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Mayor Gondek said council bought into ‘legend’ of Calgary Transit turnstile study

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said council has long believed a “legend of a study” existed showing a $400 million cost for making Calgary Transit a closed system.

A specific report, however, doesn’t exist.

In a story first reported by CBC Calgary after a Freedom of Information and Privacy (FOIP) request, the City acknowledged that a specific report showing a $400 million cost doesn’t exist.

LiveWire Calgary later confirmed with Calgary Transit that the costs were extrapolated from other prior reports when they looked at fare evasion.  A closed system would put turnstiles at transit stations, requiring payment before entry.

According to Stephen Tauro with Calgary Transit, those reports showed a cost of between $5 million and $10 million to retrofit each station. The culmination of stations comes to roughly $400 million.

Tauro confirmed that no specific “closed transit system” report was created.

Mayor Gondek said they rely on administration to give them solid empirical data when making decisions. The political decision is then laid at council’s feet.

In this case, the mayor said she’s looking into it further.

“Apparently, it’s not a thing. It was simply an estimate at a point in time. So, I’m digging in to find out if it was, in fact, just an estimate,” she said.

Transit safety debate raises specter of closed transit system

Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean first asked about a closed system in February as the city grappled with increasing social disorder on public transit.

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

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

Then, in May, McLean asked if the city could pilot controlled access in a few stations just to see the impact.

At that time, Calgary Transportation GM Doug Morgan said they’d examine it further. A consultant is supposed to be hired this year to look at the issue. It’s expected to cost $100,000.

Tauro said it wasn’t clearly articulated how that $400 million number was derived when it’s been presented to council.  The consultant review will solidify those numbers in 2022 dollars, he said.

The scope of the review hasn’t been finalized, but it’s expected to only involve retrofits to existing stations. It won’t include potential add-ons to the Green Line.

Tauro said the information would be shared with the Green Line team. He also said that the scope would cover the capital costs of closing the system, and also the impact on accessibility. It would also capture potential operating costs for station attendants.

Mayor Gondek said when they’ve asked for information in the past, it’s typically backed up by reports.

“I think this is one that fell through the cracks, and I hope it doesn’t happen again,” she said.