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Committee approves revised Route Ahead plan and a commitment to frequency-based transit

Calgary city councillors endorsed the recommendations in their overarching transit strategy, focusing on the next 30 years of Calgary Transit service delivery.

The final Route Ahead plan, delivered Wednesday at the Infrastructure and Planning Committee, was an update and a replacement for a strategy first delivered back in 2013.

It was approved unanimously, 7-0. It will now be sent to a full meeting of council for final approval.

The big item of focus in this version of Route Ahead was the push for a bolstered Primary Transit Network. It’s a Calgary Transit system that focuses on frequency and reliability along a dense skeletal system to drive greater public transit participation – versus one that focuses on coverage, even to far-flung regions of Calgary that don’t have a supportive population base.

Calgary Transit planner Jordan Zukowski said they would be looking at all elements of a customer’s journey, emphasizing accessibility and safety, and an updated capital project list.

“With guidance, we’re modifying the list over time as needed, emphasizing principles for designing the transit network to improve service for Calgarians to make it fast and reliable,” she said.

“The city we want to build and that we are building is socially, environmentally and economically resilient and transit is a key way to achieving our resilience goals.”

The Route Ahead plan envisions train and bus service along the Primary Transit Network every 10 to 15 minutes, at least 15 hours a day, seven days a week. It also describes a bigger commitment to the first and last mile of a trip and servicing that with more options.

A journey to the outcome

Ward 1 Coun. Sonya Sharp, chair of the Infrastructure and Planning Committee said that when the plan was first delivered, she was a little disappointed. She said she didn’t see where admin was trying to go with the Route Ahead plan.

“I think you’ve done a fantastic job of getting there and getting ready along the way. That’s a really important thing,” Sharp said.  

“Taking each of us along the journey to get the outcome that you’re going to get today and at council is super important. We’re definitely looking at a shift in the way people access transit, but our city continues to grow and we have to re-evaluate our transit system.”

Sharp said that the old system was geared around moving people to and from the downtown. Covid changed all of that, she said.

“What we’re looking to do for our city, if we expect people not to drive, we need to give them a realistic alternative,” she said.

Coun. Courtney Walcott said he wanted to express gratitude for major successes. He said if the plan wasn’t ambitious, and sets the vision for where we’re going, all the work towards it will falter.

“We don’t build the city without it. We don’t build the equitable future that we envision. We don’t see the positive outcomes to climate, to housing; we don’t see the changes in school populations, and we don’t see the changes in inclusivity and equity and accessibility without you,” he said.

The plan still needs final approval at a full meeting of Calgary city council.

Once approved, further work will be done to determine capital priorities, plus proposed route changes.