Orphaned Bus Stops, And Other Neglected Connections

Walkable Edmonton strives to replace "missing bits" of sidewalk network

Across from the South Campus LRT station, on a busy stretch of 113th Street on the West side of Parkallen, a city bus stop sign pokes out of the dirt and grass. There’s no sidewalk connecting the stop to the rest of the neighbourhood.

Ian Hosler, co-ordinator of the city’s Walkable Edmonton initiative, calls these “orphaned bus stops” and there are roughly 1,200 of them in all of Edmonton.

Mature neighbourhoods like Parkallen have many of these “missing bits,” he says. It’s hard to say 50 years later why sidewalks weren’t put in or other pedestrian connections weren’t made. Former industrial areas too, with side walk on one side or none at all, also represent large gaps in the city’s network.

The city has recognized the need for more pedestrian infrastructure, and has bumped up the budget for sustainable transportation, which includes bike routes, sidewalks and shared paths. In the 2006 to 2008 period, the budget was $5.8 million. In the 2009 to 2011 period, it was increased to $17.1 million.

Through Walkable Edmonton and the Office of Great Neighbourhoods, Hosler hopes to overcome some of the inherited oddities that make walking difficult.

Currently, Parkallen is in the middle of a neighbourhood rehabilitation project. Last year, all the existing roads and sidewalks were replaced in the Eastern half. This year, the other half will get a spruce up. But putting in new sidewalk and improving walkability isn’t automatically part of the rehabilitation program. Sidewalk funding comes from sustainable transportation planning, not the neighbourhood rehabilitation program.

“That’s the challenge,” Hosling says. “There’s a myriad of different programs to fix stuff up and make it walkable.”

Hosling works with the rehabilitation program to try to get some of these connections done at the same time as the other construction work.

The Office of Great Neighbourhoods has also started a conversation about re-paving some back alleys, even though these are usually the responsibility of the homeowner. In mature areas such as Parkallen, that’s especially important because some alleyways are being used as sidewalks.

Parkallen resident Brandon Quigley has also advocated for a more pedestrian-friendly approach to the neighbourhood rehabilitation process. He and the community league have pushed for extended sidewalk corners to make crossing easier and to slow down cars, in keeping with the area’s historic walkablity.

“We just want to make sure that there are traffic calming measures built into the neighbourhood renewal,” he says.  He’s worried that the standard template for sidewalks fits more of a suburban standard, and would make the neighbourhood less pedestrian friendly.

Don Iveson, city councillor for Ward 10, which includes Parkallen, says the city is making the rehabilitation program more responsive to local needs.

“It used to be that the first crack at neighbourhood reconstruction was that we would basically just put back what was there before, but now we’ve directed them to try to tie it in better with our overall sidewalk strategy, which aims to improve walkablility throughout the city,” he says.

And while he understands resident’s concerns about pedestrian safety, indeed he grew up in the area and enjoyed walking around the neighbourhood, “I don’t think it’s that bad, to be honest,” he says.

Residents who notice missing sidewalks in their neighbourhood should call city services at 311, as the planners in the sustainable transportation department do use public requests as a part of their planning.


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