Ten Years Together - Mobility
Ten Years Together - A Story of Mobility
Ten Years Together – Mobility
“A city that moves”. That was a promise we started working on ten years ago. Since then, we have made the largest investments in history in roads, public transit, and active transportation, while dealing with extraordinary growth (we’ve added over 200,000 people in that decade, or about two Red Deers).
We’ve started to invest in a bus network that connects all points of our city through rapid transit. We’ve built cycle tracks and cycling infrastructure that inspired cities throughout North America, and fostered support for those who have wanted to choose active transportation. We’ve maintained and built upon a road network that, just last year, resulted in Calgary being named the Best Driving City in the World. And while we did that, we also continued to move forward with the largest public infrastructure project in Alberta’s history, the Green Line, which will build 20 kms of new track, connecting two parts of the city which have been underserved by transit for decades.
That’s a lot of great stuff, and I could get into the details of each and every piece of it if you really wanted to hear it. Instead, though, I wanted to hear it from the people that helped make it happen, the people who are really seeing those benefits, and I wanted to know how they see these changes over the last 10 years.
Darren Benner has worked in transportation and logistics for more than two decades.
“Over the course of the year, our average courier would drive somewhere between 50-60,000 kilometres. So, time is of the essence.”
The City of Calgary constructed 14 new interchanges in the last decade, with two more being delivered right now. Darren says that having work disrupted waiting for a train was a constant headache before this new infrastructure was in place.
“At Glenmore and Ogden road, it was frustrating because you’d get caught by a train and be there for 15 minutes. That would require calls to our clients to say, ‘Hey, he’s stuck at a train, he’s going to be late.’
“It’s been a positive change, one that was very needed. It keeps traffic moving, and that lets us meet our clients’ expectations.”
Building a roads network that is evolving to reduce congestion and wait times is one of the major undertakings The City of Calgary has prioritized to support business and keep Calgarians moving. It’s led to improvements that are felt each and every day. Those improvements to roads aren’t limited just to automobiles, though.
In 2015, The City of Calgary completed its initial Downtown Cycle Track project. Initially installed as a pilot project, it actually came in under budget. Since its inception, many people, like Asad Chaudhary, have seen it as an invitation to safely make another choice for how to get around Calgary.
“At the time the grid rolled out and prior to that the 7th street cycle track had already gone in, it became possible to envision both a better, safer commute, but also everything else. And so, suddenly, the question of is it safe, how do we find the route, do we have on any given day the mental fortitude to brave traffic, it all kind of fell away and all that mattered was, What’s the temperature like outside, do we need lights on the bicycle or not, how much do you bundle up and off you go, do you need a raincoat or not.”
He says that removing all these barriers to the activity led to a big boom in the types of people that he’d see cycling around Calgary.
“The diversity of the cycling community has exploded and the inclusion of more women, people of all genders, kids, people of all ages, I’m very happy when I see people on mobility devices, in wheelchairs, on electric scooters, kind of stuff, everybody sharing this new space we’ve created. When you go to events, it’s no longer a rare thing to see kids there. Kids riding their own bicycles, lots of families with cargo bicycles, lots of families with kids coming on trailer bikes or bike seats. These are all things that in 2010/11, you might see 3 or 4 of them a year. And now, on any given day, riding downtown, you see them several times.”
We can’t talk about transportation without talking about those Calgarians who use public transit to make their way to work and around the city. In fact, Calgary has one of the most extensively used light-rail transit systems in the world. Gerri Marcine has been using that system for nearly thirty years.
“I’ve not driven, by choice. I don’t even have a driver’s license. I kind of like having the commute time to myself.”
But while Gerri chooses to make transit a part of her life, many of her colleagues and friends are reliant the busses and trains to get to work. Any disruption to that service could have big implications on their employment, and of course, their quality of life.
“If you’re late for work, it’s literally money out of your pocket. Many of these are people that can’t afford to work fewer hours. You might see less shifts because you’re seen as not reliable. You can’t pick up as many shifts if it’s going to take you two hours to get some place instead of 45 minutes.”
So what has The City done to help those counting on transit?
“I think it shows that they matter. The messaging coming out of City Hall starting in 2010 is, ‘Everybody matters. We want to make sure everybody has a great quality of life, and that they can continue to live in Calgary, and live a good life in Calgary.’”
Between The City’s RouteAhead strategy, our construction and operation of the MAX BRT routes, and the digital integration of transit fares and real-time bus tracking, we’ve made major investments in helping Calgarians to have more choices in how to move around our city. But the largest investment we’re set to make, and, in fact, the largest in the history of Alberta in a public infrastructure project, The Green Line, is ready to happen. Its impact will completely change the face of transit in Calgary.
Jeff Binks, the President of LRT on the Green, believes that committing to such a visionary project is a much larger statement about what The City and Calgarians can accomplish.
“As we were coming up on 2010, the construction of the West LRT was well underway, and everyone was excited to look at the opening, but there was a big question mark about what happens next. And there really was no vision or plan about anything beyond the West LRT.”
That’s when he says that citizen interest and a City Hall that was listening to those it served showed what was possible.
“Thankfully, there were people within Calgary City Council who recognized that sometimes crazy ideas are how you achieve great things. There were people that believed in that and Calgarians bought into that. And I think we showed the incredible power of what could be accomplished when Calgarians dream big and dream big together.”
And if we can show this on an enormous and ambitious project like the Green Line, what does that say about Calgary’s future?
“What the Green Line says about Calgary now and into the future is that we can do anything, we just have to keep dreaming and coming together as Calgarians. We won’t be held back.”
Investments in our transportation network are direct investments in quality of life – giving people back the gift of time. So even though sometimes it feels like construction is never-ending, it’s all improvement in our lives and we are building on that promise of a city that moves.