News / Calgary

Calgary Transit’s RouteAhead update highlights successes and challenges

Transit facing tougher emission standards, carbon levy, decline in ridership

Although satisfaction rates are up, fewer Calgarians have been using the bus and train service since oil prices began to drop in 2014. That reduced revenue is just one of the challenges highlighted in the city's annual RouteAhead update.

Jennifer Friesen / For Metro

Although satisfaction rates are up, fewer Calgarians have been using the bus and train service since oil prices began to drop in 2014. That reduced revenue is just one of the challenges highlighted in the city's annual RouteAhead update.

Some green initiatives by the provincial and federal governments are costing Calgary Transit some green, and those costs could get passed on to the passengers.

Council’s Transportation and Transit Committee is getting its annual RouteAhead update on the state of Calgary Transit, and the report notes how the provincial carbon tax, along with federal emission standards, are making it more costly to operate.

Transit expects to pay $1.5 million more in fuel this year, and $2.25 million more in 2018 under the provincial carbon levy.

The report says those costs equal 15,000 to 22,500 hours of transit service.

Administration also has its eye on federal engine emission regulations that come into effect this year. The report says the regulations will impact bus engine design, and could potentially increase maintenance costs.

Transportation and Transit Committee chair Coun. Shane Keating said he feels the province really needs to step up with funding from the carbon levy for public transit.

“If you’re getting to 60 to 600 people on a single vehicle, that in itself is green,” he said. “To then put a levy or surcharge on top of that kind of defeats the purpose.”

The RouteAhead report goes so far as to state the obvious environmental benefits that come from a well-used transit system, noting that regardless of the fuel, transit gets multiple people out of single-occupancy vehicles.

Like just about every other part of the economy, Calgary Transit is feeling the pinch. Ridership declined 6.8 per cent from 2015 to 2016, with administration saying fewer workers were catching the train into the downtown.

The report also provides a window into transit’s expansion plans.

Planning and pre-design work has now begun on a Blue Line extension from Saddletowne to 128 Avenue N, a Red Line extension from Somerset-Bridlewood to 210 Avenue S, and a rail connection from the airport to the Blue Line and future Green Line.

Planning work can sit on a shelf for years until funds become available, but Keating said now’s the time to start making plans.

“I think the study is well needed and should be done – because obviously that’s the direction we should be going,” he said. “It’s just another step down the line that gets us to more efficient transportation across the city.”

More on Metronews.ca