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Councillors quiz Calgary Transit on station, train safety concerns

Councillors questioned safety on Calgary Transit, as the city projects post-pandemic recovery on public transportation.

City administration delivered an update on the RouteAhead 30-year transit plan at the Infrastructure and Planning committee Thursday.  In it, they provided an update on COVID-19 service and expected recovery.

Ridership is currently sitting at between 37 and 39 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, said Misty Sklar, acting manager of transit.  Service was at 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.  

According to Sklar, they expect Calgary Transit ridership to rise to between 60 and 75 per cent of pre-pandemic levels in 2022.

“It should be noted that Calgary Transit updates projections with changes to public health measures, work from home guidance, return to schools and observance of travel behaviours,” Sklar said.

Ward 7 Coun. Terry Wong, whose ward covers the downtown area, asked what’s being done to address safety on platforms and trains.

“I think it’s really important to highlight that we have heard in the downtown core, and we have heard all about the different lines in the LRT particularly those in my ward… great security concerns on the platform, in the stations and in the trains themselves,” he said.

Sharon Fleming, Director for Calgary Transit, said that as of Jan. 20, transit and other community partners undertook the Safety for All work. That included station closures at Erlton, Heritage, Southland and Anderson locations. It includes ensuring support for Calgary’s vulnerable population.

“Since we’ve enacted these closures, we have seen a 60% decrease in overdoses and substantial reduction in call volume across the system, which has freed up our transit peace officers to attend other areas along the system,” Fleming said.

Fleming said they remain concerned. They’re reviewing other security options in the interim.  

More officers to help

Ward 10 Coun. Andre Chabot asked about the addition of new peace officers along the line. He asked if it would have an impact.

Fleming said they’re currently training 10 new officers. They’re recruiting for 12 more. This funding was made available in the last Calgary budget adjustment.  

“We’re hoping this can have an impact,” she said.

Fleming again reiterated they were exploring other short-term solutions, involving other partners.

“… this is a right now issue and we want to address it right now,” she said.

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean, said, in his opinion, a closed transit system (limiting access to paying riders) would solve a revenue and safety problem.

“Firstly, it removes a lot of the crime, which is in and around the CTrain stations almost always,” he said.

“And secondly, you reduce all the fare skippers so that there’s your revenue. So again, solves both problems.”

McLean acknowledged the upfront cost.

Fleming said they currently have 97 per cent fare compliance, so she said she wasn’t convinced there would be significant revenue.  Further, Fleming said prior reports pegged the cost of closing Calgary’s transit system at $400 million.

“It is an option but it’s a very costly option and there is a concern that the issues would just move to the outside of the station areas rather than in the system,” she said.

Councillors also heard the RouteAhead plan was undergoing a review that would examine fares, economic impact, equity and future use with potentially changing traffic patterns.