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Calgary adaptive roadway changes coming with Stage 3 of Alberta’s reopening

Calgary will focus on weekend-only lane closures on Memorial Drive as the city emerges from COVID-19 over the summer.

At the June 16 transportation and transit committee, city officials recommended that some adaptive roadways be changed based on usage data collected. Still, the city’s roads officials were pleased with the overall impact.

“The adaptive roadway program has been successful,” said roads director, Troy McLeod.

Adaptive roadways are used by the city to create corridors that allow for a safe distance between pathway users, during the pandemic. They closed lanes on certain Calgary roadways to traffic, making the area safer for pedestrians and other wheeled users.

With the province already well into Stage 2 of the Open for Summer plan, the city is anticipating changes to their adaptive roadway program.

It would coincide with the province’s stage 3 of the open for summer plan, said McLeod.

Instead of having the adaptive roadways in place on the weekdays, operations will now be switching to the weekend. It would cover Saturday and Sunday, starting at 6 a.m. on Saturday. An evening Friday setup is also being considered.

This new change also includes any long weekend or holiday. Although if the holiday falls in the middle of the week, there will be no setup. It has to be adjacent to the Saturday or Sunday, city officials said.

Data-driven decision

The changes mean that areas of consternation like Memorial Drive, which caused a stir over concerns about slowing traffic, may be alleviated.

The shift to a weekend-only implementation for Memorial Drive was based on traffic data and annual weekly users. On average, the number of vehicles that travel down Memorial Drive on a weekday was listed in a presentation as 28,000.

For the adaptive roadway itself, it was listed that an average of roughly 4,500 people used the roadway on the weekend. However, fewer than 1,000 people on average used the roadway on a weekday.

While most of the focus was on the Memorial Drive roadway, there were announced closures of the adaptive roadways on the 4 Ave connector and Elbow Drive SW. Low average usage by pedestrians is the reason for the closure.

Councillors happy with new change

Ward 4 Coun. Sean Chu was happy with the change.

“I got a lot of respondents complaining about taking the lane away on Memorial Drive. Back when we first talked about this I asked only for the weekend setup. So, I’m happy to see this change at least on Memorial Drive,” Chu said.

The move to weekend operations prompted interest from Coun. Druh Farrell. Farrell expressed a desire to expand the usage of adaptive roadways to different operators.

“I’ve been approached by food truck companies, and they’re very interested in what the adaptive roadways are going to adapt into,” she said.

“They would like to set up along Memorial Drive because they have had a very difficult 16 months. As we move to a new, better normal we can take a more celebratory approach.”

The desire to expand on the success

Councillor Farrell also stressed the need for continuing to adapt the roadways and expand the program. Citing the Avenue Cartier roadway in Quebec as an example to follow and base city planning on.

“It’s an inspiring example. It is one of the most beautiful streets with restaurants and pop-up patios. It works seamlessly for pedestrians,” Farrell said.

This coincides with the concern that other cities are adapting after COVID, making their roadway systems more integrated with pedestrian activity. Farrell wanted to know what the city’s plans for doing that were.

“With COVID, cities around the world have adapted permanently and changed their streets. Because of the active mobility happening in the streets, they want to continue with that and expand it,” Farrell said.

“What will we do differently to meet our targets around mobility and support active users?”

McLeod said that the city is looking to expand adaptive roadways and other programs to address this issue.

“There are a number of programs the city is looking at to enhance our community. Things like the community mobility program are trying to make it easier for people to travel throughout the city. The adaptive roadways have given us a chance to identify and experiment with strategic locations. But we do need a full strategic plan to do so effectively,” Macleod said.

The new changes to the adaptive roadway operating times will happen later this summer when the province shifts into Stage 3 reopening.