Confluence pop-up plaza invites Calgarians back to transit after COVID-19

The pop-up has a variety of features: bathrooms, seating, astroturf, flowers, ping pong, cornhole, chalk, events, foodtrucks and more. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

A new pop-up transit plaza at Heritage LRT Station aims to make Calgary transit a little more user-friendly by bringing temporary amenities, games and chalk to the CTrain line.

Sustainable Calgary brought new life and purpose to Heritage Station, a popular transfer point connecting multiple transit routes, with a budget of about $15,000 funded through an ActivateYYC grant, Take Action Grants, and the City of Calgary.

The idea for the project was proposed by University of Calgary student, David Kowell, who has been volunteering with the non-profit organization for a year – inspired by previous projects done by Sustainable Calgary and his own experience of commuting in high school.

“I always found it kind of lacklustre to just be waiting for the bus. There’s nothing to really do, in comparison to other cities where there’s coffee shops integrated into the station,” Kowell said.

Sustainable Calgary is in the midst of hosting one of three pop-up plazas planned for this summer at Heritage LRT Station. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

Since transit parking lots have been significantly emptier since the COVID-19 pandemic, Sustainable Calgary considered how a piece of the station’s parking lot could be used differently.

“[We wanted to] do something fun with it, create some spaces where people can sit, feel comfortable, get a coffee and play a game while they’re waiting,” Celia Lee, executive director of Sustainable Calgary said.

“Folks are not using transit as much post-pandemic. We’re still looking at addressing the climate crisis and so making sure that we are traveling in a way that’s climate-friendly and that we’re providing affordable, convenient transportation options as well.”

Future of CTrain amenities

The project is also a feasibility study to determine if people enjoy the experience of having more amenities on site and if businesses could be supported in a train station parking lot.

“We’re prototyping it as a way to sort of like invite people to come back to transit,” Lee said.

“Ideally we would want to keep doing this … we would hope that maybe it sparks some more permanent changes, and some different thinking towards transit stations and what they should be.”

The section of the parking lot being used for the pop-up is blocked off. Photo: KIRSTEN PHILLIPS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

People in the community have said the station is not the most pedestrian friendly and they would like to see more amenities in the area, Lee said.

Depending on the success of the pop-ups, funding and approvals from transit, phase two of the project would be to create a semi-permanent space to balance community programming and events on the weekends, with the ability to function as a parking lot when not in use.

While the City of Calgary does not directly play a role in organizing projects such as these, they do encourage events on transit, Stephen Tauro, Communications and Information Lead with the City’s Transit Department, said.

In an effort to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, a mural design has been proposed by Lucia Blanco, another U of C student who has worked with Sustainable Calgary on other projects.

Ground murals are typically used to alert drivers that people live in the area as a reminder to be cautious, Lee said.

“We want to create a safe place … [and] improve the aesthetics of the of the area, and to provide a more playful environment for children and also for the [entire] community that use the station to commute daily,” Blanco said.

Two more pop-ups are scheduled for the Heritage Station parking lot on August 11-14 and September 1-4.

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