On the agenda: Homelessness, renaming, and Ride Transit

This week, council committees will discuss an updated plan to end homelessness, recommendations from the city's naming committee, and a growing budget shortfall for the Ride Transit program.

There is a community and public services committee meeting scheduled on May 21 and an urban planning committee meeting scheduled on May 22. There is a special city council meeting scheduled on May 22 and an executive committee meeting scheduled on May 23.

Here are key items on the agenda:

  • The draft of the City of Edmonton's updated plan to end homelessness recommends shifting away from an emergency mindset and toward a proactive planning approach. The draft is scheduled to be presented at a community and public services committee meeting on May 21. People who have experienced homelessness engaged with the city to inform the plan. Many said the social service system is complex and lacks a common language, making it hard to access support. Survey participants said they felt apathetic towards the system, as it felt like they were being ranked for eligibility for services. The plan recommends that Homeward Trust convene a sector leadership table to align interests among the homeless-serving sector and the health, recovery, and justice systems. The plan also recommends finding new ways to measure success, as current reporting mechanisms can lack nuance. Coun. Tim Cartmell told Taproot in April that he wanted social services to be able to prove value so taxpayers can see their dollars are making a difference. The finalized plan to end homelessness is scheduled to be presented at a community and public services committee meeting on June 17.
  • Administration supports a recommendation from the naming committee to develop a new culturally sensitive renaming policy and review the name of every municipal asset in the city for accuracy and appropriateness. There is currently no funding available for the latter recommendation, and administration will determine the scope and budget needed for the project once it completes a dataset of all names in the city, which is another of the committee's recommendations. Council's urban planning committee is set to discuss a report with updates on the progress of the naming committee's recommendations at a meeting on May 22.
  • The funding shortfall for the Ride Transit program budget is expected to nearly double in 2024 compared to 2023 as demand for the program grows. The program allows transit riders who earn a low income, receive AISH, are refugees, or meet other criteria to purchase a $35 or $50 monthly transit pass. Council originally approved a subsidy of $7.8 million for the program. In 2023, there was a program funding shortfall of $5.3 million, and the shortfall is expected to be $10 million in 2024. To address the gap, administration said council could change the criteria so fewer transit users are eligible, or further increase the price of the subsidized pass. There is already a planned increase of $1 per month scheduled for February 2025.
Hands that appear to belong to an older woman point to the phrase "Circle of Friends" with several dot stickers under it.

Urban planning committee will receive a report on Edmonton's naming policy, which includes a recommendation to develop an Indigenous naming process, noting the work that was done to change Oliver's name to Wîhkwêntôwin, which means "circle of friends." (Fallout Media/Unveil Wîhkwêntôwin)

Here are some other items on the agenda:

  • Administration is seeking council approval to enter into several single-source agreements relating to the City of Edmonton's Alberta Zero-Emissions Fleet Fueling project. The provincial government, through Alberta Innovates and Emissions Reduction Alberta, gave the city $6.9 million to explore adopting hydrogen fuel for heavy-duty fleet vehicles such as buses, semi-trucks, dump trucks, and snow plows. The grant requires administration to contract the Transition Accelerator, Azolla Hydrogen, the University of Alberta, and Hyzon Motors. Strathcona County and Sturgeon County will also collaborate on the project. If the agreements are approved, the City of Edmonton will contribute up to $20.6 million for the project.
  • Three entities submitted proposals for Hangar 14, home of the Alberta Aviation Museum, during the four months it was listed on the city's real estate website. Council approved listing the building for sale in July 2022 as the building needed up to $41 million in repairs and rehabilitation. The listing asked proponents to describe how they would retain the museum on site and make necessary investments, hence the "small sample" of proposals, the city said. Administration said it could relist the property with fewer restrictions, with the goal of eliciting creative proposals with potential adaptive reuse of the building. Council's executive committee is scheduled to give direction on the sale at a meeting on May 23. Hangar 14 is the only hangar left in Edmonton after Hangar 11 burned down in April. Administration is also exploring letting the aviation museum take over the building.
  • The office of the chief medical examiner said more than 300 people with no fixed address died in Edmonton in 2023, more than half of whom were living unsheltered. That's an increase from 200 deaths in 2022 and 141 in 2021. The office said there are a number of limitations on the data about the deaths of homeless people. Before 2022, medical examiner reports didn't always list a deceased person's address or lack thereof, and the label of "no fixed address" doesn't necessarily mean a person was homeless. The office also doesn't usually investigate deaths that occur in hospitals when they are from natural causes. Medical examiners aren't required to collect information on housing status, so the data may not be comprehensive, city administration said in a report that is scheduled to be presented at a community and public services committee meeting on May 21.
  • The University of Alberta is seeking council approval to prepare a plan for the West 240 development, the agricultural land it owns west of 122 Street between the Lansdowne and Grandview Heights neighbourhoods. The proposal is scheduled to be considered at an urban planning committee meeting on May 22, and the committee may recommend a decision to council. Pending council approval, the university would develop a neighbourhood area structure plan that would define a design vision for the infill neighbourhood. The plan would designate land uses, outline a transportation network, and identify school and park areas. The university has prepared a master plan for the neighbourhood that envisions a community with employment, residential, retail, and recreational uses. There is a mixed-use area planned adjacent to 122 Street NW, and multi-unit buildings, townhouses, and duplexes planned throughout the development.
  • Three sections of road may have their speed limit reduced following traffic safety assessments. Council's urban planning committee is scheduled to review speed limit changes for 41 Avenue SW between Desrochers Drive SW and 170 Street SW, 127 Street SW between 73 Avenue SW and 41 Avenue SW, and 170 Street NW between Ellerslie Road SW and 41 Avenue SW. Other proposed changes include adding playground zones at the new Edmonton Classical Academy and STEM Collegiate School. If the committee approves the changes, they will require council approval.
  • At a special city council meeting on May 22, councillors will meet for a private update on a contract and on a procurement process.

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