There’s confidence that the new Calgary Transit public safety strategy will work and that this is just another step in the service’s evolution.
While it was approved at committee last week, the strategy needed a final endorsement at Calgary city council Tuesday, and it went through on the consent agenda without as much as a peep.
The new transit safety strategy calls for investments in LRT station safety improvements, employee training, and improved integration between law enforcement teams. The biggest change, however, is a move to a hub model that will congregate responses in three distinct locations to start, allowing for better response times to calls for service. The target response is between seven and 10 minutes.
Calgary Transit Director Sharon Fleming said they’re already seeing a significant improvement in transit safety compared with last year. One success marker is that LRT ridership is near pre-pandemic levels. Bus ridership is over 90 per cent (pre-pandemic), she said.
“We’re hoping that the safety strategy provides better response times, so when Calgarians are encountering an issue it’s resolved much more quickly,” she said.
“I personally have reported things through the text line and when that peace officer arrives quickly, that feeling of safety is restored right away. So, I think that’s what we need.”
The coordinated approach to safety and enforcement along with a compassionate social response will continue through this safety plan.
Plan deployed over 18 months
Aaron Coon, Chief of Public Vehicle Standards with the City of Calgary, said the full rollout of the program will take until the end of 2025.
A further $15 million investment must be approved at November’s budget adjustment for these plans to be carried out. The hubs – one at Whitehorn, one downtown and another at Westbrook Station – must be set up before the plan can be executed. Two additional hub sites (northwest and south) are still being determined.
“When we were looking at the analytics of our service model, the time to respond, we need to make sure that we had the resources placed in different areas of the city to achieve that time response for the target of 10 minutes,” he said.
Coon said there was an expectation from council that they were innovative in their approach to safety. Plus, they heard from Calgarians that safety was a priority.
“What we’re hearing is loud and clear from Calgarians that they have an expectation that we do something different, that there’s an issue with safety or in and around transit and the impacts to our communities,” he said.
Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said she was happy to support the strategy. She said it addresses both the perception of safety for Calgarians and actual safety needs on the transit system.
“It’s an all-encompassing strategy where we look at moving people towards services and shelters, as much as we make sure that our stations are cleaned and that we have a uniformed presence to provide a degree of certainty but also respond to those people in crisis as well,” she said.