Edmonton Light Rail Transit

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Edmonton Light Rail Transit
Edmonton Transit System logo.svg
ETS Car1039 SD160.jpg
Locale Edmonton, Alberta
Transit type Light rail
Number of lines 2
Number of stations 18
Daily ridership 100,760 (2013)[1]
Began operation April 22, 1978
Operator(s) Edmonton Transit System
System length 24.3 km (15.1 mi)[2][3]
Track gauge 1,435 mm (4 ft 8 12 in) (standard gauge)
Electrification Overhead lines, 600 volts DC[4]
System map

Current Edmonton LRT.png

Edmonton Light Rail Transit, commonly referred to as the LRT, is a light rail system in Edmonton, Alberta. Part of the Edmonton Transit System (ETS), the 21-kilometre Capital Line starts at Clareview in Edmonton's northeast and ends at Century Park in Edmonton's south end.[2]

ETS designates the current line as the Capital Line. A new route, the Metro Line to areas north of the downtown, originally scheduled to open in spring 2014,[5][6] opened on September 6, 2015.[3][7][8] The Metro Line includes a 3.3-kilometre (2.1 mi) extension in the LRT system from Churchill LRT Station in downtown Edmonton northwest to NAIT LRT Station.[3]


The above-ground LRT station at the University of Alberta's South Campus, near the Neil Crawford Centre and Foote Field

In 1962, Canadian Bechtel Ltd. was commissioned to develop a plan for Edmonton's rapid transit system. Construction began in 1974 with a budget of $65 million.[9] Edmonton became the first city in North America with a metropolitan population of less than one million to build a modern light rail system.[10] The population was just over 445,000 when the route first started construction in 1974.[11] It also became the first city in Western Canada to operate a rapid transit system. Testing of the new line started in 1977 with regular service starting April 22, 1978, in time for the 1978 Commonwealth Games. The line followed a CN right-of-way from Belvedere Station to Stadium Station (near Commonwealth Stadium), via an intermediate stop at Coliseum Station (near Northlands Coliseum, now Rexall Place), and then continued in a tunnel under 99 Street to Central Station, at Jasper Avenue and 100 Street, including an intermediate stop at Churchill Station. The original line was 6.9 km long.[12]

When the line opened, fare collection was modelled on traditional rapid transit lines, with booth attendants. Low volumes of activity at some entrances led to weekend closures of alternate station entrances. In November 1980, Edmonton Transit (as it was then named) switched to a modified European-style "proof of payment" system, initially retaining the old turnstiles to issue the new receipts.[13] Fares were now collected by automated ticket vending machines with irregular proof of payment inspectors, which permitted keeping all entrances open and required fewer staff.

On April 26, 1981, ETS opened a northeastern-bound extension of 2.2 km on the CN right-of-way to Clareview Station. In June 1983, the light rail tunnel downtown was extended by 0.8 km to Bay and Corona stations. The D.L. MacDonald Yard, between Belvedere and Clareview, opened in December 1983 to store and service the vehicles. The line was extended in September 1989 by 0.8 km to Grandin Station (close to the Alberta Legislature). On August 23, 1992, the next extension opened from Grandin to University Station, partially via the Dudley B. Menzies Bridge, crossing the North Saskatchewan River with a lower level for pedestrians and cyclists, and partially via a tunnel into the station. Major upgrades to the Belvedere and Clareview stations occurred in 1998 and 2001 respectively.[12]

On January 1, 2006, the line was extended 0.6 km south through the University Campus to Health Sciences Station, which is located at street level. On April 25, 2009, McKernan/Belgravia and South Campus stations were opened as part of the south LRT expansion, with Southgate and Century Park opening on April 24, 2010. The first of the new Siemens SD-160 light rail vehicle train cars for the new extension were shipped by rail from Florin, California, on April 24, 2008, arriving in Edmonton on May 9, 2008 (37 vehicles in total).[14]

The LRT expansion was developed entirely at surface level with several underpasses after 2006, one at Belgravia Road and the other under 111 Street south of 61 Avenue. A short busway has been constructed from the South Campus station[15] roughly parallel to Belgravia Road in conjunction with the South LRT expansion.

