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The Green Line

I’d like to address the Green Line again as I have been receiving a lot of questions regarding my thoughts on the project. This post will be quite long in an attempt to explain my reasoning but to summarize, I support it with a change in the construction schedule from its current plan and alignment. My plan is to construct it from 7th Ave downtown to Seton in the south (along the same route and with the same stations that have already been studied). With a change in the construction schedule, it will provide more benefit for the people of Ward 12 and make more sense for the City of Calgary as a whole.

Here is a quote from the very first paragraph on the Green Line page of the City of Calgary website, The Green Line will kick-start our economy with 20,000 jobs. Connect people and places. And reduce congestion on our roads.”

My comments will focus mainly on the three points in the quotation.

Kick-start the economy with 20,000 jobs.

20,000 is obviously an estimate and an approximate figure but let’s assume it’s relatively accurate. Can this city use some job creation? Most people would answer yes to that question. I have no problem with the project on this front.

Connect People and Places

Yes, great idea. No argument on connecting people and places. Let’s do it in a responsible and sensible way though.

The approved construction as it stands currently ends at the Shepard station just north of 130th. It’s just short of the vast majority of the population of Ward 12. Further south are some major assets to the city. The South Health Campus hospital and the world’s largest YMCA are the two that immediately come to mind. By stopping at Shepard Station (the last station in green in the graphic below), these places are not connected.

There has been discussion that the line should connect people to other areas of the city rather than just downtown. No doubt this is in response to the struggles the core is currently experiencing. And I agree. I’ve also heard this line of thinking used to explain why it was important to include the community of Quarry Park. If this is sound reasoning, wouldn’t it be even better to connect Quarry Park with the assets of Seton? The answer is yes. So with regard to connecting people and places, stopping at the Shepard Station doesn’t make sense.

“But Mike, stopping there leaves room in the budget to start the north leg.” Ok, lets talk about that. The planned north leg of construction runs north underground through the core and then rises to cross the river. It then runs approximately 10 blocks north to 16th Ave. This is to be the second stage of construction. It stands to reason that some of the largest risks with the project are tunneling under the core and then crossing the river. This short risky section could not only add to the cost of the project, but it does not have the appearance of connecting easily identifiable assets to the north. It will provide an alternate form of transport for people along these 10 blocks north of the river. Connecting this traffic to downtown can be accomplished in much less risky and expensive ways. The route is already served by bus, and scaling a bus route for increased (or decreased) ridership is much easier than building a rail line.

Additionally, planning for this short risky leg has not even been completed. This is taken from the City of Calgary website;

“A number of projects, studies and analysis needs to be completed in the area and north of 16 Avenue, including environmental studies, access planning, station location analysis, investigative drilling along the updated alignment, structural design, pathway and pedestrian connection studies and more.”

So, as to connecting places, the north section is questionable at best. For connecting people to the core, this can be accomplished with scaled up bus service. The segment north of the core then fails on the connecting people and places objective as well as being risky from both a financial and environmental perspective.

Reduce Congestion On Our Roads

Let’s look at the short north leg of the line first (Segment 2). As it is so short and doesn’t serve a route that isn’t already served, it is difficult to image how this leg will reduce road congestion in a way that cannot be addressed in a much less costly manner.

As for the south, this is where the major gains with regard to road congestion are to be had. It is well documented that Deerfoot Trail is in need of upgrades and many studies have been done. The latest was just released recently. The anticipated timing on these enhancements though is quite a distance off in the future.

Even with a reduced draw to the core, traffic will by reduced on Deerfoot by the south (Segment 1) leg. Under the current plan however, some of the congestion will likely just be moved south along Deerfoot which will more directly impact the residents of Ward 12. My concern is the area surrounding the Shepard Station (the area circled in the graphic.) It is reasonable to assume that the traffic is most likely going to be greatest at the last stop on the line and the area entering the shopping district at 130th can be quite congested already. Extending construction to the south end of the line as originally proposed would alleviate this. It would also keep traffic from areas such as Heritage Point and Okotoks from congesting Deerfoot Trail within the city limits as the entrance to the last train stop would be from the first interchange after crossing the river into Calgary. I believe that constructing the line to end in Seton and not constructing north of the core will go much further toward accomplishing the goal of reducing road congestion.

In conclusion, two of the three major goals of the project are not fully achieved with the current construction plans making it difficult to support a project with a price tag of this magnitude. Without changing any of the plans or work that has been already completed in preparation for the project, and in fact avoiding some work for the north leg that has not been completed, the construction plan can be adjusted to one that makes more sense. Given the opportunity, I would support and push for construction from 7 Ave. downtown to the final station in Seton. Not only does this revised construction plan go further to accomplishing the goals of the Green Line, it is less risky financially and environmentally as well.

Quotes from the project plans and maps were sourced from: https://www.calgary.ca/transportation/green-line.html

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