Upgrades have started along Calgary’s North Central bus rapid transit (BRT) corridor, beginning with improvements to the North Pointe terminal station.
Last week, councillors heard in the Green Line Q1 update that cost escalations were taking a bite out of the overall budget. With costs on the rise, the Green Line board and the CEO were examining ways to mitigate the increase.
That left some concerned $50 million included in the budget for the BRT service north along Centre Street could be a cost casualty.
Quietly, work had already begun on improvements to the North Pointe hub. Last summer, the engineering design and contract for the work were done. Work began at that time and continued through the fall.
Improvements completed so far include a new public vehicle entrance, construction of a transit-only “short cut” lane, along with bus turnouts, and new sidewalks and lighting along the transit-only lane.
Brian Tang, senior transportation engineer with the City of Calgary’s transportation infrastructure, said the rest of the work on this project will be complete by summer.
“It will help reduce the travel time that the BRT service needs to make,” he said.
“And also, it offers some expanded capacity for future service at that station.”
Tang said while it’s the terminal station for the BRT, North Pointe is also the hub for north Calgary transit. It’s particularly important to connect newer communities like Livingstone and Carrington with the rest of the transit network.
The rest of the corridor
Tang said the $50 million won’t provide MAX level BRT service, but it will cover short- and medium-term improvements along Centre Street.
Short term is zero-to-five years; medium is just beyond that.
Once the North Pointe work is wrapped, Tang said detailed design work on the other Centre Street corridor improvements will begin.
Those upgrades will be at intersections, creating transit-only lanes and priority signaling for BRT buses. Tang said they’re looking at the improvements for all transit in the target areas, not just BRT.
“Some of these projects, it may not just improve BRT, they may also improve normal transit,” he said.
“That’s where we find our… value for money, where we can help multiple groups at the same time, and kind of make use of that pot of money.”
The corridor study and correlating design and construction work are done with future LRT in mind, Tang said. After all, the idea is to eventually have full light-rail service into the area.
Users riding the North Central BRT will notice upgrades right away once complete, Tang said. That may be in improved timing, notifications of bus arrival, or even better infrastructure to keep riders warm and sheltered while waiting.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek said she was happy to see work being done on the corridor.
During the Green Line discussions in the prior term, concern grew over the city’s ability to complete Phase 2 (Eau Claire to 16 Avenue). Gondek, then as Ward 3 councillor, pushed to have BRT funding for the interim.
“I am ever vigilant on watching what is happening and making sure we get a proper mobility corridor that contemplates a dedicated bus lane, contemplates cycling infrastructure, so that North Central Calgary actually gets what it needs while we’re waiting for the funding for LRT,” the mayor said.
“So cautiously optimistic is how I would frame how I’m feeling.”
Residents along the North Central BRT corridor can follow the latest developments via the city’s website.