Every station on the line built since 1983 has been built with full accessibility for persons with disabilities. The 1998 and 2001 upgrades to the Belvedere and Clareview stations involved installation of roofs and lengthening of platforms to accommodate five-car trains.[12]

The LRT system had an estimated 18,220 weekday passenger boardings in 1978.[12] Six stations and 24 years after the University extensions, boardings more than doubled to 39,550 in 2002.[12] As the LRT system continues to expand, currently with 15 stations and 21 km of double track, and the population of Edmonton continues to increase, LRT ridership has grown to 100,760 in 2013.[1]


The system comprises two lines. The Capital Line, runs from northeast Edmonton to south Edmonton via Downtown. A second line, the Metro Line, connecting Downtown with northwest Edmonton, began limited operations in September 2015. In addition, there are further projects to create a new 27-kilometre line that will extend to Mill Woods Town Centre in the southeast part of the city and to Lewis Farms in the west end of the city.

During construction, surface area was preserved (although costs increased) by tunnelling under the downtown core and the University of Alberta main campus. The underground portions of the LRT connect to the Edmonton Pedway system with links to many buildings. The LRT crosses the North Saskatchewan River between the Grandin and University stations on the Dudley B. Menzies Bridge,[18] a dedicated LRT and pedestrian bridge.

Storage, maintenance and operations of the LRT are controlled from the D.L. MacDonald Yard.

The LRT operates between 5:00 am and 1:00 am daily. Trains run on a five-minute frequency during rush hour, ten-minute frequency midday and Saturdays, and on a fifteen-minute frequency in the evening and on Sundays.[19] When the Metro Line is running at full capacity, train frequency will double between Health Sciences/Jubilee station and Churchill station.

On June 25, 2012, the City of Edmonton launched a public contest to name the current and future lines.[20] On January 31, 2013, the city announced the names: Capital Line, Metro Line, Valley Line, Energy Line, and Festival Line.[21][22]

Edmonton LRT lines
Line Termini Stations Length
501 Capital Line Clareview Century Park 15[2] 21 km (13 mi)[2]
502 Metro Line (nights and Sundays) NAIT Health Sciences/Jubilee 10 8 km (5 mi)
Metro Line (Monday to Saturday) NAIT Century Park 14 16 km (10 mi)


The system currently consists of the following 18 consecutive stations: Clareview, Belvedere, Coliseum, Stadium, Churchill, Central, Bay/Enterprise Square, Corona, Grandin/Government Centre, University, Health Sciences/Jubilee, McKernan/Belgravia, South Campus/Fort Edmonton Park, Southgate, and Century Park stations. Of these, Churchill, Central, Bay/Enterprise Square, Corona, Grandin/Government Centre, and University are underground. Three newest stations opened in September 2015 for the Metro Line: MacEwan, Kingsway/Royal Alex, and NAIT.

Another 12 stations will be built for the first phase of the Valley Line, which is planned to be opened in 2020.[23]

All existing stations have a centre platform.

Rolling stock[edit]

Siemens-Duewag U2 car in Health Sciences Station

The rolling stock of both Capital Line and Metro Line comprises trains of either Siemens-Duewag U2 or Siemens SD-160 cars. ETS operates 37 U2 cars, some of which have been in operation since the system opened in 1978. ETS also operates 57 SD-160 cars, of which 37 were ordered between 2005 and 2007, with the first cars entering revenue service on January 27, 2009.[24] An additional 20 cars was purchased in 2010 and 2011 for use in the Metro Line and were delivered from March 2012 to April 2013.[25][26][27]

The Capital Line uses 5-car trains during peak hours, and three-car trains are occasionally used for late night service. The Metro Line will operate three-car trains until the permanent NAIT station is opened, as the temporary NAIT Station can only accommodate three-car trains. The permanent station will be 125 metres long to accommodate a five-car train. All other extensions to the Capital and Metro lines will have five-car platforms.[28]

