Blog: Green Line LRT Update
The Green Line Light Rail Transit (LRT) is Calgary’s largest infrastructure project to-date, and is one of the top ten projects in North America today. It will connect Calgary communities with high-quality rapid transit, spur reinvestment along Centre Street and around station areas, and act as a catalyst for improved community amenities.
City staff and communities are working together on how to best integrate the line into communities. Sometimes this requires tough decisions about at-grade vs underground, property impacts, and station locations. The cost of such a significant project, and doing it right from the start, also means making difficult decisions about phasing the Green Line.
On May 15th, Council voted to move forward with Stage One of the Green Line LRT, running from 16 Av N in Crescent Heights/Tuxedo Park to Shepherd in the SE. Stage One includes 20km of track, 14 stations, the Centre City tunnel, a new maintenance facility at Shepherd, and new low-floor trains. It will carry around 65,000 Calgarians on day one (in approximately 2026) and comes in at $4.65 billion.
While many, including me, are disappointed that the line will not go further, Stage One is a solid foundation for continuous expansion. After opening the initial CTrain line, The City added extensions every few years. Calgary has always phased its LRT projects, resulting in one of the top performing LRT systems in North America today. We can expect the same for the Green Line.
The Centre City tunnel is the right choice for a transit line that will last over a century. The tunnel was also supported by all Ward 7 community associations that the Green Line will run through. Though the tunnel means a slightly shorter Green Line initially, it sets us up for success and savings in the long-run. Calgarians consistently say we need to do the Green Line right the first time.
City Administration also recommends not including a station at 9 Av N, citing high cost and low anticipated ridership. I have heard from many residents on this issue, both for and against including the station. The Community Association has indicated there is not a unified position amongst residents. Though opinion on the station is divided, residents have been clear that they want to see a safer and more vibrant Centre. Council will ultimately decide on the 9 Av N station in June, and, regardless of whether the station is in or out, I will support the community in pushing to rejuvenate Centre Street.
Another issue still to be fully resolved is how to finance the Green Line. The Green Line will consume a significant portion of Calgary’s debt capacity. Council must ensure that The City manages debt appropriately so we do not overburden future generations of Calgarians. Since The City is also considering other major projects that would require debt, such as a new arena and hosting the Olympics, The City must prioritise projects based on what Calgarians can afford. I see the Green Line as one of our top priorities, along with flood mitigation and affordable housing, so I brought forward a motion to Council to request a prioritised and comprehensive list of projects that require debt. This list would provide Council with a fulsome understanding of Calgary’s financial capacity when deciding on major projects. Disappointingly, the majority on Council voted against preparing a priority list.
As for funding, The City committed $1.56 billion to the Green Line and the Government of Canada promised $1.53 billion. The Government of Alberta has not committed funding yet, instead first requiring a concrete plan for how the Green Line will be built. Now, with Stage One set, the City can submit a formal application to the Province for funding. If funding, financing, and years of planning align, we will see the start of Green Line construction in 2020.
Moving forward, I will continue to push for a Green Line that delivers value to Ward 7 communities and is backed by a sustainable financial model.
Categories: Blog, Green Line LRT, Transportation