Mayor Dave Bronconnier’s recent announcement that he won’t be seeking a fourth term inspired me to reflect on the direction he’s taken transportation in our city.
Elected in 2001 on a platform to “move Calgary forward,” Bronconnier set out to address infrastructure deficits. Admittedly, he’s tackled many of those.
The mayor put a lot of energy into the construction of roads, interchanges and overpasses. Of these, I’d say the Glenmore Trail causeway upgrades from 14 St. SW to Crowchild Trail, the 16 Ave. North urban corridor project, and opening the northern portion of the ring road top the list.
Unfortunately, until recent years, the city has devoted the majority of its transportation budget to roads, fostering continued sprawl and car-dependency. Bolstering funding for transit, bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure could have saved us from some of these problems.
Fortunately, this trend has been changing and, in recent years, our city has been divvying up the transportation budget differently, making more funds available for road alternatives.
As evidence, the LRT has been extended in all directions, with a new west leg currently underway, while 7th Ave. SW is being revitalized to make way for expanded platforms ready for four-car trains. Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is taking transit up a notch in some areas not yet served by the train. And the highly contentious pedestrian bridges are making our city a little friendlier to cyclists and pedestrians.
Bronconnier’s biggest transportation boon, though, is something that has the power to ensure further transit expansions — Plan It Calgary, the integrated Municipal Development Plan and Calgary Transportation Plan, passed in September 2009. More than anything else, this plan could secure transit-oriented development, strong local employment bases, walkable streets and public spaces, and smarter growth principles. Some of the strong wording got left out, but the spirit of the document stands.
It’s this document that our city’s 36th mayor should bring to life. Grounded in the principles of SMART growth, Calgary could be a city that embraces walking, cycling and transit. Imagine a city where you don’t have to own a car and where the seasons are defined by the weather, not whether or not construction is happening. It makes economic sense and it means shorter commute times too. This could be Calgary.
Let’s leave roads addiction, ever increasing public transit user fees and sprawling communities behind, and build on the roadmap Bronconnier has left with Plan It.
– Adrienne Beattie is a Calgary-born writer who has covered urban issues since 2001 and has an English degree from the University of Calgary.