Future lines of the LRT, including the Valley Line will use new low-floor cars.[29]

Safety and security[edit]

All LRT stations are monitored by CCTV cameras. All trains are equipped with operator alert systems which will allow passengers to contact the train operator in the event of an emergency. Likewise, all stations are equipped with blue emergency help phones which will connect with ETS Security. The stations are patrolled by ETS Transit Peace Officers.[30]

Despite the security measures put in place, there have been several incidents on the Edmonton LRT or at the LRT stations. In 2008, there were 328 crimes against persons reported on transit property.[31] Some of the most serious incidents include:

  • In 1988, a woman was strangled to death in a Churchill Station washroom.[31]
  • In 2010, a woman was shot and killed at Stadium Station.[31]
  • In 2012, a man was beaten to death on board the LRT between Stadium and Belvedere Station.[32]


The cash fare for passengers using Edmonton Transit System buses and the LRT, effective February 1, 2014, is $3.20 for adults, seniors and youth. Children five years old and under ride free when accompanied by a fare-paying adult.[33]

Fare type Price[33]
Cash fare $3.20
Children 5 and under Free
Day pass $9.00
Month pass $89.00

Passengers can also purchase books of transit tickets or monthly transit passes. Seniors can purchase an annual transit pass at a discounted rate.

Passengers paying a cash fare at a fare machine at an LRT station are issued a transit ticket, which is validated as an LRT ticket after being time-stamped. This ticket is valid both as proof of payment and as a transfer. Transfers allow the passenger to transfer from the LRT to a bus, from a bus to the LRT and between buses, and is valid for 90 minutes from the time it was stamped. Passengers paying a cash fare or validating a ticket on a bus obtain a transfer at the time the fare is paid. Transfers also serve as proof of payment for 90 minutes.[34]

Passengers in an LRT proof of payment area must present proof of payment upon request by an ETS officer. Proof of payment includes LRT tickets, transfers, validated transit tickets and transit passes. Failure to provide proof of payment can result in a $250 fine. Proof of payment areas include all LRT trains and LRT station platforms, unless the ticket vending machines are located on the platform itself.

In 2007, the Edmonton Transit System, the University of Alberta (U of A), and MacEwan University partnered to provide students with a universal transit pass (U-Pass), which is valid on the LRT and all ETS buses as well as on Strathcona County and St. Albert Transit Systems.[35][36] NAIT students voted to join the program in 2010.[37] The U-Pass allows unlimited LRT and bus use to valid pass holders.

Future expansion[edit]

Approved LRT lines and stations

The City of Edmonton prioritized completion of the Metro Line to NAIT for 2014, followed by expanding the system to the southeast and west.[38] City council approved funding to begin preliminary engineering on the Valley Line from Mill Woods to Lewis Farms in June 2011.[39]

Approved future lines
Line Status Termini Additional
Projected opening
Capital Line Approved Clareview Gorman +1[2] +2.9 km before 2040
Approved Century Park Desrochers +4 before 2040
Metro Line Approved NAIT Campbell Road +8[40] +11 km before 2040
Valley Line Procurement[41] 102 Street (Downtown) Mill Woods +12 +13 km late 2020
Approved 102 Street (Downtown) Lewis Farms +16 +14 km
Proposed future lines
Line Termini Additional
Metro Line Campbell Road Neil Ross Road +4[42]
Energy Line Lewis Farms Sherwood Park
Festival Line Sherwood Park Mill Woods

Capital Line expansion[edit]

Main article: Capital Line

Future plans call for expanding the current Capital Line to Gorman in the northeast and Heritage Valley in the south.

Metro Line expansion[edit]

Main article: Metro Line

On April 27, 2007, the city began detailed planning of a new LRT line that will run north from Churchill Station, to the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT), and eventually beyond to north-end neighbourhoods with a terminal station south of St. Albert.

