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Calgary’s MAX bus routes get mixed reaction one month after launch

One month after the launch of Calgary’s new MAX bus rapid transit (BRT) service, the city says it’s still making some adjustments to make sure customers can make their connection.

The three colour-coded lines, Purple, Orange and Teal, have dedicated lanes along much of the routes and fewer stops. The lines are designed to complement the LRT system, and provide passengers with a faster way of getting across the city without necessarily heading downtown.

Nikhil Lobo, manager of transit planning, said feedback so far has been good.

“We’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from customers about those newer crosstown connections,” he said.

“The heated shelters play a really big role in customer service.”

They are the biggest improvement for Samuel Burnstein, a high school student who rides the bus to school daily.

“It’s a little bit warmer, it’s more comfortable. It’s spacious,” he said while standing in one of the new shelters on Richardson Way SW.

As for the bus service itself, he hasn’t seen a big change.

“I think some buses, they come more frequently, but others are a little bit slow, depending on the weather.”

Lobo said they have been aware of buses ending up clustered together on the routes that don’t have designated bus lanes.

Max Purple, for instance, has its own lanes along most of 17 Avenue SE, but it gets into mixed traffic once it arrives in Inglewood.

“What we’ve done, when there are major delays, we put in floater buses,” said Lobo.

“These are buses that are on standby thrown in to maintain the schedule so customers aren’t delayed.”

He said they’re also making adjustments to some of the schedules in the new year, based on feedback they’ve received from customers.

“Routes 9, 20, the 38, the 23: These are where people have asked us to adjust the trip times to better align with their travel needs. We’ve taken that feedback.”

He said changes to address those concerns will be coming in early January.

Some regular transit users like Franjo Stvarnik miss the now-gone circle routes, the 72 and the 73, which were discontinued after the MAX routes were introduced.

“The only thing that we miss is the 72,” said Stvarnik, who said he and his wife now need to change buses several times to get to medical appointments they once accessed on the circle route.

“It’s inconvenient,” he said.

Lobo said it’s still to early to determine if the new MAX service has led to any changes in ridership.

“We’re reviewing the ridership –it takes a couple of months for customers to fully settle their travel habits and for customers to try out their routes,” he said.