The new Green Line route in Calgary has been announced. The provincial government has been stalling on funding until they know exactly what the City wants to build so here’s the city with a plan.
The line is a lot shorter than the big ambitious thing we’ve all talked about but it is a start. I appreciate that we are aiming for quality through the downtown section, which will be the hardest and most expensive to build. Going underground is the right call even if it means that sections further out will have to wait.
Sadly, the north is going to miss out. The Centre Street corridor, which has long been hibernating in anticipation of the Green Line arriving is not going to see any trains for a good while. That is on the back burner. The part of the south route will be built first.
This isn’t terribly surprising to me. In part because the area councilor, one Mr. Chu, isn’t very supportive of active transportation so he hasn’t exactly been fighting hard to make sure his residents get a train.
The other reason is that the depot and maintenance facility are in the south. You absolutely have to build the section with the maintenance depot first. This happened in Edinburgh as well. The unpopular route to the airport was prioritized in part because it was home to the maintenance depot. Leith, one of the densest communities in all of the UK and the area with the highest ridership potential, was put on the backburner. They’re working on it now but people were pretty angry about it.
The same thing is happening in Calgary. Centre Street is a crazy and congested place with no potential for any new buses — kind of like Edinburgh where any new buses would actually make things slower and the streets are actually full — and a huge ridership potential. You snooze you lose and the north is losing.
It often feels like the cool things happen on the other side of the river like most of the nice bars and the actually nice cycling infrastructure. We finally got a Rosso. I thought things were looking up.
This is a start and hopefully our only two thirds funded huge infrastructure project can get moving. After the core is built it will be much easier to extend out.
It’s also very frustrating that as a city, province and country we can’t cobble together enough money to build a long awaited and struggled for LRT project. This process is so hard and complicated. It takes so long to build so little. The smaller first phase still isn’t fully funded.
My dissertation looked at the tram in Edinburgh, which was a disaster. In part because different levels of government couldn’t get it together and commit to it — the echoes of the broken Canadian thirds system were a strong motivator for the topic. I compared Scotland to France, where they build LRT quickly and easily. Cities have the ability to make their own choices and fund their own projects. That means they get shovels in the ground quickly. In France the Green Line would be old news and the full thing would’ve opened ages ago. Instead of moving on to the next route — yes that next LRT route as we try to build out a full and robust network — my vote is for one from Downtown, through the Beltline to MRU — we’re going to be trying to get every little stop we can out of the Green Line. This is why Canada’s cities are so dysfunctional and car dependent. Calgary wants LRT so badly but it’s so hard for us to get even a little bit of it.