Churchill Station to NAIT[edit]

Kingsway/Royal Alex construction in August 2013

The new line branches off the Capital Line at Churchill Station, runs west along 105 Avenue to the MacEwan University City Centre Campus, then north along 105 Street, Kingsway (Avenue), and 106 Street, to Kingsway Mall and NAIT.

In April 2008, Edmonton City Council approved $45 million in funding to build a tunnel under the Epcor Tower site immediately, while it was still under construction, with the aim of saving $140 million more than would have been required to dig under the tower once it was completed. This step was taken even though the rest of the project had not yet been approved, because of the time constraint posed by the construction of the new tower.[43] Construction on the tunnel began in August 2009 and was completed by approximately September 2010.[44]

On July 2, 2009, the federal and provincial governments approved the reallocation of funding from the proposed Gorman Station to the line as the city felt that NAIT was a higher priority.[45]

The current expansion added three stations to the system; MacEwan Station at MacEwan University, Kingsway/Royal Alex Station near Kingsway Mall and the Royal Alexandra Hospital, and NAIT Station at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology. MacEwan Station is located just east of the downtown MacEwan University campus, and west of the proposed downtown hockey arena, at 104 Street and 105 Avenue. The Kingsway/Royal Alex Station is located on the north side of Kingsway, to the south of the hospital. As part of the plan, the Kingsway Transit Centre was relocated to the southeast corner of 111 Avenue and 106 Street, to provide service to both Kingsway Mall and the LRT station.[17] The NAIT Station is located north of Princess Elizabeth Avenue, on the south side of NAIT's swimming pool and hockey arena.[44][46][47][48]

The Metro Line was $90 million under its estimated $755 million budget, with a total cost for the project of $665 million.[49]

NAIT to St. Albert[edit]

Beyond NAIT, the Metro Line will travel through the new neighbourhood built after the City Centre (Blatchford Field) Airport is dismantled, go over the CN railway yard north of Yellowhead Trail, and continue north along 113A Street, and west along 153 Avenue. The City of St. Albert has also begun preliminary plans to extend the LRT line into their borders.[42]

On May 19, 2010, the transportation department announced its recommendation for an extension of the Metro Line from NAIT station to St. Albert. This extension is expected to eventually serve 42,000 to 45,000 passengers daily.[50]

Valley Line[edit]

Valley Line
Lewis Farms
182 Street
West Edmonton Mall
95 Avenue
156 Street
149 Street
142 Street
124 Street
120 Street
116 Street
112 Street
107 Street
106/105 Street
Phase 2
Phase 1
102 Street
 Capital Line 
Tawatinâ Bridge over
North Saskatchewan River
Bonnie Doon
Mill Creek
Gerry Wright Operations
and Maintenance Facility
Grey Nuns
Mill Woods

The Valley Line is a proposed 27 km (17 mi), low-floor urban line running southeast to west from Mill Woods to Lewis Farms, crossing through downtown. The line will be constructed in phases, with phase 1 being the 13.1 km (8.1 mi), 12-station portion between Mill Woods and 102 Street (downtown) allowing passengers to connect with the Capital Line and Metro Line at Churchill. Construction is expected to start in 2016 with completion in 2020.[51][52]

Mill Woods to Downtown[edit]

Planning studies for an LRT route from downtown to Mill Woods began in early 2009.[53] In December 2009, Edmonton city council approved a new low-floor train route that would leave a new ground-level station at Churchill Square on 102 Avenue between 100 and 99 streets before stopping in The Quarters redevelopment on 102 Avenue between 97 street and 96 street. From here the route enters a tunnel and travels beneath 95 street descending into the river valley to cross the North Saskatchewan River on the new Tawatinâ Bridge,[54] which will be constructed east of Louise McKinney Park. The route then proceeds to climb the hill adjacent to Connors Road then proceed east along 95 Avenue and southbound at 85 Street. The route will travel southbound along 85 Street crossing the traffic circle and shifting to 83 Street, continuing south and east towards Wagner Road. Finally the line will proceed south along 75/66 Street until it reaches Mill Woods Town Centre. Within this line the proposed stations are: Quarters, Muttart, Strathearn, Holyrood, Bonnie Doon, Avonmore, Davies (to include a bus terminal and park & ride),[55] Millbourne/Woodvale, Grey Nuns, and Mill Woods Town Centre. The maintenance and storage of vehicles for the line will be at the new Gerry Wright Operations and Maintenance Facility, at Whitemud Drive and 75 Street.[56]

