Cities in Western Canada consider gondolas as part of transit, tourism plans
By Colette Derworiz
Residents and visitors could one day be using cable cars to cross rivers in two central Alberta cities.
A 350-metre urban ropeway, also known as a gondola, has been proposed to connect Red Deer’s business district with the Bower Ponds recreation area.
“In Red Deer, it’s really simple. There are two stations. It crosses the Red Deer River,” said Jeffrey Hansen-Carlson, president of Prairie Sky Gondolas, which has said it would invest $25 -million in the project.
Prairie Sky also wants to string cable cars across the North Saskatchewan River between downtown Edmonton and Whyte Avenue, a popular street with bars, restaurants and stores. Geotechnical and environmental assessments are being done and public input is being gathered through meetings with Indigenous communities and others interested in the project.
The projects are two of many proposed across North America as a way to move people across waterways or get tourists up mountainsides.
Steven Dale is an urban planner who created The Gondola Project website and has consulted on many proposals. He said interest in urban ropeways has been growing steadily.
“Five years ago, the vast majority of my business was outside of North America,” Dale said. “Today, it’s probably 85 to 90 per cent in North America.
“Beyond the systems you have heard of, there are numerous other cities that are looking at this and discussing this very seriously.”
Dale said cities have started to realize gondolas can be cheaper than other transit, can be built over less time and can be used to quickly move people from one spot to another.
“No one likes to do a commute … so the shorter and more predictable it is, the better.”
Toulouse, Grenoble and Paris in France are fully integrating gondolas into their transit networks, Dale said.
A similar idea is being considered in Burnaby, B.C., where city council in January endorsed a gondola connecting the rapid-transit SkyTrain lines to Simon Fraser University.
“The … gondola project will create a safe and reliable transit option for Burnaby residents travelling to and from Burnaby Mountain,” Mayor Mike Hurley said in a news release at the time.
The project is part of council’s 10-year vision that guides priorities and investments in transit.
Dale said gondolas in Latin America “spread like wildfire” once the first integrated ones were built.
“Right now, North America is starting to pick up on it and it’s starting to spread here”
SJC Alliance, the company where Dale works, is involved in a gondola project in Los Angeles and in a study for another one in Tampa Bay, Fla.
“Think about the absurdity of this. We are talking about using a ski lift as public transit in Florida,” he said. “It’s totally ridiculous, but that’s actually a good thing, because the ridiculousness of it gets people’s attention.”
Ironically, Dale said, it’s only Canadians who say: “We have snow. We have ice. We have wind. We have winter. How does it work in winter?
“It’s a ski lift. How do you think it works in winter? You take it out of the mountains and put it into a city and people’s minds go screwy.”
There are already gondolas in Western Canada for tourists and skiers, but others are being considered in the Alberta mountain towns of Banff and Canmore. Developers want to build cable cars that would carry people to the tops of mountains from the townsites.
In Canmore, a proposal for a gondola at Silvertip Resort is before the public until the middle of June to set the terms for an environmental review. The project would connect the resort to the summit of Mount Lady MacDonald.
A gondola to take skiers and hikers from the Banff townsite to the summit of the Mount Norquay ski resort was rejected in 2019 by Parks Canada. The resort’s owners, however, told Banff town council last August that they still hope to build a smaller version from the town to the mountain’s base.
Back in Edmonton, Hansen-Carlson said an urban gondola can be a tourist draw, but it can also be a transportation solution.
“As a piece of infrastructure, simply moving people, its day has come,” he said. “Around the world today, there are about 200 urban ropeways successfully operating.
“So, we are not a pioneer globally, but we definitely are in the North American context.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 1, 2022.
Edmonton company pitching 25 million dollar gondola project connecting Capstone with Bower Ponds
A look at Alberta Premier Danielle Smith’s new cabinet
Premier Danielle Smith introduced her cabinet Friday, the second one since taking over as United Conservative Party leader in October. Here are the changes at a glance:
Second in command: Mike Ellis retains his Public Safety and Emergency Services portfolio but is also now deputy premier.
Big promotions: Mickey Amery moves from Children’s Services to Justice; Nate Horner moves from Agriculture and Irrigation to Finance; Adriana LaGrange already had a heavyweight title in Education but now takes on enormous responsibilities in Health.
New faces: RJ Sigurdson joins cabinet for the first time in Agriculture and Irrigation; Searle Turton is new in Children and Family Services; Dan Williams gets his first cabinet seat in Mental Health and Addiction.
Returning vets: Jason Nixon, the environment minister and government house leader under former premier Jason Kenney, is back in cabinet handling the Seniors, Community and Social Services post. Ric McIver, dropped from Smith’s first cabinet, returns in his old job of Municipal Affairs. Muhammad Yaseen, a former associate minister of immigration, now has full cabinet rank as minister of Immigration and Multiculturalism; Tanya Fir, former economic development minster under Kenney, is back in Arts, Culture and Status of Women portfolio.
Same faces, new jobs: Rebecca Schulz (Environment and Protected Areas), Brian Jean (Energy and Minerals), Nathan Neudorf (Affordability and Utilities), Joseph Schow (Tourism and Sport), Demetrios Nicolaides (Education), Rajan Sawhney (Advanced Education), Matt Jones (Jobs, Economy and Trade), Peter Guthrie (Infrastructure).
Same faces, same jobs: Nate Glubish (Technology and Innovation), Dale Nally (Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction), Devin Dreeshen (Transportation and Economic Corridors), Todd Loewen (Forestry and Parks).
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith shuffles familiar faces into new cabinet roles
Alberta Premier Danielle Smith introduced her new cabinet Friday, shuffling familiar faces, tinkering with some titles, keeping former leadership rivals close while welcoming back two exiled political veterans.
