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Route Ahead transit strategy change survives Calgary city council vote

Councillors approved a Calgary Transit strategy change that some felt pitted frequency over citywide transit coverage.

The item, which survived a tight vote at the committee level, passed 10-5 after being pulled from the consent agenda at Tuesday’s combined meeting of council.  It will come back no later than Q2 in 2023, after further discussions, for final approval.

In a nutshell, the major change in the Route Ahead strategy 10-year update would be to make the Primary Transit Network the focus of Calgary Transit’s evolution. That would mean 10-minute service, 15 hours a day, seven days a week, in a combination of LRT, Max BRT and other crosstown and radial routes from hubs in each ward.  

The strategy change, while not abandoning community service, would shift the transit investment focus to frequency and reliability on the Primary Transit Network over the next 30 years. That will mean service adjustments to many areas of Calgary where ridership may not support regular service, or require riders to travel further to get to a transit entry point.

Ward 12 Coun. Evan Spencer, who sat on the Route Ahead Advisory Committee, said that the status quo on Calgary Transit wasn’t ideal.

“It’s really important that we recognize that all of us are on the same page in terms of recognizing that this system can be better,” he said.

“Route Ahead has hinted in this direction for years and years and years, right from the inception, that frequency is a part of us getting the most efficient, optimized transit system. We need to take steps in that direction if we want those things.”

Primary Transit Network not for everyone

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp, however, said that making this change would negatively impact a lot of people. She believed it created equity issues.

“This is a benefit those who live in certain areas, but there’s an awful lot of Calgarians who really materially suffer from this,” Sharp said.

“We do need to think about those people and who they are because it might not be the people you expect.”

Sharp said that an effective transit system has to blend frequency and coverage.

“No one actually benefits if you can’t access it easily,” she said.

Ward 14 Coun. Peter Demong wasn’t a fan of the proposal. He didn’t see the benefit in many situations where routes would be cut and lengthened and people would have to walk 20 minutes to reach.

“I guess I can say I’m fundamentally and diametrically opposed to this idea of giving those that already have fantastic service, even better levels of service at the expense of those that are already getting poor service,” he said.

“There’s no way I’m going to support this, it’s the wrong direction.”

City administration said no decisions were being made on routes today. They also said they would be looking for more feedback on implementation.

A final approval will come back in sometime in the first half of 2023.