Getting Around Edmonton: Edmonton Traffic, Driving & Public Transit Tips
Whenever someone moving to Edmonton explores the region, one of the first things they want to know about is the traffic and driving conditions. Whether they live in a high-rise condo downtown or in the outer suburbs, this is a universal concern—after all, the daily commute can be a significant factor in your quality of life. People also want to know whether public transportation options and local parking rules exist. Here is a closer look at driving in Edmonton—one of Alberta's most affordable cities—and helpful things newcomers might want to know.
Get to Know Your Major Roads
Edmonton has accomplished something that many other cities worldwide have dreamed of but they've never been able to accomplish: a bypass freeway that completely encircles the city. The Edmonton Ring Road, known locally as Anthony Henday Drive, can be a commuter's best friend. The Ring Road provides market access to the entire city and reduces noise for residents. It carries approximately 80,000 vehicles per day and is still being expanded by the city to accommodate even more lanes.
Highway 2 is a critical road to know, though it can confuse newcomers. It enters the city from the south and then turns west in the Rideau Park neighbourhood. Highway 2 then terminates on the Ring Road's western edge, reappearing in the industrial section of town in the north before continuing out of the city.
75 Street NW/Fort Road NW is a primary north-south drive in the eastern part of Edmonton. The Yellowhead Highway runs east-west through the city's northern half and is another major roadway for getting around that part of the city or bypassing it.
The North Saskatchewan River meanders through Edmonton in the northeast-to-southwest direction. It's essential to know the locations of bridges crossing the river because those can become congested at various times of the day.
What to Expect Driving at Different Times of Day
Edmonton has a morning and afternoon rush hour and is ranked fifth out of Canada's largest cities regarding traffic congestion. Even during peak driving times, the volume of cars and trucks is only about 25–30 percent higher than any other time of day. Generally, the morning rush happens from 6:00–8:00 a.m., and the afternoon rush from 4:00–6:00 p.m.
The two most congested intersections in the city are at 51 Avenue NW and 111 Street NW near the Southgate Centre shopping mall and at 50 Street NW and 112 Avenue NW in the Highlands neighbourhood. Three of the most congested intersections in Edmonton are along 111 Street; two are near the Light Rail Tracks, and the third is at 23 Avenue, also near the tracks. Delays due to traffic at these intersections can add anywhere from 5–10 minutes to a commute, especially during the afternoon rush hour.
Parking in Edmonton
The City of Edmonton heavily regulates parking. Locals need to have a Residential Parking Pass in certain neighbourhoods. Metered parking spots exist in the Downtown area and certain other parts of Edmonton and cost between $1.00 and $3.50 per hour, depending on location and time of day. Parking at metered spots is free on holidays.
Workers who need to park in the Downtown area can also use several parking garages. The Canada Place Parkade (97 Jasper Street) charges $5.00 an hour, up to a maximum of $15.00, and the City Hall Parkade (1 Sir Winston Churchill Square) charges $4.00 an hour, to a maximum of $20.00. The Library Parkade (10165 100 Street NW) charges $5.00 per hour, up to a maximum of $15.00.
Public Transportation: Edmonton Transit Service (ETS)
The Edmonton Transit Service (ETS) administers public transportation in the city. Most of the various train stations for the Light Rail also connect to the bus service, which allows Edmonton residents to get to almost anywhere they need to go in the city for work or school.
Edmonton Light Rail Transit
Edmonton's Light Rail Transit (LRT) has stops at 18 stations around the city. Those 18 stations are connected via three different light rail lines. The Capital Line LRT runs between the Clareview neighbourhood in the north and Century Park in the south, while the Metro Line LRT runs between the North Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) and the University of Alberta. The Valley Line LRT operates between Mill Woods and 102 Street Stop.
A few stations have public washrooms, ATMs, and other amenities. The Clareview, Belvedere, and Stadium stations have free Park & Ride lots. To use the Edmonton Transit Service, riders must pay a cash fare using exact change or purchase an Arc Card, which is cheaper. The Arc Card is pre-loaded with cash, and riders can tap it on the LRT fare box to pay for a ride.
Edmonton LRT Arc Card Fares:
- 90-minute trip, including LRT and buses: $2.75
- Arc Card daily fare cap: $10.75
- Arc Card monthly fare cap: $100.00
- Single Arc Ticket: $3.50
- 24-hour Arc Ticket: $10.25
- Book of 10 Tickets: $27.75
- Monthly Pass: $100.00
Regional Bus Service
The Regional Bus Service of ETS provides transportation in Edmonton and between nearby cities and suburbs, including St. Albert, Sherwood Park, Leduc, Fort Saskatchewan, Beaumont, and Spruce Grove. There are nearly 1,000 buses in the ETS fleet, providing service between transit hubs and most locations in the city. The entire Bus Network system of maps can be viewed online, although a better way to get around using the buses is to utilize the Take ETS Trip Planner.
With so many buses in the city, Edmonton has begun the Smart Bus Project to modernize the fleet. This smart technology system provides computer-aided dispatch (CAD) services, automatic vehicle location, and other tools to avoid service delays or disruptions. The buses in the ETS fleet make approximately 400,000 trips every weekday. The Arc Card system described above for the Light Rail Service is also integrated with the entire fleet of buses in Edmonton for seamless switching between forms of public transit.
All of the fares and passes for the Bus Service are identical to those of the Light Rail Service described above (90-minute trip for $2.75, etc.).