On June 1, 2011, Edmonton City Council approved $39 million in funding to proceed with preliminary engineering for the Valley Line.[53] In November 2011 City Council voted to allocate $800 million to the project, with the hopes of starting construction by 2014 and an expected completion date of 2018.[57] A funding plan was approved in October 2012 in which the city would contribute $800 million into the project with the remaining $1 billion coming from the provincial and federal governments.[58]

On February 15, 2012, city council approved the Downtown LRT concept plan. The Downtown LRT Project became part of the Southeast to West LRT project.[59] The city hoped to have money in place by the end of 2013 for the $1.8-billion LRT line from downtown to Mill Woods to start construction in 2016. City council committed $800 million, the federal government invested $250 million, and $235 million would come from the provincial government, leaving a $515 million funding gap delaying the project.[60] On March 11, 2014, it was announced that the project would be completely funded[61][62] with an additional $150 million from the federal government and $365 million from the provincial government.[63][64]

Land procurement and utility relocation began in 2014,[41][65][66] it is expected to open in 2020.[23]

Downtown to Lewis Farms[edit]

A planned expansion to Lewis Farms, with the West Edmonton Mall en route, is in the engineering phase as part of the 27-kilometre Valley Line.

The option approved by Council in 2010 was to have the west LRT extension run from downtown, along 104 Avenue and Stony Plain Road before diverting south on 156 Street towards Meadowlark Health And Shopping Centre, then along an 87 Avenue alignment to West Edmonton Mall and beyond. Proponents of this route cited opportunities for transit-oriented development.[67][68]


The Southeast LRT extension generated opponents (particularly in the Edmonton Chinese community) when the city proposed to lay the tracks on 102 Avenue directly in front of an elderly care facility for the Chinese community, and despite demands to relocate the route to 102a Avenue, the city council voted for the original proposal.[69]

Concerns over community impacts[70] along the proposed West[71] and North[72] LRT extensions have led to a larger debate[73] over the vision[74] guiding the various expansion plans, and the criteria used to select the routes.

A lack of coordination between the extensions and transit-oriented developments as well as integration with other regional transportation nodes, has given rise to proposals for a new LRT master plan to guide it all.[75]

Signalling system[edit]

With the opening of the Metro Line, ETS will convert the signalling system for the Capital Line from fixed block to Communications-based train control (CBTC) or moving block. (The new Metro Line was built to use only CBTC.)[76]

The signalling system will control train traffic to keep it safely spaced and on schedule, share train location information publically (e.g. digital and audio announcements at LRT stations), and manage intersections by triggering traffic signals and crossing warning systems (warning bells, flashing lights and gates).[76]

The older fixed block system divides the track into sections called blocks protected by signals that maintain at least one empty fixed block between trains. The new CBTC system will instead maintain a fixed distance of empty space (a moving block) between trains. This allows trains to operate closer together, which increases the frequency of trains arriving at stations and increases an LRT system’s overall capacity for ridership.[76]

The CBTC uses computers on trains that report into a central controller to pinpoint the exact location of each train and constantly adjust the speed, spacing and routing of trains to keep trains safe and on schedule. It safely tightens up the spacing between trains so that Metro Line and Capital Line trains can share the same tracks between Health Sciences/Jubilee Station and Churchill Station. Edmonton Transit currently runs peak-time trains every 5 minutes through downtown, but this frequency will be increased to every 2.5 minutes when the Metro Line is fully operational.[76]

Thales Rail Signalling Solutions is the signalling contractor that installed the system. They have completed systems in many cities including Vancouver (Canada Line). They are also currently working on Ottawa’s Confederation Line.[76]


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External links[edit]