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City needs to update transit thinking

It doesn’t seem like a huge stretch.<br />

It doesn’t seem like a huge stretch.

Cut suddenly premium-paying transit users — you know the good people who do their part to reduce Calgary’s epic gridlock — a small break from the recently implemented $3 fee to dock their rides on acres of city park-and-ride pavement.

Sure, they have to endure a new money grab from the city for the privilege of parking at one of the city’s 33 lots on top of continually rising fares for C-Trains and buses.

Sure, it’s still cheaper than joining the daily automotive migration into the core, where thousands of commuters compete for a relative handful of exorbitant parking spaces.

Sure, the anticipated $6 million a year the new program will rake in will be used to improve security and maintenance at some of the expansive concrete slabs.

But charging that fee in the evening and on weekends? What better way to convince people transit is more of an inconvenience than a city priority.

While council in March called for a look at alternate ways to drum up transit cash, a report that landed in the in-boxes of council members last week offers no suggestion of lifting the fee during off-peak hours, instead issuing only dire warnings about potential cuts to transit service and jobs to cover the shortfall.

Bureaucrats posit axing the fee on evenings and weekends would result in a $1.5-million hit.

So instead of finding more efficient and inexpensive ways to improve maintenance and security with a reduced budget of a mere $4.5 million, municipal leaders are told the only answer is to slash 44,000 transit hours and 38 full-time positions.

For those keeping score at home, that would be a paltry $135,000 for each lot to spruce up the facilities and purchase new surveillance equipment.

Ald. Andre Chabot was one of two aldermen who asked for the report and isn’t happy with what he sees.

“I’m sick and tired of administration only responding to what they want to respond to,” he said. “I wanted them to come back with recommendations on sources of alternate funding and instead all we see is one option — cutting service.”

Chabot, who opposed the extra fee from the start, said Calgarians looking to go downtown on evenings after 6 p.m. and on weekends when parking rates drop would actually pay more to take transit.

Undaunted, the east Calgary alderman says he will push city staff to come back with what he wanted or he will make it an issue during budget adjustments later this month.

“We’ll get to this one way or another,” he said.

– Shawn Logan is a veteran municipal affairs reporter who covered Calgary city hall for three years after working at a number of publications in southern Alberta.

 
 
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