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'The most Edmonton experience I've ever had': Hundreds of transit lovers show up to ride first Southeast Valley Line LRT


Hundreds of transit-loving Edmontonians showed up to ride the first train of the Valley Line Southeast LRT long before the crack of dawn Saturday.

There was cake and coffee and enough ribbon for everyone to cut some, as giddy residents celebrated the opening of a transit line that was originally supposed to open in December of 2020.

The first train rolled out of the Mill Woods LRT and 102 Street stations at 5:15 a.m.

“This has been a long journey, with challenges and detours, but we’re confident in the system we’ve built. Our focus has always been, and will continue to be, delivering a safe, reliable system to Edmontonians,” TransEd Partners CEO, Ronald Joncas, said in a news release from the city on Tuesday.

The city said Tuesday, "Valley Line Southeast has been independently certified by professional engineers, a safety auditor and an independent, professionally qualified, certifier. TransEd recently received a formal certificate from the independent certifier, indicating the infrastructure is complete and meets the requirements of the project agreement."

Hundreds of people enjoyed cake and coffee at 4:45 in the morning in Edmonton at the Mill Woods LRT station.

"We all cheered at every stop," said transit passenger Justin Draper. "And when the train started, we had a countdown to have the first train leave the station and it was like a magical moment."


Much of the revelry was orchestrated by Troy Pavlek, who described himself as "a concerned Edmontonian who loves trains."

Pavlek brought the cake, the coffee, the roll of ribbon, a pair of oversized scissors and astonishing enthusiasm for someone at 4:30 in the morning.

Troy Pavlek brought cake and coffee to the launch of the new Valley Line Southeast LRT in Edmonton early Saturday

"We're eating cake and doing train," said Pavlek. "That's the entire point of this event. Edmontontians -- for the past three years since the delays, five years since it started, and 10 years since it was announced, 50 years since we started LRT -- people have wanted this to happen – so I'm just channelling the bursting pipe of excitement to overflow on this platform. And – it's happening!"

His passion for the project was mirrored by Draper, who grew up next to Clareview LRT and rode it to school, to work, and to hang out with pals.

"Public transit is one of those things that can really build a city and support its growth," Draper said. "Obviously I'm concerned about climate change and having environment-friendly transportation options and this is one of those things that supports that.

"It (also) helps people living in poverty," he added. "It helps people who just want to be connected to other parts of their city – I'm going to take this to come see festivals downtown, (and) I'm going to take it to access local businesses downtown, so I'm going to be supporting the local economy where I probably wouldn't be otherwise if I had to drive and find parking.

JHe continued, "It's just one of those things (where) every part of living in a city is made better when you have good public transit."


Edmonton city manager Andre Corbould echoed Draper's sentiments about the impact the Valley Line Southeast will have on the city.

"It's huge," he said. "It's a transformational project. When we talk about transformational projects, this is one of them. This is going to change everything.

"And I'm already starting to talk to folks now who are more excited about building housing out in Mill Woods and all the places along the transit line," he added. "So this isn't just about transit.

"This is about livability in the city," he said, "this is about housing, and just having that urban vibe in the city so it's going to be a huge step."

What made Saturday's launch even more fun was that it lacked politicians making speeches and doing photo ops. Instead, the ceremonial aspects were officiated by transit riders – and for cake-bearer Pavlek, that was perfect.

A transit rider cuts the red ribbon prior to the first train arriving on the Valley Line Southeast early Saturday in Edmonton

"Part of this too, represents Edmonton being a big-boy city," he said. "We've grown into a city of one million people – we're going to be two million people in 2050.

"This is the official launch (of the Valley Line Southeast)," he added. "If politicians want to cut a ribbon in five months, they can do that. We have cake – and ribbon!

"And literally, anyone else who wants to cut a ribbon – we've got a whole roll of ribbon!"

With files from Alex Atoneshyn Top Stories

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