$10.8M price tag for new wayfinding maps has councillors lost in the cost

The city plans to post new pedestrian maps to help people get around Edmonton, but some councillors can’t get around the project’s possible $10.8 million price tag.

Coun. Michael Oshry says $15,000 per map is not worthwhile

The city posted maps around downtown Edmonton as a pilot project, to find out if they help people navigate the area. Now it's looking to make that pilot a reality downtown and in transit centres. (City of Edmonton)

The city plans to post new pedestrian maps to help people get around Edmonton, but some councillors can’t get around the project’s possible $10.8 million price tag.

“There’s a need for it, but is there a need to have the Buckingham Palace version of the signs?” asked Coun. Michael Oshry after an executive committee meeting on Tuesday.

“In this situation, I’m not sure that’s the case.”

The maps would help visitors navigate downtown, the pedway system, LRT stations, and the river valley. The estimated cost per sign is between $10,000 and $15,000.

Oshry said he uses his phone to get around, and he thinks most people do the same. While he admits posted maps would be helpful, he doesn’t think they’re worth the money.

“We’re not a city that gets tens of millions of people visiting a year. We’re a city where most people can get around on their own, who live here,” he said.

Mayor Don Iveson disagrees about the usefulness of the signs. Several test versions were posted between City Hall and the Shaw Conference Centre last spring as a pilot project. Iveson said the pilot was a success, and he often used the signs himself.

“I think this is the right direction to go. How quickly we can do it, given the cost? Realistically it takes some time to get there,” Mayor Don Iveson said.

He said the cost of each map is high because they need to be able to withstand winter weather and decades of wear and tear. 

Pedways must be included, says wayfinding group

Installing pedestrian maps in existing Edmonton Transit stations and pedways accounts for $6 million of the total cost of the project. The Edmonton Wayfinding Society said the city should start putting those signs up at the same time as the others in the city, despite the cost.

The proposed maps would mark nearby landmarks, river valley trails, and places you can get to in five minutes from your location. (Edmonton Wayfinding Society)
“When I got into downtown Edmonton, I got into your pedway and got lost within about ten minutes,” said Tim Querengesser, president of the society.

He moved to the city in March and found getting around very difficult without a map. He said a coordinated map system in pedways and transit stations would help people get around and explore.

“I think it’s essential,” Querengesser said. “A lot of those getting lost stories happen in that pedway and LRT System.”

Initial funding for the pedestrian maps will be debated in November as part of budget deliberations.