Presbyterian College > Academic Web Server > Jon Bell > Transit > (Cities | Types) > Edmonton

Edmonton, Alberta: Light Rail (LRT)


The Edmonton Transit System (ETS) operates a single light line, commonly called the LRT. It is 8.1 miles (13.1 km) long, of which about 2.7 miles (4.4 km) is underground.

From the northern terminal at Clareview, the line runs southwest on the surface, with some street crossings at grade, to a subway portal just past 95th Street. It then runs underground south and west through downtown Edmonton (via Churchill, Central, Bay, Corona and Grandin stations), emerges at the north bank of the North Sasketchewan River, crosses the river on a bridge, enters another subway at the south bank, passes through the underground University station, and finally reaches the surface again at Health Sciences.

The Edmonton LRT is the first of the modern generation of light rail systems in North America. Its first section opened in 1978, three years ahead of the closest runners-up, Calgary and San Diego (both in 1981). At that time, only nine North American cities still operated remnants of their previously existing light rail (streetcar or trolley) systems: Boston, Newark NJ, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, New Orleans, San Francisco, Toronto and Mexico City. The last previous significant light-rail construction had been the Riverside branch (1959) of Boston's Green Line.

The original line in 1978 extended from Belvedere in the north to Central in the south (4.3 miles / 6.9 km). From 1981 through 1992 it was extended in stages southward to University and northward to Clareview. In January 2006, the most recent extension took the line one station further south to Health Sciences. Although short (0.5 mile or 0.8 km), this was a major project because the University station is deep underground and Health Sciences is on the surface. A further surface extension in two phases is projected to take the line southward an additional 4.6 miles (7.5 km) to Century Park by the end of 2010.

The original fleet consisted of 15 Siemens-Düwag U2 cars, a type originally developed for Frankfurt, Germany in 1968. Calgary also bought these cars for its C-Train, which was built about the same time. After two further batches of the same type, the fleet reached a size of 37 in 1983. To serve the south extension and improve service on the rest of the line, ETS ordered 37 Siemens SD-160 trains, which began to arrive in 2008.

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These pictures were taken in May 2004, while the extension from University to Health Sciences was under construction.

[picture #1] | [picture #2] At the Clareview station, the northern terminal of the line.

[picture] The platform of the Coliseum station extends on a bridge over 118th Avenue. The coliseum is the home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team, so the bridge is decorated with metal silhouettes of hockey players in action.

[picture] A northbound train approaches the Coliseum station, in a view from the end of the platform.

[picture] At 95th Street the LRT has a grade crossing with one of Edmonton's electric trolleybus lines. The overhead wires for the trolleybuses lie slightly above the LRT wires, which have a short gap and guard bars to prevent the LRT pantographs from touching the trolleybus wires [closer view]. Trolleybuses also have to slow down here in order to prevent de-wiring [picture].

[picture] The line goes underground at this portal just south (west) of 95th Street.

[picture] The first underground station is Churchill, with a broad open center platform.

[picture] The Bay station has a futuristic chromed decor.

The Corona station has tall chandeliers that extend from the mezzanine level [picture] down to platform level [picture].

[picture] The Grandin station is the last one before the above-ground river crossing.

[picture] The line doesn't actually climb as it leaves the subway. Instead, the ground drops into the valley of the South Sasketchewan River while the tracks remain level. Here is a view of the bridge over the river, looking south from near the tunnel portal.

[picture] Now we're near the tunnel portal on the south side of the river, looking north towards downtown Edmonton.

[picture] At the time of my visit, the underground University station was the southern end of the line.

[picture] At one end of the platform at University, a small window gave a view of the tunnel under construction towards the forthcoming Health Sciences station.

[picture] A short distance south of the University station, the new extension emerges into daylight. The Health Sciences station was to be built in the grassy area at upper left.

[picture] The twin bored tubes end here, at the beginning of a short stretch of cut-and-cover construction before the actual tunnel portal.

This page was last updated on 5 March 2009.

Presbyterian College > Academic Web Server > Jon Bell > Transit > (Cities | Types) > Edmonton

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