When I graduated from High School, instead of escaping to Vancouver for post-secondary education, I ended up in Calgary. This week I’m back in Calgary for work. It is amazing to see some of the changes in the community since I left over 10 years ago.
When I lived in Calgary, its downtown was full of offices, but hardly anyone lived downtown. After 6pm, there wasn't a person to be found on the street. Today, there are more condos. People are cycling, walking, and enjoying life in downtown after 6pm.
While not without some controversy at the end of April, Calgary City Council voted to build separated bike lanes in their downtown core. There is consensus that the future success of Calgary depends on improving cycling, walking, and transit accessibility.
|Seperated bike lanes under construction in Downtown Calgary.|
In Metro Vancouver, the construction of separated bike lanes has been framed by some as a leftist conspiracy. This is totally unfounded. The fact that Calgary City Council was able to approve $7.5 million to pilot separated bike lanes gives me hope that places like Surrey and Langley could reallocate road space and built on-street separated bike lanes too.
If you need proof that transit can work without City of Vancouver density, Calgary is the perfect case study. During peak periods there is light rail transit every 3 minutes. Light rail will get you to most parts of the City. Because light rail is so popular, Calgary is expanded all station platforms to be able to handle 4-car trains. For comparison, the Expo Line in Metro Vancouver can only handle 2-car trains.
|Banff Trail C Train Station Platform.|
While TransLink is better than Calgary Transit when it comes to providing information online and on buses, there are some things that Calgary Transit does better.
One of the things I find annoying in Metro Vancouver is that the majority of bus stop signs simply say “bus stop”. In every other region I’m been to in North America (outside of BC), transit agency put the bus route on these signs. This is extremely helpful and I have no idea why this does not happen in Metro Vancouver.
|Calgary Transit Bus Stop at Lion's Park C Train Station.|
Another thing that TransLink could learn from Calgary Transit is what to do when the rail transit system needs to be shut down. When an issue prevents the SkyTrain system from running, TransLink usually sets up replacement bus service. When this happens, it is usually poorly communicated and is unclear where to wait for replacement bus service. Calgary Transit marks where to wait for replacement bus service when there is a service interruption.
While much of Calgary is still sprawled out single-family homes and strip mall, Calgary is become a more accessible city. While many of their light rail station are surrounded by parking lots, they are starting to be replaced by transit-oriented development.
If Calgary continues to embrace accessible community design, it could be an example for other cities to follow if the City can control its sprawl.