Saturday, January 29, 2011

Short History of Transit in Edmonton

In Edmonton they seem to be treating the tragi-comedy over political leadership as mostly a Calgary thing -- Redmonton seems to assume it will get shafted no matter how it works out.

For Edmonton, the real news seems to be the state of residential streets. Edmonton had a ton of snow in January, and apparently the city declared its street-clearing policy for residential streets would be "within a month of the last snowfall"  -- meaning, really, wait until spring. The graders that did go around around merely created enormous snowbanks on both sides of every street -- actually, Edmontonians call the snowbanks "windrows" -- so now the streets are very narrow, lined with endless lines of plowed-in cars, and covered with packed, rutted, slippery snow (and a brief thaw last week did not help).

I was wondering if this was one of those private wealth/public squalor stories about Alberta's penny-pinching, low tax governments.  It's striking to drive through residential areas where every private driveway is snow-blowed and salted down to bare pavement, and the public road beyond remains nearly impassible.

But today I took a ride across town on Edmonton Transit's LRT, and all the way I'm thinking, hey, I want one of these. (And in Toronto, where our new mayor dismisses light-rapid-transit, we have definitely elected an idiot.)  Edmonton's line is fast, cheap, comfortable, convenient, and deep underground through the city core. What's not to like?  All they need is more of it.

(Photo credit: snowy roads from Edmonton Sun, LRT from the cellphone).

The political situation, meanwhile, is too stupid for words.  Premier Stelmach has resigned, but not until next fall.  Finance Minister Ted Morton has resigned, effective immediately, but the budget will come down anyway. Most of Finance Minister Ted Morton's soulmates are in the Wildrose Alliance, but their leader Danielle Smith wants to be premier herself, so many of her supporters may well buy votes in the Conservative leadership race to shaft Morton -- unless .... well, who cares?  If it a holy war in the Alberta right, then praise the lord and pass the ammunition.

But you have to wonder if anyone in Alberta has noticed, say, that Ireland situation, where a prime minister in an untenable situation will be replaced in a week and where the successor will actually be accountable to the party caucus, so that the people's elected representatives get to play a role not only in making the government but in keeping it accountable.

I don't think all Canadian backbenchers are morons.  Quite a few, from the sample I've met, are ambitious, skilled, driven, smart, and compelling personalities.  It's why they act like morons I cannot understand.
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