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Calgary Transit use climbs with students’ return to school

Calgary commuters are heading back to public transportation, with ridership reaching nearly 50 per cent of pre-COVID levels.

The city’s transportation and transit committee were briefed on COVID mobility numbers Wednesday.

Data provided by the city showed that there were 113,000 weekday CTrain boardings from Sept. 21 to 25. That’s compared to 238,000 boardings the week of March 2.

Boardings had dropped as low as 30,000 each weekday at the May peak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buses also saw a strong uptick, with 105,000 weekday boardings in the same September time period, compared with 225,000 in March. Bus travel hit a low of 45,000 boardings in April.

“Ridership continues to recover from the 90 per cent ridership decline experienced immediately after the pandemic started, and is supported by a strong return to school route service,” said Ryan Vanderputten, director of transportation planning at the City of Calgary.

Adaptive roadways

City administration also updated on the adaptive roadways. These were opened during the pandemic to allow for citizens to have more room to bike, walk, scoot or skate with physical distancing.

The Memorial Drive section of the roadway was closed on the weekdays at the end of August due to 5 Avenue flyover work.

Though it was kept open on weekends, city data shows a steady decline in use of the roadway from July – despite mostly favourable weather.

“Many of the remaining setups have transitioned to support weekend users of the pathway,” said Vanderputten.

“Network usage has started to decline as we transition into the fall. Many of these sites will be removed when snow and ice control operations commence.”

Other notes:

  • Escooter trips hit 853,585 in the period from May 22 to Sept. 28, according to city data. Most of those trips originated in the Beltline.
  • Rideshare and taxi trips are recovering back to pre-COVID levels, dropping similar to transit in the peak pandemic months.
  • On-street parking transactions have also jumped; they sit at roughly 75 per cent of pre-COVID levels.
  • Vehicle volume has recovered back to near normal levels compared to March. Glenmore Trail is showing almost identical traffic patterns with the return to school.

People still need to travel

Coun. Druh Farrell asked Vanderputten what they’ve learned through the COVID transportation challenges.

“We’re learning that there’s still a need for people to travel,” he said.

Farrell brought up spiking bike sales in the city and the use of the pathway system and asked if the city was doing anything more to make sure “their trip is safer and more comfortable.”

Vanderputten said that they’ve seen through COVID that Calgarians are willing to make other transportation choices.

“I think travel choices through COVID really helped reinforce the policies that we did have in place that, while we haven’t necessarily made the investments that we would have hoped to when some of these policies were initially adopted, It does reinforce the need to continue to invest,” he said.