Opinion: Gondola would make central Edmonton more livable, vibrant and interesting

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Urban gondolas are changing the way people travel and move around cities. Gondolas have a rich history – they have been in service for more than a hundred years all over the world, and modern city cable car technology has been in operation for more than a decade. These urban gondolas offer a versatile public transport solution; they are reliable, fast, silent, safe and environmentally friendly modes of transport. It is a technology to be taken seriously.

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With urban gondolas operating effectively in cities across Europe, Asia and South America, Prairie Sky Gondola is proud to develop one here in Edmonton. In 2018, the idea for the Urban Gondola originated from Project Edmonton, a grassroots initiative by the business community to uncover a great city-building opportunity. The vision of the Edmonton Gondola Project is to integrate Rossdale with downtown areas and Old Strathcona in a very tangible way. From those humble beginnings, the team has continued to engage with the community and the city to define a project that will help define our city for decades to come.

On February 22, 2021, we met with Edmonton City Council, where we agreed to follow six principles as a condition for the project to move forward. These principles are embedded in the development concept and philosophy of our company. They understand:

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  • No public funding requested and all financial risks are assumed by the promoters;
  • Books open to the city for validation on a confidential and exclusive basis;
  • A solid engagement plan for community and Indigenous stakeholders;
  • Mutually beneficial integration with public transit;
  • Minimized ecological footprint;
  • Provide security, including monetary guarantee, with respect to continuity of service or demobilization.

It’s no secret that the River Valley is a beloved treasure of Edmonton. The banks of the North Saskatchewan River are home to generations of history and culture; we understand the need to preserve and protect these areas. Therefore, we have a strong engagement plan for the community and Indigenous stakeholders; we have 20 key people from across the community on the public engagement committee and we are establishing an indigenous engagement circle. We look forward to engaging in meaningful dialogue with the community to understand each other, answer questions, and find solutions together.

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As Edmontonians who love and use the river valley, we are committed to minimizing our ecological footprint. We want to help people enjoy its beauty in a safe and sustainable way. The main value proposition of a cable car in an urban environment is that it is far less invasive than other forms of infrastructure. There will be no clearcutting under the cable car and trees will only be trimmed around the towers for safety, maintenance and security purposes. Prairie Sky welcomes questions and concerns regarding the environmental impact of our project and our relationship to the River Valley – these inquiries will be answered specifically repeatedly throughout the upcoming regulatory process.

Mutually beneficial integration with public transit means seamless pedestrian connectivity. Its purpose is to ensure that a user’s experience between bus, train and gondola is smooth and seamless. Transit integration has nothing to do with finances; it does not give us any subsidies. It is simply there to help enrich the experience of those who use public transit and those who visit our city.

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We would like to reiterate that the Edmonton Gondola Project is privately funded; it will cost Edmontonians nothing. We offered a decommissioning bond, which effectively eliminates any financial risk to the City of Edmonton. In the unlikely event that something happens that prevents the project from continuing to operate, the bond will cover the costs associated with the demobilization and rehabilitation of the stations and towers. In addition to this security deposit, we also pay full market rent and will proudly pay property tax.

We encourage you to keep asking questions, and we’ll be happy to keep answering them to maintain transparency. Edmonton is a city of innovation; we believe that with a direct link to downtown, the excitement of Old Strathcona and the potential of Rossdale, the Edmonton Gondola will make a significant contribution to making the heart of Edmonton more livable, vibrant and interesting.

We are Edmontonians too.

Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson, MBA, is President and CEO of Prairie Sky Gondola.

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