City transit funding on track

Residents of west Calgary will now have the opportunity to catch Calgary Transit’s pride.

City council kicked off a new term with a massive $700 million approval to fund an extension of the C-Train line west out of downtown from Seventh Ave. to the Aspen Woods community, near 85th Street, along 17th Ave. The final route for the extension, approved Tue., Nov. 20, will follow the plan set out over two decades earlier. The west LRT line was examined as far back as 1979 with a southwest road study, which looked at what transportation infrastructure would be needed to serve that section of the city, according to Calgary Transit transit planning manager Neil McKendrick.

“[There was] one paragraph which said where the LRT should go, which was pretty much where it was approved to go yesterday,” he said.

The route had been the target of discussion in council and as far back as the original planning of the extension. Mount Royal College, located just south of where the west LRT line will run, had been discussed as a possible location for the C-Train to run through. But re-routing the original plans to run by the MRC campus would have cost an additional $230 million and serve 14,000 fewer passengers, according to a Calgary Transit report on the option.

MRC Students’ Association vice-president external Matt Koczur believes the final route excluding Mount Royal presents an obstacle for MRC students who want to take transit to campus and doesn’t see the extra cost as a significant reason to avoid including the college campus.

“The city just received $3.3 billion from the provincial government in order to strengthen our infrastructure system in the city,” said Koczur. “I really see the current decision [as] shortsighted. It would’ve been great to have some leadership on city council from all the members of city council on allocating this money as part of a longer term vision on how to strengthen the transit system in Calgary and how to strengthen the city itself.”

Koczur said that there is a 60 per cent pick-up rate of U-Passes for Mount Royal students. MRC students also pay $95 per semester for their U-Passes–the highest in the city according to Koczur. University of Calgary students pay $75 per semester for their U-Passes.

“We are paying more at Mount Royal College for our U-Pass and we’re receiving a lesser quality of service in public transportation due to the fact that we don’t have an LRT line,” said Koczur. “This really presents a significant barrier to students. Access to education is not just financial. There’s a transportation aspect to that as well.”

McKendrick noted that cost is only one factor in determining where to place the C-Train line and that serving MRC would make it more difficult to serve the rest of the west Calgary community.

“The unfortunate part about Mount Royal College is that it’s not well located in order for it to be part of that LRT service,” said McKendrick. “We’re only going to build six of them in the city and to have pieces of LRT darting all over the place really, is not a wise expenditure of money. It costs somewhere between $20 million and $60 million a kilometre to build a line. The unfortunate part of it is, there are locations in the city which are difficult for us to get to even though they would be great stops on an LRT route.”