Smith’s 25-member team – down from 27 in her first cabinet last fall – were sworn in during a ceremony at Government House.
“I am so pleased to have this team working with me to deliver on the promises we made to Albertans during the election,” Smith said in a news release.
“These are not just our government’s priorities, they are Albertans’ priorities. The next four years start today, and I can’t wait to get back to work with each of my cabinet colleagues.”
Nate Horner has been tapped to lead Finance, Mickey Amery takes over in Justice and Adriana LaGrange moves to Health from her old job in Education.
Brian Jean, Rajan Sawhney, Todd Loewen and Rebecca Schulz — all contenders in the United Conservative Party leadership — return to Smith’s cabinet table.
Jean will head up Energy and Minerals, Sawhney takes over Advanced Education and Schulz is to lead Environment and Protected Areas.
Loewen returns in the newly renamed Forestry and Parks job.
Smith lost a lot of cabinet experience when veteran ministers retired or were defeated in last month’s election. Two returning stalwarts, Jason Nixon and Ric McIver, were dropped from Smith’s original cabinet Oct. 24 but are back at the table.
Nixon is in charge of Seniors, Community and Social Services. He was the top lieutenant to former premier Jason Kenney, serving as government house leader and Environment minister. After Kenney quit and Smith took over, Nixon was still viewed in caucus as part of the discredited Kenney administration and was moved to the backbenches.
McIver, with a decade of experience in the legislature under multiple portfolios, is back in his old job of Municipal Affairs.
Other cabinet ministers are also back with big promotions.
Amery, with no cabinet experience until Smith appointed him Children’s Services minister last year, takes a big leap forward to Justice.
One of three lawyers in Smith’s 48-member caucus, Amery inherits a controversial portfolio. He is the fifth person to hold the job in the last four years under the UCP.
One former UCP justice minister, Kaycee Madu, was found to have tried to interfere in the administration of justice by calling up Edmonton’s police chief to complain about a traffic ticket.
Last month, the province’s ethics commissioner concluded Smith sought to undermine the rule of law by pressuring Amery’s predecessor, Tyler Shandro, to drop a criminal case against a protester at a U.S. border blockade.
LaGrange’s Health job is viewed as critical, as Smith pledged to reduce wait times for emergency care and surgeries and to make changes to ensure more Albertans can see a family doctor.
Horner, who earned plaudits for his work in Agriculture and Irrigation, will have to navigate keeping Alberta’s books balanced while also finding money to pay for a $1-billion-a-year tax reduction pledge promised by Smith.
Demetrios Nicolaides effectively switches classrooms, moving from Advanced Education to Education.
Matt Jones moves from Affordability and Utilities to the new Jobs, Economy and Trade.
Rick Wilson returns as Indigenous Relations minister. With Nicolaides and LaGrange switching portfolios, he is the only minister named in Kenney’s original 2019 cabinet to be in the same job four years later.
Mike Ellis has emerged as a key lieutenant to Smith. The former Calgary police officer returns in the Public Safety and Emergency Services portfolio but is also her deputy premier. He is expected to play a pivotal role in Smith’s promised legislation to force addicts into treatment as a last resort.
Devin Dreeshen stays in place as minister for Transportation and Economic Corridors.
Calgary member Tanya Fir’s roller-coaster political career is back on the upswing, heading to the newly renamed Arts, Culture and Status of Women ministry.
Fir was part of the Kenney’s original cabinet as Economic Development minister, but was dropped from cabinet, brought back in as a Jobs minister only to be dropped by Smith in October.
The Status of Women portfolio is also back on the rise after falling from a cabinet portfolio to an associate ministry under Kenney, then out of cabinet altogether under Smith.
Smith has said because the NDP took all 20 Edmonton seats in the election, she will rely more on cabinet ministers Nate Glubish, Dale Nally and Searle Turton, who represent constituencies near the capital.
Glubish remains in Technology and Innovation and Nally stays as minister for Service Alberta and Red Tape Reduction.
Turton, a second-term member, gets his first cabinet job in the renamed Children and Family Services ministry.
Nathan Neudorf is no longer deputy premier or Infrastructure minister, taking over Affordability and Utilities.
Peter Guthrie moves from Energy to Infrastructure.
Joseph Schow returns as government house leader and as minister for the new Tourism and Sport position.
Calgary backbencher Muhammad Yaseen, previously an associate immigration minister under Kenney, attains full cabinet rank as minister for Immigration and Multiculturalism.
Dan Williams, a second-term MLA, gets his first shot in cabinet with Mental Health and Addiction.
RJ Sigurdson gets his first cabinet assignment, taking over from Horner in Agriculture and Irrigation.
The job titles remain the same for the most part with some slight revisions. Loewen, for example, loses the Tourism responsibility from his old job.
The Jobs, Economy and Northern Development portfolio has dropped Northern Development and will add in Trade responsibilities instead.
The Seniors title, dropped last fall by Smith, returns in Nixon’s new job.
The Skilled Trades and Professions portfolio has been dropped all together.
There is still no dedicated Labour ministry.
The government is set to return to the house in October and faces a large 38-member Opposition NDP that, along with sweeping Edmonton, took a big bite out of UCP support in Calgary.
The NDP now represents more than half the seats in Calgary.
Smith’s caucus will also be further reduced.
While the UCP won 49 seats in the election, Smith said newly elected Lacombe-Ponoka member Jennifer Johnson is not welcome in caucus given her public comments late last year comparing transgender students to feces in cookie dough. Johnson will sit as an Independent.
UCP member Nathan Cooper is expected to return as Speaker, meaning Smith’s team will have an even slimmer majority in the 87-seat legislature.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 9, 2023.
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