It’s been a long road that is still being paved.
Calgary has long been the domain of the automobile, a sprawling urban labyrinth of towering interchanges and wide boulevards that has left transit, cycling and other modes of transportation as somewhat of an afterthought.
But the decision makers at city hall have began ever so gently to apply the brakes and curb the car-centric canon that has dominated civic planning for generations.
There’s something to be said about recognizing mistakes made, even late in the game.
And there’s no question that Calgarians are voting with their feet and bus passes, opting for alternate modes of transportation in greater numbers than ever.
Other than a significant dip in 2001, transit ridership has continued to climb, reaching 95 million passengers last year.
Meanwhile, pedal power is also surging with some 4,000 cyclists making the commute downtown on a daily basis.
According to Sustainable Calgary, the city spent 61 per cent of its transportation budget on roads and 39 per cent on transit between 1995 and 2006. That number has shifted in the city’s latest transportation plan, with more than half of all capital spending being shifted to transit, cycling and pedestrian infrastructure.
Of course the road is still predominantly uphill.
Ald. Bob Hawkesworth, who was part of the council team that first brought the C-Train to Calgary, said the city is finally getting the message that commuters want choice, not additional traffic lanes.
“I think people drive as much as they do because they don’t see any other options and part of the frustration with congestion is people don’t see any alternatives and they’re almost forced to live with that congestion,” he said.
Beyond altering the funding ratios for transit and roads, city planners are beginning to shape communities around transit, not the other way around.
Hawkesworth said high density developments planned around existing and future LRT stations will provide residents with the incentive needed to leave their cars in the garage and opt for the train. There’s no question Calgary needs to come up with new strategies to deal with a still growing population and keep the roads from becoming further choked.
Fortunately, it appears that message has been received. And the days where frustrated commuters have had little choice but to add to the daily gridlock may soon be replaced with a bevy of acceptable transit options.
So let’s step on the accelerator.