On the agenda: Youth on transit, Blatchford, and funding for safety and well-being

· The Pulse

City council is back from the Thanksgiving break with three committee meetings to discuss transit improvements and fares for youth, an external evaluation of progress at Blatchford, and funding for community safety and well-being.

Community and public services committee meets on Oct. 10, urban planning committee meets on Oct. 11, and executive committee meets on Oct. 13. Here are some of the key items on the agenda:

  • Amending the city's transit fare policy to make transit free for children 12 and under when unaccompanied by a fare-paying adult would cost $900,000 in lost revenue, administration says in a new report. A separate report prepared by the City of Edmonton Youth Council highlights concerns raised by young people who were surveyed about Edmonton's transit system, including routes and timing, payment procedure and affordability, and comfort and security. Administration says it has several new and enhanced initiatives to support young riders, including the rollout of Arc to youth, increased off-peak service frequency, enhanced bike connectivity, and youth fare reduction in 2025.
  • A third-party review of Blatchford conducted by Gettel Appraisals found the overall pace of home sales is "reasonable," with 85.6% of homes constructed being sold. Gettel also concluded that both lot and home pricing are "appropriate" given the context of Blatchford being "a public policy guided development area." Administration says it is seeing "significant interest" from existing and new homebuilders and it is already planning to address all of Gettel's recommendations. To help with affordability, administration recommends looking into the opportunity for smaller housing units, reviewing architectural design guidelines to help lower the cost of construction, and investigating bringing larger sections of land to market to attract large homebuilders.
  • Administration is looking for $3.95 million in one-time funding for the Community Safety and Well-being and Family and Community Support Services Grants and the creation of a one-time Collaboration Grant. Another $500,000 in ongoing funding would increase the Indigenous Operating Grant. There is currently $5.16 million of unallocated CSWB funding available for 2023, which includes a $350,000 reallocation of "previously approved Anti-racism Strategy funding held within the City Manager's budget." Ongoing funding of $1.36 million for 2024, $3.86 million for 2025, and $3.85 million for 2026 is available.
Edmonton Transit Arc Card set against the background of Edmonton's downtown

The city says youth are more likely to rely on transit as their primary means of transportation compared to other age groups, and reducing their barriers to access is "an important step in building a more inclusive and accessible city for future generations." (Mack Male/Flickr)

Here are some of the other new agenda items:

  • An analysis of winter mobility and the accessibility of pathways to transit stops from the ETS Advisory Board found several opportunities for improvement, including better clearing of pathways near transit stops; more heated shelters and other protection from winter weather; and better adherence to posted schedules to maximize connections. Administration says it agrees with all three recommendations but does not currently recommend any changes.
  • The Edmonton Police Service spent about $7.1 million through five non-competitive procurement agreements between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023. That includes nearly $400,000 for a "wiretap collection system" from Jatom Systems Inc. and $5.25 million for telephone services from TELUS.
  • The Edmonton Naming Committee has identified substantive and process issues it grapples with, as well as several barriers that prevent citizens from accessing the naming process. Its eight recommendations for improvement include ensuring the city's place name dataset is up-to-date, developing a process to rename municipal assets with names considered inappropriate, and assigning resources to support ongoing community engagement.
  • The Regional Agriculture Master Plan, approved by the Edmonton Metropolitan Region Board in 2021, requires a context statement to be completed by Dec. 20, 2023. Administration has reviewed the City Plan and found it is compliant with RAMP. Fresh, the city's food and urban agriculture strategy, will be updated in the first quarter of 2024.
  • Administration reports that the city has only acquired property from a homeowners association once, "through specific direction from council in 2011." Acquiring the assets of the River Point Homeowners Association, which members have requested, would cost $180,000 in annual operating costs and $2.5 million in capital costs over the next 25 years. Administration says the acquisition would "be contradictory to prudent asset and financial management practices."
  • Administration recommends approval of a five-year extension to the agreement with EPCOR Distribution and Transmission for continuous monitoring and remote control of the LRT's electrical systems. The agreement is being kept private, but administration says "there is no expected impact to existing budgets for this contract."
  • Administration says the city is "meeting or exceeding" the 13 factors of the National Standard of Canada for Psychological Health and Safety in the Workplace and "has continued to expand its resources and supports over the past year," including with respect to hybrid work, diversity and inclusion, and trauma-informed best practices.
  • Bylaws 20570 and 20571 would designate The Boardwalk and the Revillon Building, respectively, as municipal historic resources.

Meetings stream live on YouTube on the Chamber channel and River Valley Room channel.