Calgary examining potential changes to overcrowded MAX Orange BRT line

Rider says overcrowded buses that pass by stops poses safety issues, especially in the recent bitter cold

Calgary Transit is about to roll out a new transit fare program so customers can pay for transit fare from their smartphones on July 1. PHOTO FROM CANADIAN PUBLIC TRANSIT DISCUSSION BOARD

An overcrowded bus rapid transit line has commuters concerned for their safety as city officials say they’re looking at potential changes to handle the ridership.

David Barrett, a frequent user of the MAX Orange bus rapid transit (BRT) line sprawling from Dalhousie to Saddletowne, said he’s seen full MAX buses pass him in the morning times along a busy 16 Avenue.

It’s a good problem to have, he said, but it becomes a safety issue.

“It’s been an ongoing issue — there’s a lot of people along the route that notice (the full buses). Especially during the academic year, the usage is just so high during those peak times,” said Barrett, who travels westbound on the line from Edmonton Trail and 16 Avenue.

“During the cold snap, certain stops have heaters built in, but many don’t. (My stop) for example, is very exposed and you’re standing there in very cold conditions. The other safety concern with a lot of those stops is proximity to traffic. You’re also going to discourage potential riders.”

Review ongoing, potential solutions on the horizon

Amanda Bradley, transit relations specialist with the City of Calgary, said quarterly examinations are being conducted by the transportation department to help relieve ongoing issues.

“I think a lot of people have been adopting our MAX lines — we do know our MAX Orange, in particular, is getting busier and busier and the ridership is increasing,” said Bradley, who noted the MAX Orange and MAX Purple lines are two of the most frequently used BRT lines.

“We’re obviously tracking and monitoring the performance of all of those lines. We’re looking into what we can do to improve that service.”

Barrett said he was encouraged to hear the city was looking at changes, but is waiting with bated breath.

“To hear they are looking at it quarterly is valiant, but the line has been in place for a while now and I don’t think we’ve seen much changes,” he said.

Calgary Transit was hit with a cut of 80,000 service hours when the city needed to find $60 million in budget savings.

No changes have been finalized, Bradley said,  but one option they’re examining is increased frequency of buses during peak times.

“Our changes aren’t finalized yet, and we haven’t decided yet which routes we’ll be changes just yet, but it certainly is something we are looking into,” said Bradley.

Any potential changes would be implemented in March, she said.

Introduced 14 months ago, the city currently has a total of four BRT lines, MAX Orange, MAX Yellow, MAX Purple and MAX Teal.

Specific ridership numbers were requested but not immediately provided.

On Twitter: @zjlaing

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