I am feeling immense joy and optimism about our City after spending the day riding around on the new Valley Line Southeast LRT.
Maybe it’s the lack of sleep and 4am wake up, but today was an emotional one. The hope and positivity shared with me by riders was uplifting and a highlight of my term.
We started the day off EARLY…really early. Fuelled by a passion for public transit (and celebratory cake, coffee, and train themed music), we cheered and chanted as the VLSE took its first real trip at 5:15am. It was a magical, wholesome, and a uniquely Edmonton experience.
After a quick breakfast, I spent the day connecting with riders. The vast majority of people weren’t going anywhere in particular, just joy riding and experiencing the new line. Large scale projects like this one are awe inspiring, and the physical infrastructure is incredible, but for me, the transformative nature of this project made itself evident in the stories I heard from riders.
Here’s a small sample of what I heard.
Several people I met played a role in the completion and construction of the line itself. Seeing the pride on their faces as they showed their family the station they helped build was an important reminder that projects like this one would not be possible without hard working, dedicated Edmontonians who care about building a better future here. From the nuts and bolts of construction to the planning and route design, Edmontonians have been working hard to deliver this project and to see it come to fruition was clearly a city-building memory they will forever cherish.
Seeing young Edmontonians with big wide eyes full of excitement was heartening. Parents with little babies who took their first ride today talked about the pictures they will take on the platform when their child eventually takes the train to their first class at University. It reminded me that this is an intergenerational project that will shape the lives of those who are not even born yet.
I heard from local business owners who have businesses along the line that believe the opening of the train will mean new customers, new opportunities for employees, more stability, and new connections to folks who might not have otherwise visited. Not only is the LRT a vehicle for transportation, it’s a vehicle for economic development that will support the growth and sustainability of beloved local businesses.
I heard from seniors who have lived in and loved our city for decades, and they shared memories of a downtown Edmonton with bustling streets, rich in amenities. They aren’t driving too far anymore, but now they can’t wait to play a role in revitalizing our downtown and enhancing vibrancy. They shared their plans to take the train downtown for coffee, to go shopping, to meet friends, to go to a show… The VLSE will elevate our downtown and build stronger connections to our core. It was also exciting to hear about the commuter potential and how many people have been waiting for the day they can hop on the train to go downtown to work.
One of the most powerful stories I heard was from an Edmontonian with a disability who hadn’t been able to efficiently and reliably access the southeast part of our city for close to two decades. For him, the LRT is literally opening up new connections and opportunities for how he experiences his city. The elation in his voice when he shared that he will be visiting this part of the city for the first time in many years brought me to tears.
So many people I met do not drive for a variety of reasons, and are grateful that the city is committed to building up public and active transportation so they too can get around our city safely and efficiently. Young people, seniors, newcomers, people with disabilities, and so many more folks who rely on public transit as a core service came out to celebrate this monumental change. The importance of equitable and inclusive city building was unmistakable.
I know the wait was longer than we had hoped for, but now that it is complete, generations of Edmontonians will benefit. I heard a recognition that investments like this one are big city moves. Edmonton is growing up, and infrastructure like this serves as a backbone to support all of our interconnected city building goals.
Happy Train Day! See you on the rails.