options for the space. Hope all is well.

daveberta said...

Not everybody can take transit (although the Leg is well connected) so they need to accommodate those who drive somehow"

I think that park and rides could be a good solution for this. They could encourage commuters from the outer edges of the city (and surrounding areas) to park their cars at hubs, which would reduce single-passenger commuting into the core. Reducing traffic congestion and pollution is a smart direction for Edmonton, and the Provincial government should recognize that they can take an active role in this type of positive change.

Jeff J. said...

Wow, this discussion amuses me. Basically what you are all saying is that Gov't should tell it's employees how they should get themselves to work....kinda scary if you ask me. I personally enjoy my own choices on how I get myself to and from work, I hope to god I'm not in the minority on this.'

And it's not just a parkade, $40 million of that goes toward the landscaping of the Northern Leg grounds, and believe me, it needs it.

daveberta said...

I don't think it's telling people how to get to work. It's being smart with transportation demand management and facing growth issues intelligently.

The landscaping is a great idea, but I'm still not convinced that a $156 million underground parkade that far downtown is a smart idea.

trad said...

I'm curious to know if the City of Edmonton Transportation Department was consulted on this decision. Mandel is looking to the future in expanding Edmonton’s LRT and transit routes. The Grandin LRT station sits right under the Leg grounds and is an underused piece of infrastructure as it is. Alberta needs to grow up and learn from other cities that have embraced alternatives and more sustainable commuting methods. My taxes are going up in Edmonton and gas is 130 a liter, the province could help out the city and focus on smart transit and growth rather than giant underground cavernous parkades.

tjk said...

Being that there is essentially nowhere to park at most of the transit stations, crippling drive-to-train ability, I would propose that parkades be built at/under/on-top-of all present and future stations wherever possible. The fact that they are going forward with this no longer in the plan is a bad idea. Imagine the capability of an expanded parking structure coupled with a station at WEM, and other outer stations as well as where available downtown etc. (Coliseum should have one when a new arena comes). Capability of the system would increase drastically.

Six meetings said...

Agreed. Park and Rides are a must... provincial assistance for a lot at Century Park would be great. Failing that, it will be critical to any station further south (ie 127 and A. Henday).

It would be great to have the best of both worlds, but this redevelopment is a good idea with, or without, the transit expansion. Alternatively, spending all this money on new park and rides does nothing to get rid of the eyesore that is the north Leg grounds, nor does it address the needs of those who drive to work there everyday. Facing growth demands intelligently means looking at this problem from both sides of the coin.

Brian Gould said...

Telling its employees how to get to work?

Then what exactly would you call building 650 heavily subsidized and expensive parking stalls and giving them away for free? That's not exactly a subtle hint.

Parking minimums are horrible. If nobody is willing to step in to build a parkade to serve these 650 cars, too bad. It's not economical. Stop driving.

Also, do I really need to point out that that is a quarter of a million dollars per stall? Does that not worry anyone?

Edmonton had enough sense not to build park-and-ride stalls at one fifth that price.

So here's my compromise. Build as much parking as you want, but you have to charge the users what it costs. A good factor on these kind of things is an annual cost about 1/30 of the permanent (assuming the life is long) to account for maintenance and enforcement, meaning these stalls should be costing about $700 a month.

Not charging that amount is just an admission that we can keep up the insane subsidies for the automobile.

Ken Chapman said...

Great post Dave - I totally agree - dump the parkade...for so many reasons.

The most important is the environment. We need to encourage public transit use and car pooling. What better place to start to set the example than with government employees.

Anonymous said...

jeff j, there are already many provincial employees working downtown who do not have access to government parking stalls. Instead they have a choice - they can rent a stall from a private parking lot operator or take the bus.

I would, however, disagree with Dave's assertion that Edmonton's downtown has a traffic congestion problem. Have you been to Calgary?