Council may turn to turnstiles for transit safety

Council may turn to turnstiles for transit safety

This week, Coun. Tim Cartmell is set to introduce a motion at council to direct the city to pilot turnstiles at two locations on Edmonton's LRT system as a potential way to address violent crime at stations.

Cartmell's motion follows separate attacks on a 55-year-old woman and a 58-year-old man, both at Coliseum Station (though the second was outside the actual station). Edmonton Police say more than 500 cases of violence at transit and LRT stations have been reported this year.

Taproot Edmonton's city hall watchers brought context to Cartmell's motion on Episode 245 of Speaking Municipally.

"A little over a month ago, Oct. 25, a report went to city council talking about the improved safety of transit, and how many fewer instances of violent crime there have been on transit," said Speaking Municipally co-host Mack Male. "(A) 36% decrease (in non-violent crime) from August to September — violent incidents reported fell 47%. The number of incidents fell quite significantly, even though throughout that same time period, the number of riders increased. So, just a month later, and now we're hearing about how unsafe everything is again, even though at the end of October, we heard things were improving."

If council supports Cartmell's motion, a pilot project to install turnstiles in two stations will likely go forward. With highly permeable transit environs, like the street-level Valley Line LRT, co-host Troy Pavlek questioned the effectiveness of the proposed trial.

"If you can get around a turnstile by getting on the train and just getting off the train past the turnstile and other stuff, I can't imagine what this would hope to accomplish," Pavlek said. "Turnstiles as a sort of perception of safety metric is sort of an all-or-nothing thing. You need them everywhere to reap the benefits of them at all, if there's going to be any, and as we've seen from the study in Calgary that they did, there are unlikely to actually be any benefits for an incredibly substantial cost."

Male expressed concern Cartmell's motion doesn't appear to follow council's usual process for starting a large project.

"To be fair to Coun. Cartmell, we haven't seen what his actual motion text will look like," Male said. "But from what he's written and said so far, it does not seem like he's going to ask for a report with some options and funding possibilities and, you know, potential benefits and challenges of installing turnstiles. It's just a motion to install fare gates at two stations as a pilot project. He's sort of jumping over the thing that would usually happen at City Council before a project of this kind got underway, which again, makes me question exactly what his motivation is with this motion."

Hear more LRT updates, learn about the city's no-snow-November savings, and get a briefing on recent police violence in the Dec. 8 episode of Speaking Municipally.

Photo: A motion from Coun. Tim Cartmell will propose a pilot program to test the effectiveness of turnstiles such as these pictured in New York City on lowering violent crime at Edmonton's LRT stations. (Metropolitan Transportation Authority/Flickr)