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Calgary taps into federal, provincial transit relief cash

Calgary’s beleaguered transit system will get more than $82 million in combined federal and provincial relief after Alberta stepped up to match federal transit cash.

Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney, along with Premier Jason Kenney and Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek made the announcement Wednesday at the Oliver Bowen maintenance facility in northeast Calgary.

Nearly $159 million total is being earmarked for 26 Alberta municipalities.

Calgary’s share will almost cover a projected $90 million revenue shortfall projected earlier this year.

“I will tell you that this makes a significant dent into the shortfall that we have,” said Mayor Gondek.

The mayor said that city council is already hearing from Calgarians that route shortages are a problem. Infrequent trains and buses are a challenge, too.

In February, Calgary Transit reported that ridership was still only at between 37 and 39 per cent of pre-pandemic numbers. They aimed to get that back to between 60 and 75 per cent this year.

“We still have a little bit more to go, but without this funding I don’t know what we would have done,” Mayor Gondek said.

“There’s a long way to get back to the service levels we need to provide, so this was much needed.”

Public transit critical for return to work: Minister Sawhney

Transit systems across the province were pummelled by a loss in ridership, said Alberta Transportation Minister Rajan Sawhney.

With the province slowly emerging from the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic, thousands are returning to work.

“As people start returning to work, public transit is a critical component to Alberta’s economic recovery,” she said.

“Public transit is an essential service, in particular for students who are returning to campus or seniors accessing medical services, and other vulnerable populations who may be re-entering the workforce to get to and from work or re-engaging in social activity.”

Premier Kenney acknowledged the massive losses taken on by municipal transit systems.

“That’s why I’m here today to announce that financial relief is on the way,” the premier said.

“So that buses and LRTs can continue to serve Albertans across the province.”

Surrounding communities also received a share of the cash. Airdrie got $305,000, Okotoks $21,000, Rocky View County $18,600 and Cochrane $15,200.

Edmonton received nearly $67 million as a part of the agreement.