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Transit an ‘essential component’ for Tsuut’ina Nation Taza Development: Starlight

Bryce Starlight, VP for Taza Development Corp., said there's mutual benefit in bringing transit service to their booming commercial area.

Bryce Starlight said Taza Development Corp., the Tsuut’ina First Nation and the City of Calgary have been discussing a number of issues – including transit – for some time.

Earlier this week, Calgary’s Intergovernmental Affairs Committee endorsed a move to officially discuss a potential transit connection to Tsuut’ina. The discussion had been initiated via a request from the Tsuut’ina Band Council earlier this year. They passed a resolution Sept. 6, and that resolution was received by the mayor’s office Oct. 28.

Starlight, VP for Taza Development, said through ongoing discussion around their commercial development, built on the southwest Calgary border, they’ve built a synergistic relationship with the city.

A water and wastewater master agreement already exists between the City and Tsuut’ina. There was also work done together, along with the province, on the southwest portion of the ring road – Tsuut’ina Trail.

Now, with the ongoing growth of the Taza development – including a popular Costco location – it’s a good time to build upon that foundation.

“We’ve always seen transit as an essential component of what we’re doing here,” Starlight told LiveWire Calgary.

“Not just for our benefit, but also for the benefit of Calgarians who want to access, and to just really, to create that connectivity between the two communities.”

Starlight said typically First Nations agreements operate on government-to-government protocol. He said it comes down to making sure that both governments are aligned and working together at appropriate levels – with clear direction being given from both city council and the Chief and council.

He said this is just the first step in a broader investigation of transit service.  

Calgary has dealt with similar requests in the past. Chestermere requested transit service and that resulted in the Max Purple line extension.

Type of service sought

Chris Jordan, manager of transit service design at Calgary Transit said that it’s typically up to the neighbouring entity to choose the service they’d like provided.

Jordan was responding to a question from Mayor Jyoti Gondek on the potential for on-demand transit to the area.

“We would be working with the Tsuut’ina on a feasibility study to evaluate whether that meets their needs, as well as the opportunities that we see for that type of service,” Jordan said.

Coun. Andre Chabot asked if a potential agreement would be structure on a cost-recovery basis, similar to the Chestermere service. Jordan said that would be the starting point.

Coun. Evan Spencer asked if a potential service would connect to the Red Line LRT service, to the downtown, or just to get them into the city’s primary transit network. 

“I’m very supportive of making sure that we create those transit corridors to our regional partners,” Spencer said.

“I’m looking forward to seeing what happens in the creative solutions that come from this.”

Jordan said it was preliminary at this stage. They may have had ideas on possible connections, but current work on the Route Ahead update means that could change.

He also said it would be driven by the needs of the Tsuut’ina community.

Starlight said, for now, they’re really looking for that first touch point – the Taza Development.

“If we can figure out that servicing piece, we can start talking about other pieces as they come up,” he said.

“But really, it’s about servicing those initial communities that are coming up – both Taza Park and Taza Exchange.”

‘Really good move’: Coun. Carra

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra, who helped usher in the Max Purple extension, said these kinds of agreement are what’s needed to improve regional mobility and attain the environmental benefits.

“I’m incredibly supportive, and it just fits right in the pocket of all of our policy objectives that we have championed and that we are subject to as signatories to the regional plan,” he said.

Carra suggested that this might crack the door open to other shared service opportunities moving forward.

Today, it’s just a bus route, or perhaps a few bus routes, Starlight said. But, he said there’s been much more substantial progress with the city in a number of “connection points” with Calgary.

They hope to have service sooner rather than later, he said. But it will be dependent on potential ridership and other service details.

Starlight believes that with what Taza and the Tsuut’ina Nation are going to be bringing to the Calgary area over the next few years, there’s a mutual benefit for all.

“This is merely a reflection of what I see as being increasingly positive and the growth of positive relationships between the nation and the city,” Starlight said.

The City will report back to the Intergovernmental Affairs Committee by no later than Q4 2023.