Climate Blog # 14 – Transportation Infrastructure
Climate Meeting – Transportation Infrastructure
The Transportation Infrastructure department is responsible for designing and building major City of Calgary transportation projects. From pedestrian bridges to cycle tracks and from CTrain stations to interchanges, Transportation Infrastructure literally shapes how Calgarians move about our city. Their work is critical to our economy, daily activities, and Calgarians’ quality of life.
While transportation is essential to our lives, it also accounts for the highest percentage of Greenhouse Gas Emissions (GHG) in Calgary. Likewise, the majority of transportation-related emissions in Canada are related to road transportation. With this in mind, we definitely couldn’t leave Transportation Infrastructure out of our meetings about climate. We met with them to learn more about their progress as mandated in the Climate Resiliency Strategy.
The revised Calgary Transportation Plan (CTP) was approved in 2009. This plan provides policy direction on how The City will deliver transportation options to citizens for the next 60 years. A focus on improving sustainable mobility is a key objective of the CTP.
- With the updated Calgary Transportation Plan, the department now allocates more than half of their capital budget towards transit and active modes of transportation such as walking and cycling. Investments in these sustainable modes helps ensure they are safe, viable, and attractive options for Calgarians. More people choosing these modes is critical to reducing GHG emissions and combatting congestion
- Transportation Infrastructure considers environmental risks and opportunities in every project. Through an Environmental Construction Operation plan, they can assess environmental risk and develop mitigation measures for each project.
- Additionally, Transportation Infrastructure created an environmental management system which they use to ensure their construction projects follow government regulations and find innovative ways to reduce environmental impacts from their projects.
- As part of the department’s commitment to reduce environmental impacts from their projects, they divert 99% of project construction and demolition waste materials from landfills and recycle them instead.
Examples of Projects:
- Laycock Bridge: This design initially included the use of steel and concrete. Steel and cement production causes approximately 10 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Transportation Infrastructure instead decided to use locally sourced timber for the project, which reduced the project’s carbon footprint by 140 tons!
- 194 Avenue SE Extension: Initially, this project design bisected one of Calgary’s largest wetlands. After a thorough review, the department concluded that the wetland and surrounding area provided both an important habitat and a wildlife corridor. The project design was changed to a span bridge and wildlife passage to accommodate the wetland as well as the free movement of various species.
- The Stoney Compressed Natural Gas Transit Facility: We learned about this facility before in our meeting with Calgary Transit, but it is definitely worth mentioning again. It is the largest indoor Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) fueling facility in Canada and it services all of Calgary Transit’s CNG and diesel buses. The facility is both water and energy efficient.
- According to the 2020 National Climate League’s report on Canadian municipal standings, Calgary was in the winning category for pathways. With over 1000 km of multi-use pathways, including our 130 km Rotary/Mattamy Greenway encircling the city, we have one of the largest pathway networks in the world.
What’s not working?
- There could be stronger focus and more proactive advocacy around the importance of our environment and addressing the impacts of city transportation on climate change. For instance, the Transportation department could do more to advocate for innovation within the transportation industry on materials and design standards. The industry’s understanding is evolving, but it is evolving too slowly.
- Measuring and benchmarking: While Transportation Infrastructure provides more rigorous analysis of their project impacts on climate change than other City departments, this is an area that could be improved and needs to be embedded.
- Transportation Infrastructure is often simply responding to the types of communities Calgary builds. If we keep building communities that require driving to every destination, then the department will keep building costly interchanges and wider freeways, which in turn induce more driving and more GHG emissions. Enabling the department to build more sustainable infrastructure starts with more sustainable community design and less reliance on new communities on Calgary’s edges.
- Roads are still being overbuilt to out-of-date standards that require wide lanes and large intersections. This excess pavement eats away at natural areas, reduces space for green landscaping, and reduces the amount of permeable surfaces. Overbuilt roads also encourage speeding traffic and the increased GHG emissions that come along with it.
- While Calgary scores well on pathway infrastructure, this remains largely for recreational purposes. Calgary falls well behind even our own tepid targets on the on-street cycling infrastructure that is needed to safely connect Calgarians to work, school, and other daily amenities.
- All Transportation Infrastructure capital projects will continue to support increased mobility alternatives. They continue to seek opportunities to build more sidewalks, pathways, and missing connections in conjunction with their projects. So far, as part of the current capital budget cycle (2019-2022), Transportation Infrastructure has constructed approximately 30 km of sidewalks, 53 km of pathways, and 19 km of cycle tracks in support of active modes. More is still to come
- Transportation Infrastructure built 7 km of new dedicated transitway for MAX Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). In addition, 91 stations were built for all 4 MAX BRT Lines: Orange, Teal, Yellow and Purple to support 73 km of MAX routes. MAX BRT routes will continue to expand across the city in years to come to deliver higher quality bus service and connections to key destinations.
- Together with City and industry partners, Transportation Infrastructure will continue to advocate for and build pilot projects to facilitate the development of improved standards.