An Edmonton city councillor is pitching a gondola down Whyte Avenue as a temporary solution before city council can build an LRT line in the area.
The idea, pitched by Ward 9 Coun. Tim Cartmell, was inspired by the winning Edmonton Project idea of building a gondola over the river valley.
Cartmell’s proposed gondola would start at the Bonnie Doon LRT station, which will be built on the new Valley Line LRT, and end at the Health Sciences/Jubilee station.
Cartmell estimated the cost of the five-kilometre line would be $60 million, which is based on the Edmonton Project’s estimate of between $30 million and $300 million for a similar length gondola.
The new city councillor pitched his idea as a temporary alternative to the Centre LRT Line, which will connect downtown with the Strathcona and Bonnie Doon neighbourhoods and is currently in the consultation process.
The preferred route for the Centre LRT includes going down Whyte Avenue.
Using the costs of the Valley Line LRT expansion, Cartmell estimates the cost for the LRT would be $138 million per kilometre. By his estimation, the cost of the gondola would be $12 million per kilometre.
With LRT expansions west, north and southeast in the works, Cartmell said there might not be LRT expansion down Whyte Avenue for many years.
“The idea of an LRT down Whyte Avenue has got to be our last priority, which means it’s going to be a long time coming,” Cartmell told CBC’s Radio Active Tuesday.
But the gondola can be a temporary solution and might solve the need for an LRT system down Whyte Avenue in the future.
Intrigue or farce?
Cartmell stressed that the idea is not before council at this time. “The city has no plans to look at any kind of gondola itself,” he said.
But with the Edmonton Project in mind, he wanted to appropriate the idea to fix what he sees as a problem that won’t otherwise see a solution for at least 15 years.
“It’s simply a bit of a notion that if we’re going to look at an urban gondola in Edmonton, perhaps we should look at it along this alignment as opposed to into the river valley,” he said.
He also hasn’t researched all the fine details, such as a project-specific cost or whether the gondola would interfere with Old Strathcona’s height restrictions.
Cartmell said he has received mixed reviews on his idea so far. “Some are intrigued, some think it’s farce,” he said.
Regardless of the reaction, Cartmell said both gondola ideas should be looked at.
“I think it’s very important that we explore these opportunities and these initiatives — think outside the box a little bit,” he said.
“It just may be that we can find a much more cost-effective solution to moving people around that is complementary to our current system.”