Last week council endorsed Ald. Brian Pincott’s proposal that would see a rapid-bus system make public transit a viable solution for Calgarians living in the southwest. With costs for the system tagged at less than a single interchange, here’s hoping this brainchild gets adopted.

The problem for residents living in such communities as Woodbine is taking transit to get downtown isn’t an attractive option. That’s because our current system relies on feeder buses to the LRT, which can take around 25 to 30 minutes and then hopping on the train for an additional 40-minute ride.

Driving to the train may reduce the time for one leg of the journey, but at $3 a day or $60 a month for parking, the added convenience is arguably not worth it.

Driving downtown, commuters face perennial jam ups on 14 Street and the high cost of parking downtown.

A southwest ringroad can’t be seen as a real solution, since the routing is contentious, the price tag astronomical and the timeline is unknown.

Pincott says his plan, with bus-only lanes, would get a Woodbine resident downtown in 45 minutes. Buses, with their own dedicated lanes, would fly past the rest of traffic, becoming an appealing commuting alternative. It could all be implemented by 2015.

It’s a good plan and a city like Ottawa is proof of it. Their Transitway is a step up from Pincott’s plan, with entire roads dedicated to buses. This means buses rarely intersect with regular traffic, making it possible for buses to zip along at full speed, even during rush hour. In fact, buses travelling along the Transitway can go for long distances without meeting a single traffic light.

In addition to the Transitway, Ottawa has dedicated bus lanes, meaning that even outside of the Transitway, buses can often get you where you’re going faster than driving. The city’s bus rapid transit began in 1983 and it’s credited to Ottawa’s high ridership numbers — transit ridership per capita in Ottawa is the highest among mid-sized Canadian cities and higher than ours.

Pincott says Calgary has been operating a “lite” version of bus rapid transit in the southeast and southwest over the years already. Crowchild Trail has transit-only shoulder lanes. His plan would build on that, installing bus lanes in road medians.

It only makes sense to make better use of existing infrastructure to make transit a truly viable alternative — let’s hope the new face of council come December agrees.

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