Take a ride on Edmonton's new Valley Line LRT southeast

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Edmontonians won’t want to sleep on their chance to ride the new Valley Line southeast LRT when it opens for passengers on Saturday.

Even if riders want some shut-eye, getting some aboard will be a challenge.

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It’s mostly smooth sailing along the 13 kilometre trek, with exceptions. It’s a wobbly, shaky ride north through the underground tunnel into Downtown — be sure to hang on tightly to the lime green grip loops or handlebars, or take a seat before turning a corner. Journalists were invited for a preview Thursday and rode the train from Mill Woods to Downtown and back.

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And while having a new train to traverse the city certainly sounds good, the noise aboard certainly does not.

Squealing and grinding on turns is fairly normal for a train. But the high-pitched, intentionally loud alarm bells blasting at each of the 11 stops seem unnecessary and may make riders wish they brought earplugs.

That is, perhaps, the point. Patrick O’Rourke, head of TransEd “asset management,” confirmed the loud alarm is intentional but didn’t elaborate.

And if the loud noises don’t keep you awake, the seating arrangement might.

Like the rest of the car, the seats are bright, new, clean, and pleasant to look at — eye-catching. Royal blue seats for everyone, and priority lime green seats for people with disabilities, small children, or those who are pregnant.

But they’re less comfortable than the long, cushiony benches on some of the older Capital Line or Metro Line cars. They are narrow, meaning you might end up cozying up to your seatmate even if you don’t want to. Riders will need to keep their backpack on their laps with little space beside and across from each seat in the elevated areas. The seats are also curved and firm, making it hard to get fully comfortable.

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Digital signs posted on the ceilings, and voice messages over the speaker, are also there to alert riders to their upcoming stops. The on-board announcement for the “Muttart stop” may even put the debate about how to pronounce the city’s iconic botanic gardens to rest.

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Apart from those pyramids, riders will also see stunning views of the river and the skyline as they head toward Downtown.

After nearly three years of delays to the opening, riders will soon be able to answer the question — was it worth it? Riders looking for a faster commute to or from Downtown will likely welcome the chance to get around the city a little easier, and maybe a little faster than driving during rush hour.

The trip on Thursday took about 30 minutes each way, pausing briefly at each stop — the commute length the city has aimed for all along. It will be difficult, however, to keep the train running on that schedule once the train starts taking passengers.

The first trains for use by the public will depart at 5:15 a.m. Saturday starting from Mill Woods going north and from the 102 Street stop Downtown going south, running every 10 minutes at peak times at the outset.

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