Are You For or Against the River Valley Project Called Prairie Sky Gondola ?

Late last week, whilst perusing Instagram we came across a comment by a reputable company called Edmonton River Valley and they were praising another company called Prairie Sky Gondola about an architectural rendering about a new facility that Prairie Sky Gondola wants to build in the main core of Edmonton’s River Valley.

The stretch of land they are talking about is dead smack in the midst of the river valley. Many people instantly put up comments like “leave the river valley as-is” and “use our taxes for something better” shouting discontent for the Mayor and his people.

In review of the drawings, we too thought they were quit impressive as we grew up with a father whom was an architect and were constantly being shown blue prints and building drafts. However when we began to dig further into the question of Who is Prairie Sky Gondola, this is when a nerve deep down in this restless body began to be squeezed.

Prairie Sky Gondola is a privately owned company here in Edmonton. Their goal is to reduce the amount of traffic which crosses the river valley on a daily basis. This is admirable. What is not admirable is the way they are proposing to reduce the traffic.

According to the statistics on their website: an average of 136,000 cars travel across the nearby bridges daily.

Before I could accept their statistics we did a bit of research ourselves to see where those 136,000 cars were traveling to and from ? And on which bridges in particular was this statistical information about? What we found was along the Edmonton River Valley there are eleven bridges which cross over the top of the North Saskatchewan River. Those bridges and their respective roadways are ;

  1. Anthony Henday Bridge NW – Anthony Henday Drive
  2. Beverly Bridge – Yellowhead Highway
  3. Capilano Bridge – Wayne Gretzky Drive Northwest
  4. Dawson Bridge – Rowland Road Northwest
  5. Low level Bridge – Connors Road Northwest
  6. James Macdonald Bridge – 98th Avenue Northwest
  7. Walter Dale Bridge – 105th Street Northwest (one way driving south to north)
  8. High level Bridge – 109th Street Northwest (one way driving north to south)
  9. Groat Bridge – Groat Road Northwest
  10. Quesnell Bridge – Whitemud Drive Northwest
  11. Anthony Henday Bridge SW – Anthony Henday Dr

Although there are eleven bridges crossing the river valley six of them are used to cross from the south to the north or vice versa into the downtown core. This is probably the selection of bridges which the 136,000 vehicles per day are crossing back and forth over. And these are the bridges which according to the other statistics on their website will continue to grow as the city develops over the next 40-years.

This is where the Prairie Sky Gondola (PSG) comes into play. Per the folks at PSG, their are gondolas being used worldwide to get people across a variety of landscapes. And PSG believes implementing a gondola in Edmonton will assist in reducing the amount of traffic going over these bridges on a daily basis.

My first debatable point in all of this Prairie Sky Gondola debate, is, is this not why Edmonton Transit is currently building a $2.93 billion dollars extension to the light rail transit (LRT) system? The LRT is supposed to relieve the way people are transported from the depths of the cities southeast subdivisions near Mill Woods all the way up through 11-stations to reach the downtown core. And is this not the same reason why they have approved the expansion of the Capital Line into the southwest of the cities newest neighbourhoods of Rutherford? Plus there is the funding for the West Metro line which will eventually reach the subdivisions of Lewis Estates and the Hamptons.

Okay, if your reading this you may get a sense that we’re not for the Prairie Sky Gondola being a way to “relieve” the stressors of people crossing bridges via automobile on a daily basis. That’s because I’m pro-environment. Yup, another environmentalist. Well, sort of. I’m pro not cutting down trees or ruining the perfectly nice looking skyline in order to add in a 3-kilometre tourist ride through the river valley.

Personally if you wanted to add in a congestion relief system for the Spring, Summer, Fall months when normally there are thousands of tourists running amuck in our fair city, then we would suggest to Edmontonians and our local politicians to look no further than the City Cat and River Ferry system in Brisbane, Queensland Australia. Especially because our two fair cities are extremely similar with a river running through the middle of it.

The one thing which has probably already been discussed is when you have people climbing onto the gondola near Old Strathcona, these people will end up someplace in the downtown core but from this location, they still have to maneuver themselves to their destination. Its not a direct point A to point B, solution. Hence this debatable rant.

From our perspective this “gondola” seems to be MORE about tourism than it is about reducing traffic going over bridges and/or how to get the common commuter across the river valley.

Here is a short list of Counter Questions for the folks at Prairie Sky Gondolas and the Edmonton Transit Advisory Board.

  1. Would you agree the expansion of the LRT system in Edmonton into the Southeast, Southwest and West subdivisions is being designed and built to reduce commuter vehicles into the city?
  2. Per the statistics of 136,000 vehicles per day crossing the inner city river valley bridges. What is your predicted reduction of this total number per day?
  3. If your prediction is commuters will be reduced by 25% (more or less). Then where will those 25% people park their vehicles to utilize the Prairie Sky Gondola?
  4. From the preliminary map shown below it appears the “downtown station” will be located near Fairmont MacDonald. What is the expectation of commuters once they arrive here?
  5. What safety measures have been discussed? As the Whyte Avenue Station appears to be situated on an extremely busy corner of Whyte Avenue and Gateway Boulevard.
  6. Where will commuters to the Whyte Avenue Station park their vehicles on a daily basis?
  7. Where will commuters utilizing the downtown station park their vehicles on a daily basis?
  8. What is the plan for each subsequent station in terms of parking? How large will the nearby parking lot be? Will this be above ground or below ground?
  9. Lets talk example commuter, and his name is Frank
    1. Scenario One
      1. Frank lives in the community called Blue Quill and work starts at 8:00am sharp
      2. Frank wakes up at 6:00am takes the dog for a walk, feeds himself and gets ready
      3. Frank departs his house at 7:00am driving the 20-minutes to Whyte Ave Station
      4. Frank spends 10-minutes looking for parking then walks to the Station
      5. Frank being wise, has already purchased a monthly access pass and waits for the next gondola in 5-minutes
      6. Frank steps onto the gondola and sits next to Sally another daily commuter.
      7. Frank reads his daily newspaper for the duration of 15-minutes landing him at Hotel MacDonald precisely at 7:50am
      8. Frank now must hustle the 8-blocks in the downtown core to make it to the Royal Alberta Museum for his morning meeting
    1. Scenario Two
      1. Frank lives in the community called Blue Quill and work starts at 8:00am sharp
      2. Frank wakes up at 6:00am takes the dog for a walk, feeds himself and gets ready
      3. Frank departs his house at 7:30am driving the 20-minutes to work
      4. Frank parks his car and enters his building at 7:50am
  10. Which of the two above scenarios is most likely to happen?
    1. Scenario One – where Frank increases his daily commute and costs? or
    2. Scenario Two – where Frank doesn’t change his daily routine.
5-Station route of the Future Prairie Sky Gondola

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