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Calgary Transit, workplace travel still well below pre-pandemic levels: City

When the city talked about recent mobility trends Wednesday, Coun. Druh Farrell was concerned the admin was just thinking of how things could get back to normal.

Calgary city councillors got an update on pandemic traffic trends in Wednesday’s Transportation and Transit meeting. It was a return to city council meetings after a month-long summer break.

The committee heard that traffic to retail, grocery and residential locations had recovered to pre-pandemic levels. 

Travel back to workplaces remains low, said Ryan Vanderputten, director of transportation planning at the City of Calgary.  As does the use of Calgary Transit, though it’s improved slightly since June.   

“Both of these still remain at approximately 40 per cent below baseline,” Vanderputten said.

Calgary Transit combined daily boardings are at approximately 167,000, or roughly 31 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.  As of Aug. 30, Calgary Transit has increased to 85 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

E-Scooter use has been popular and air travel is starting to see a recovery, Vanderputten said. Pathways – including the adaptive roadways – continued to be a popular choice. Volume on pathways varied because of the intense heat and smoky days through the summer, Vanderputten said.

Building back better

Coun. Druh Farrell, who was sitting in her final transportation committee meeting, asked about what we’d consider “normal” now.

“We’ve been talking a lot about building back better and I’m just wondering… what the plan is to build back better?” Farrell asked.

She said cities around the world are taking lessons from the pandemic and permanently changing their transportation system.

“Some of them are quite radical changes,” she said.

Farrell was concerned what she was hearing was about just a return to normal.

“Yeah, let me absolutely clarify,” Vanderputten said.

“We will have a new normal.”

Vanderputten referred to recent changes to the city’s Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan and a vision for future travel options.

“I think that pandemic has given us an opportunity to create this new normal in a way that we’re really looking to create something different for our city,” Vanderputten said.

He said coming out of the pandemic, they continue to review policies and make adjustments.

“I think that provides that long term vision of creating a greater focus on travel options for all Calgarians, creating a city where the automobile is not the preferred method of travel, nor is that an actual requirement for people to travel around for their daily needs,” he said.