The Southwest BRT transit network has been a well discussed project in Ward 11 over the last few years. Calgary already has five BRT routes, and the SWBRT is one of four new routes to be added. As you may know, some key destinations getting a SWBRT stop include Marda Loop, Mount Royal University (MRU), Heritage Park, and Rockyview Hospital. The project is currently in its final stages of community engagement – much of the project details have already been determined and approved by council (for comprehensive details on the project, please visit the City’s information page here).
BRT is a fast, reliable bus service achieved through infrastructure improvements such as dedicated bus lanes and transit priority at traffic signals. BRT routes are different than traditional bus routes. They have fewer stops than a regular bus route, which means they can cover more ground, more quickly. The four new BRT projects will fill gaps in the existing transit network, and provide more direct connections to major destinations and LRT stations. For example, it will be easier and faster for residents in Oakridge to take transit to get to Rockyview Hospital for medical appointments or to visit loved ones – which is important for an aging community. It will also allow for more direct transportation from southwest communities to Mount Royal University – a win for families with university aged children.
I am very supportive of the four new BRTs being added to our transit network, including the SWBRT. The network promotes east-west movement, takes pressure off of our reliance on the LRT (C-train) system. The SWBRT provides a north-south alternative we currently don’t have in the Ward.
Why is this important?
The SWBRT will provide transit alternatives, improve overall service and encourage some of our neighbours to take transit instead of driving, thus helping with overall traffic flow in the area. As our population ages, it will be increasingly important for seniors to have alternative methods of transportation for things like shopping, visiting family and friends and seeing health care professionals. Having a strong transit system allows seniors to independently “age-in-place”, in the community and homes they have lived in for decades. Efficient transit is also important for young families and students who may not want to drive or who do not have regular access to a vehicle.
Transit is generally well used in the overall area, however improvements are needed for long term sustainability as the city grows. A lot of this comes down to destinations and feeder routes. Currently, from most communities, the push is to move people to the C-train stations. The SWBRT provides better connections to other key destinations outside of downtown and improves commute times for transit users.
Connected communities for all
Providing increased transit options that are more effective & connect to more community hubs, gives people the opportunity to not drive. It doesn’t mean people will stop driving – it does however mean there are other viable options for transportation so that cars are not the only way to effectively get around for work, activities and errands. This can help save people money. For those that don’t have vehicles or can’t afford to drive to their work or school, the SWBRT helps with accessibility and reduces their commute time, thus increasing overall productivity and opportunities. Studies have indicated average travel time savings to be 10-28 min – for many the time savings would be much greater.
In 2016, nine councillors on a city committee voted unanimously to direct the SWBRT project to proceed and coordinate with ATCO’s gas line work. This was done to move construction ahead in a way that minimizes disruption and maximizes mobility.
Some might suggest that there is still an opportunity for the SWBRT to be stopped. While there are some in the community who are not in support of the SWBRT, there are many who are. I don’t believe that stopping this project is a viable or plausible option.
That said, I think we need to focus on the construction staging and minimizing its impacts. We should ensure costs are well managed. We must be thoughtful in our approach planning of details such as stop locations and pedestrian connection (bridges, pathways etc.) as these elements will affect usability and costs. I feel that more frequent BRT buses would improve service and generate more ridership. A focus on feeder and connections routes is also important to generate ridership and improve overall service.
The SWBRT is a critical project for Ward 11 and will benefit our communities. Once complete, it will greatly improve accessibility and provide greater transit services options to Calgarians. It will bring communities together and open up opportunities for our residents, now and in the future.