My C-Train wishlist

A couple of years ago somebody posted their ideal C-Train map on Reddit. I’ve been unable to find it but remember thinking it was a good map. It didn’t cover my whole wish list but had most of the areas you’d want one. That was where I got the idea of doing a post like this.

Now that Calgary is probably most likely getting their long desired green line (under the assumption that the feds keep the money coming regardless of the election outcome and Notley delivers her third) I’ve been thinking about the next C-Train line I’d like to see the city build. With it set to be completed as soon as 2024 that means in nine years we could be looking at what to build next.

Here is my idea for a great C-Train line that the city needs. Parts of it are even in the Route Ahead so I’m not just relying on wishful thinking and idealistic fairy dust.

In the Northwest I’d like to see a line running from Lions Park — which has one of the best names in the C-Train system — to Foothills, University Heights, Children’s Hospital, Market Mall and then up Shaganappi. With current redevelopment of Northland Mall you could add a station there and run it the rest of the way to the city limits.

I like this route because it would be easy to build off the existing infrastructure and would serve busy destinations. Foothills is a major employment destination as well as somewhere that people who are sick or have loved ones who are sick need good access to. Currently getting there to visit someone is a nightmare. Children’s Hospital is a smaller employer but is still a hospital. Market Mall could easily create enough passengers to make this line busy. Up Shaganappi there is land set aside for potential transit use. You could convert this area into future transit oriented development.

The Shaganappi section is included in the Route Ahead with a link via Brentwood to Bowness. This is different from that suggestion. I think serving Foothills, Children’s and Market Mall would be a better use of rapid transit resources.

The second part of this line or what could be a separate line runs in the south. Connecting it through downtown could be awkward, especially since there is no money to build an 8th Ave subway — something that is in the Route Ahead wish list — and you can only put some much traffic down that corridor.

Ideally this line would snake along the 8th Ave corridor and then somehow emerge into the Beltline. It would stop at Central Memorial, Tomkins Park, near the intersection of 14th and 17th, near CSpace and South Calgary Park, Marda Loop, Garrison Greens and then MRU. From MRU it would run to Rocky View and up along southwards to the edge of the city probably down 14th St. Route Ahead suggests a route running through the south in an unspecified manor to MRU and Rocky View.

Many will object to this route because it would have to run underground but that is what is needed for world class rail based transit in inner cities. If you want to serve existing pre-built communities you will have to go below them. The Beltline is the densest community in Calgary and has the perfect character for a C-Train line. There are buses serving the area but they get stuck in traffic during rush hour. Many people work in and visit the Beltline from elsewhere making it a destination and vital part of our city. Not having a C-Train line through the Beltline would make our transit network incomplete.

If you want to get to MRU from downtown this is the best way to go. It would expand service to existing vital inner city communities. Previous LRT lines that have either run along major roads or are surrounded by park and ride stations have not attracted transit oriented development. Serving existing communities where there is a high willingness to use transit is the best approach. Running a line up Crowchild would be cheaper but it does nothing for expanding transit in these communities. If your first priority is to make it cheap then you are building a second-class system that will have low ridership. Your city will remain car dependent and transit investments will be a slap dash effort rather than a commitment.

I don’t think it will get built but I’d love to see it happen. First, we need our municipal politicians to commit to making more transit happen in the future. Insist on good transit and sacrifice other spending to make it happen. Every interchange you build is a choice about the future of the city and could be spent on transit. Second, the provincial and federal governments need to be better funding partners. That or municipalities need the ability to raise taxes and funds to make their own plans and decisions without having to rely on funding from two other levels of government. The third-third-third systems handcuffs our cities and is why our transit investments have been so poor. Until you get a magic pre-election announcement transit plans are wishes and fairy dust.

In ten years I’d like to see a discussion about the areas that can best be served by the next LRT line. I’d also like to see a stable funding structure to emerge so that these plans are actually put into place.

The map below was created to give everybody on the Internet an idea of how great I am at using the line tool on Photoshop. But also to indicate how these ideas fit into the current map. The map I found doesn’t have the Green Line on it.

C-Train map 2

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