Commute Times from Suburbs to Downtown Edmonton
The various suburbs surrounding Edmonton are beautiful places for many people moving to the area. More than two dozen architectural styles are represented by the homes in and around Edmonton, from simple Craftsman single-family homes to Tudor Revival luxury homes. Commuting from the suburbs to Downtown Edmonton is a daily part of life for many residents. Here's how long it takes to get from the outlying areas to Downtown.
St. Albert is located northwest of Edmonton, on the north side of the Sturgeon River. The Line 201 Bus runs between St. Albert and Downtown Edmonton several times per day. It departs from the Naki Transit Station and Park & Ride and ends at 101 Street & Kingsway Station. The fastest route to drive from St. Albert to Downtown Edmonton is to take Highway 2 south. Turn east onto 118 Avenue NW, which turns into Kingsway NW. Take that street the rest of the way to Downtown. The route takes about 22 minutes during light traffic and up to 50 minutes during rush hour.
The suburb of Sherwood Park is located about 15 kilometres east of Downtown Edmonton. The Line 401 Bus runs multiple times daily between the Ordze Transit Station in Sherwood Park and the 101 Street & Kingsway Station. The fastest route to Downtown is to take Baseline Road west from Sherwood Park. This eventually turns into 98 Avenue NW. Cross the Low Level Bridge and take McDougal Hill Rd/100 Street NW the rest of the way to Downtown. The route takes between 18 and 35 minutes, depending on the time of day, and congestion tends to be the heaviest getting onto the bridge.
Fort Saskatchewan is about 30 kilometres northeast of Downtown Edmonton. It's possible to make the morning commute using a combination of bus and light rail routes each day. The bus departs from the Fort Sask Station and runs to the Clareview Campus Station. From there, take the train to Stadium Station and another bus to Downtown. The changes lengthen this route to about one hour. The fastest route to drive involves taking Manning Drive NW (Highway 15) from Fort Saskatchewan and then taking Fort Road NW the rest of the way to Downtown. This takes anywhere from 28 to 50 minutes, depending on congestion.
Leduc is south of Edmonton International Airport. The Regional Bus Service from Downtown Leduc to the Edmonton Downtown Office happens several times per day, with one bus transfer at the airport. The commute from Leduc to Downtown Edmonton is very straightforward. Take Highway 2 north from Leduc and continue on Gateway Boulevard after crossing Whitemud Drive NW. Stay on this road, cross the river at the Walterdale Bridge, and continue to Downtown Edmonton. The trip is about 34 kilometres and takes between 30 and 55 minutes, depending on congestion.
The suburb of Beaumont is about 30 kilometres south and slightly east of Downtown Edmonton. Commuters have two public transportation options to get from Beaumont to Downtown. The first option is to take the Line 519 Bus to Aurora and then switch to the Line 073 Bus the rest of the way. Another option is to take the Line 521 Bus to the Century Park Transit Centre and then ride the Light Rail the rest of the way. Both options take about one hour.
The fastest route to drive from Beaumont is to head north on 50 Street and then west on 41 Avenue SW. Take Highway 2 north and follow the road to the Low Level Bridge before crossing the river into Downtown Edmonton.
Spruce Grove is about 35 kilometres directly west of Downtown Edmonton. Daily service on the Line 560 Bus runs between the Queen Street & McLeod Avenue Station in Spruce Grove and the 106 Street & 117 Avenue Station in Downtown Edmonton. The bus route takes between 37 and 43 minutes each way.
The fastest way to drive from Spruce Grove to Downtown Edmonton is to go north and get on the Yellowhead Highway eastbound. Get off the highway on 121 Street NW southbound, then take Kingsway NW the rest of the way to the Downtown area. The drive can take between 30 and 55 minutes, depending on traffic.
Camrose is 95 kilometres southeast of Edmonton. This suburb is too far for the Regional Bus Service, so commuters must drive their own car to reach Downtown Edmonton. The fastest route is to take Highway 13 westbound and then get on Highway 21 northbound. Turn west onto Highway 14 and then north onto Ring Road. Get off the Ring Road by heading west onto the Sherwood Park Freeway. After a short ride northbound on 75 Street NW, turn west onto 90 Avenue NW and follow the road across the Low Level Bridge to Downtown. This commute takes anywhere from one hour to one hour and 25 minutes.
Wetaskiwin is about 70 kilometres south of Edmonton, so it's also outside the range of the Regional Bus Service. The fastest route from Wetaskiwin to Downtown Edmonton is to take Highway 2A northbound until it connects with Highway 2 in Leduc. Take this highway the rest of the way into Edmonton, then turn east on 63 Avenue NW. Then turn north on 99 Street NW, and take that street the rest of the way across the Low Level Bridge into Downtown Edmonton. The trip usually takes around 55 minutes during light traffic or one hour and 15 minutes during rush hour traffic.
Other Helpful Things to Know
Following the speed limit is vital in Edmonton because many parts of the city use photo radar enforcement. Speeding is an excellent way to receive a ticket in the mail. Winter tires should be installed on personal vehicles before the first snowfall every year. Residents are advised to keep blankets, some sand or kitty litter (for traction if stuck in an icy area), and a survival kit in their vehicles during winter.
Getting to Know the Way Around Edmonton, AB
Edmonton—along with being one of Alberta's best places to live—is a big city, and it takes some time to get to know the local roadways, the best routes to take, and which intersections to avoid during rush hour. The city has many different attractions and opportunities for those who learn their way around. A mobile phone app or GPS will help motorists find their way around more easily.