Lakeview resident Brian Scribbins said he and his wife used to be able to walk from his apartment to catch the route 47 bus over to Chinook Centre Mall and the Red Line LRT.
That enabled them to quickly access the areas they needed.
With the introduction of the MAX Yellow bus rapid transit, that route was eliminated in the southwest community, along with routes 18 and 63.
Scribbins said it’s created a situation where he now has to take the new 66 route that loops through the community to get off at 46 Avenue and 37 Street SW and then wait to catch the number 9 bus. He’s going backward to get forward through to the Chinook mall and LRT station.
“It waggles through Mount Royal University and then it eventually takes you over to the mall,” Scribbins said.
“My wife took that route a week or so ago and it took her like an hour to get home from Chinook Mall.”
He said there’s an option to try and catch the number 9, but it requires climbing an often-icy slope. They’re seniors, though, and his wife has mobility issues. They also don’t own a vehicle.
“She’s not very good on stairs or climbing hills or anything. It’s not like it’s a big killer or anything, but it’s a bit of a hike through this little forest and then a slope that’s often a bit icy in the winter months,” Scribbins said.
“But for most of the people in the subdivision, that’s too far to walk.”
So, they have to grab the 66 bus, loop around and hope to catch the 9 route.
“The problem then is synchronization,” he said.
Resident feedback pushed changes to bus routing
Nikhil Lobo, manager of Transit Planning with the City of Calgary, said while it’s still early days and commuters are getting back into post-holiday travels, they haven’t had substantial feedback on the new Lakeview routes.
He did acknowledge that the City did regular engagement with area residents prior to the launch of MAX Yellow and made some route amendments. Feedback from those sessions indicated a higher prioritization of routes that expedited travel to Calgary’s downtown.
“Quite a bit of the ridership was just going to the Red Line to go downtown and what we tried to do was put in a better downtown bus connection for those riders so they’re not transferring onto the Red Line,” Lobo said.
They’ve tried to make the 66/9 transfer as convenient as possible, Lobo said, with a heated shelter, a real-time trip monitor and a higher frequency route. He also said riders do have the option of walking up to the bus stop at the Glenmore/Crowchild flyover to catch the number 9 for the direct shot to Chinook.
Lobo said they’re trying to mitigate some of these concerns with the new routing, while also considering where the bulk of the ridership comes from and keeping it within the service level budget they’ve been given.
Though Calgary Transit took a cut of 80,000 hours, Lobo said those cuts were kept separate from the design of the MAX Yellow routing changes, though the budget changes make it more difficult to make future changes, if necessary.
“We’re really trying to honour that commitment that we made to the public and to customers in terms of what that’s supposed to look like,” he said, referring to the plan they presented during engagement.
MAX Yellow: ‘A philosophical difference’
Ward 11 Coun. Jeromy Farkas said Lakeview residents had warned of these problems during public consultation. He believes it’s part of a greater effort to funnel ridership to the MAX Yellow to get downtown, instead of the Red Line LRT.
“It kind of comes down to a philosophical difference,” Farkas said.
“I think we should be moving people quicker to the LRT system, rather than advertising the BRT as a core service but it just isn’t. At least not at this point.”
Farkas does believe the MAX Yellow service forced changes in Lakeview, due to service hour budgets.
“The BRT system is about half funded from existing transit hours,” Farkas said.
“Transit had to cannibalize existing community service and reallocated over to the yellow line. So, there’s been a significant reduction in just the community level of service.”
Lakeview bus route changes will be monitored: Lobo
Lobo said as part of the MAX Yellow plan, they’ll be monitoring the ridership and the feedback as commuters adjust to the service and traffic patterns change. Some changes they can make immediately, others, he said, might take more time.
Farkas said he’ll be keeping a close eye on the situation as it evolves. He’s willing to give it a month or two to see how things shake out, but not much more than that.
“We’re going to be pushing very hard early in the spring here to get this reviewed and hopefully rectified, but not something that I’m willing to let stand,” he said.
The Lakeview Community Association, who was contacted for this story but hadn’t yet responded, did post a petition in November of 2019 to have the routing of the new 66 put along 37 Street SW instead of 34 Street. No other specific changes were mentioned.