As Calgary Transit prioritizes frequency over coverage, one city councilor wants to make sure residents in his ward aren’t left behind.
The city’s infrastructure and planning committee will get a taste of the priorities outlined in the upcoming Route Ahead transportation plan update, which will be released in the spring of 2023.
As part of that report, council is being asked to pre-approve an updated project priority list.
The report notes that Transport is planning a “strategic shift to focus investment on frequency over coverage” as it works to implement a primary transport network. It says this change means “some customers may have to travel further to a transit stop, but service will be more frequent.”
Ward 5 gr. Raj Dhaliwal was part of the working group that prepared the Route Ahead update.
He said he had heard from residents in his north-eastern ward who do not necessarily use transport during peak times, when buses and trains run more frequently.
“They don’t work during those hours, so they have access to transportation all day because a lot of them are front-line workers, others do part-time work,” Dhaliwal said. “They always want a service that is accessible for them to get from point A to B.”
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In November, Sharon Fleming, director of fleet services at Calgary Transit, told council it would take a year to get transit staffing back to pre-pandemic levels, and another year to actually grow the primary network.
Dhaliwal said in the meantime, the city needs to find the right balance between increased frequency and maintaining the catchment area for certain routes. He wants to make sure that buses come on secondary routes in communities that are not necessarily close to a primary transport line.
“It will take time for (the primary transport network) to be fully functional,” he said. “It may even take many years. We therefore want to make sure that the voices are heard that catchment area and frequency must be the key until then.”
‘Benefit Scores’ have been developed to determine the most needed projects
To decide which projects are most needed, the city created a criteria and weighting system out of 100 points, which it called a benefit score. The criterion that weighed the most was ridership, worth 30 points and based on passengers per average weekday. They also looked at customer experience and economic, social and environmental factors.
On these criteria, the Max 301 North and the 52nd Street East BRT each received the highest benefit score of 91 out of 100, and they ranked first and second, respectively, on the short-term rapid transit project priority.
Ward 3 gr. Jasmine Mian said she was pleased to see the Max 301 North recognized as a key route. It would be a dedicated-lane bus rapid transit running on Center Street along the future route of the Green Line.
“What’s important about it is that it will help us determine the right of way to go up Center Street,” said Mian. “Once it starts functioning well, transit-oriented development is going to be very successful in that area.”
She said with increasing talk of a spur line that would connect the airport to the Blue Line LRT, she wants to make sure the 301 North is not forgotten.
Mian said that in the Green Line debate, the northern line lost out to the south, and she’s still not sure how that happened, given the riders waiting for an LRT in north-central Calgary.
She believes the capacity is there for both the Green Line and an airport connection.
“My main priority is to ensure that we keep that 301 at the top of the conversation,” she said. “Obviously we have to work on multiple transport priorities at the same time, but make sure we’re really making progress that Max 301 is so critical because it more or less lays the tracks for the Green Line to the north.”