Questions on the city’s adaptive roadways prompted a robust discussion among Calgary city councillors on their use and tracking.
Councillors discussed the matter as a part of the update on the COVID-19 mobility report during Wednesday’s Transportation and Transit committee meeting.
A variety of data was presented, including transit usage at 27 per cent of normal, traffic at 90 per cent of pre-COVID levels and rideshare trips at 50 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers.
The information provided showed an increase in active modes – both pedestrian and cyclists – over the past month. The city attributed warmer weather and more daylight to the increase.
They don’t have data yet on the adaptive roadway use. The adaptive roadways began reinstallation earlier this year to provide outdoor space for Calgarians.
Coun. Sean Chu raised concerns around the Memorial Drive closure, implemented in March. It created a partial lane closure on the busy roadway.
He thought it was only supposed to be open on the weekends. (When originally reported, it was to be open seven days a week.)
“That has caused a lot of problems for people driving on Memorial Drive, and I have heard a lot of complaints,” Chu said.
“People saying that ‘hey, during the week and the during the day, there’s nobody walking there.”
City admin said they continue to monitor the area.
“We do recognize that, when that there are periods of lower demand it might seem that it is not as an appropriate reallocation space,” said Ryan Vanderputten, director, transportation planning with the City of Calgary.
“We are committed to continuing to monitor the situation both in kind of travel time and capacity for the vehicles in business and serving businesses.”
How much does it cost to make the roadway change?
Councillors were told the data is being collected and will be presented at the next update. The city is aware of growing congestion and rising complaints.
Transportation GM Doug Morgan added a footnote to the conversation. Each Memorial Drive changeover costs the city $8,000. The costs would stack up over time if they were to swap out every weekend.
Chu’s questions opened the door to greater conversation on the data being collected with a rise in active mobility.
Coun. Diane Colley-Urquhart asked if administration could include data points on how the active trips impact the city’s commitment to climate change work.
GM Morgan said there’s an opportunity to include the “middle area” of reporting. Right now, they focus on numbers and usage.
“Maybe we take that away and look into maybe there’s some coordinating data that gives you an idea of how the system is supporting those low carbon mobility choices and how the network’s performing,” he said.
Coun. Jyoti Gondek followed up with questions on tracking the impact and alignment with the city’s Health Impact Assessment Tool and the Health YYC playbook, along with the Active City initiative.
She also asked about how the city tracks the data.
Data is collected 24/7 at several locations around the city. The adaptive roadways have portable camera locations to help determine users.
“It’s a very intense amount of data that we collect.”
Coun. Gondek responded.
“It sounds like you’re making some pretty sound decisions based on empirical evidence,” she said.
“I would suggest to my council colleagues that we have our colleagues and our own experts in health and use these adaptive roadways to become a healthier city. If you have questions around taking these out, maybe use the data instead of talking about what you think you saw.”