Is Edmonton's Metro LRT really a 'Kafkaesque nightmare?'
'I thought I was just stuck in this sort of fever-dream,' National Post writer Tristin Hopper tells CBC
By now, you may have a read a certain column in a certain national newspaper that has gently prodded Edmonton's new Metro LRT line — like a fretful first-grader at a piano recital — onto the national stage.
You know, the one this week where a cheeky writer called traffic snarls created by the LRT line a "Kafkaesque nightmare" and likened the entire project to "a candy company releasing a new chocolate bar called Herpes Al-Qaeda."
Seems the only way to follow an act like that is to quote another well-known funny man — Al Capone.
Not the real Al Capone. The cartoonish version in the 1987 Brian De Palma movie The Untouchables.
You know, the scene where Robert De Niro is asked why he (Big Al) hasn't already been appointed mayor of Chicago.
"Like a lot of things in life," he says, "we laugh because it's funny and we laugh because it's true."
Cue National Post writer Tristin Hopper, who recently moved to Edmonton and lives near Ground Zero, the area that centres around the NAIT campus, Kingsway Mall and the Royal Alexandra Hospital.
"To ensure the prosperous and happy future of this great country," Hopper wrote in the Post this week, "we must all now take a look at the City of Edmonton and solemnly vow to do the exact opposite of whatever the hell they just did with their new $665-million Metro Line LRT."
Fresh off his lengthy, scathing opinion piece, Hopper was a guest Wednesday morning on CBC's Edmonton AM radio show, where he shared more thoughts on the whole Metro Line fiasco, which he called "a horrific disaster."
"It's just so bad," Hopper told host Mark Connolly. "I thought I was just stuck in this sort of fever-dream."
In the column, Hopper calls himself a "fervent, almost fanatical" fan of public transit.
"I love transit!" he said. "Imagine if you're a big fan of trumpet music. And then someone just starts going around clubbing people with a trumpet. And there's like, the trumpet bandits out there. And you're like, that's my instrument man."
Whatever that means.
Doesn't ride Metro Line
Now, Hopper admits he doesn't actually ride the Metro Line.
"I've just seen the train when I'm in my car," he said. "And I don't drive at rush hour. I'm just talking about a Saturday. I'm just going to Home Depot, pull out of my driveway and I'm just immediately sitting there. The most I've clocked is six minutes; I'm sure it's been longer. Other people have clocked 12 minutes."
The worst flaw with the system, he said, is that when a train is coming, the traffic lights on all four sides of the intersection turn red.
"When I first saw this, I assumed something was wrong. But then I found out, no, this is the way the city planned it."
Which he thinks may be the saddest, and perhaps the funniest, part of the whole mess.
"Any of the reasons you build public transit," he said, "so, that's getting people somewhere faster, reducing emissions or removing congestion — it wasn't fixing any of those. It was, in fact, making all three of those things worse."
In his column, and again on CBC Radio, Hopper said Canada is on the cusp of a major transit boom. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has signalled (no Metro pun intended) that he plans to put billions of infrastructure money into public transportation projects, in the hopes of creating jobs and cutting greenhouse gas emissions.
"All the conditions are perfect to build a bunch of transit," Hopper said.
But, he added, "if this (the Metro Line) is the face of future transit, good luck convincing people that it's a good idea."
In case anyone might be wondering, Hopper said he's not just some carpetbagger who plans to serve his sentence in Edmonton and move on to a bigger or warmer place. He and his wife plan to stay and raise their kids here.
But you may not meet them riding the LRT.
Once again, here's Hopper at his columnizing best.
"I urge you, policy-makers of Canada; come to Edmonton. Examine its failure. Immerse yourself in its incompetence. Gawk at its ineptitude."
What was it Big Al said? We laugh because it's ...