This week, TransitCamp is presenting an updated version of our network plan for Calgary Transit. We’ll let you take a look at our proposal below:
As well as a simplified version (express bus routes and station names have been removed):
Before we compare our plan to the RouteAhead plan (which can be found here: http://www.routeahead.ca/), there are some things we need to clarify. First, our plan consists of four different types of transit routes, which are described below. While the map shows these different types of transit for different routes, this is a conceptual idea rather than a concrete plan. What is more important is the alignment of the routes and how they connect to each other, rather than what technology they use. It is important to keep this in mind while looking at the system. Let’s explain what each type of transit consists of:
Light Rail Transit- This is the form of transit Calgarians will be most familiar with as it exists today. Light Rail Transit routes will be much like the current C-Train routes, with dedicated rights-of-way (tracks not shared with regular traffic), separated or signalized intersections that give priority to trains, distinct stations and fare payment made off the vehicle. Although the types of trains may change (to be low-floor), the system would be very much what currently exists on the C-Train network.
Bus Rapid Transit- Bus Rapid Transit (what RouteAhead calls a Transitway), is a form of bus transit that typically uses dedicated bus lanes (i.e. not sharing a lane with regular vehicle traffic), limited stops, off-vehicle fare payment (i.e. you don’t pay the driver directly, but purchase the ticket before and roving transit officers randomly check fares on the vehicle, much like on our C-Train system) and signal priority at intersections. We call this form of transit Bus Rapid Transit, mostly because that is what it is called in most of the rest of the world (places like Bogota are the most common examples given). In our plan, the routes identified as Bus Rapid Transit will have most, if not all of these elements for most of their route. For example, the Heritage line will likely use dedicated transit lanes on Heritage Drive and the TransCanada line will use dedicated lanes on 16th avenue.
Express Bus Transit- This simply is a limited stop service, with minor improvements to increase reliability, such as queue jumps and signal controls. Dedicated lanes will be limited, if used at all. These routes will be very similar to the 300 series routes currently, such as the 301, 302 and 305. The emphasis is on improving speed through limited stops rather than completely removing the bus from traffic. Fare payment will likely be as normal, with passengers paying the driver. However, if considerable speed improvements can be realized by having fare machines at each station, this may also be implemented.
Urban Gondola– Finally, we have proposed an urban gondola. Calgarians will also be familiar with this form of transit, because in reality it is much like a gondola found on a ski-resort (both Sunshine and Lake Louise have gondolas). The exact design and style of the gondola is still to be determined, but the plan would use a system of multiple cars on an aerial cable system. This will be discussed in greater depth in a later post.
So now that we know what our plan entails, lets compare it to the RouteAhead plan (we will just highlight similarities and differences and let you decide which are pros or cons).
Focus on network connectivity and crosstown routes- Both plans have a strong emphasis on creating a transit network that uses crosstown routes to provide mobility across the entire city, a considerable shift from the very downtown-centric model of transit currently.
The plan is almost identical- You may think that by coming up with our own plan, TransitCamp would have a radically different vision than RouteAhead. In fact, we had come up with an earlier network plan more than a year ago, before Calgary Transit released their proposed BRT network. That network was almost identical to the BRT network plan and both were created completely independently of each other. Sure, there may be some tweaks here and there (such as connecting the Heritage and Foothills BRT at Quarry Park), but the main structure is the same. The reason this is so is because the routes just make sense. A transit route on 16th avenue is obvious considering the number of major institutions adjacent to it (including SAIT, Foothills Hospital, Children’s Hospital and the University of Calgary). Similarly it makes sense to connect Mount Royal University and Rockyview Hospital to the west and south LRT lines. Network planning is very much like playing connect the dots. The route between those dots is usually pretty obvious, but the exact form that route would take is not.
Routes are “scaled up” based on performance criteria- While both plans show theoretical build outs of the plan (and phasing in the case of RouteAhead), both will upgrade routes based on a set of criteria rather than a set plan. So while our plan, for example, shows the TransCanada line as Bus Rapid Transit, that is only an estimate of what we think will happen. If the line does very well attracting riders, and we find out a way to construct light rail cost-effectively, the route may actually be Light Rail Transit. Both plans assume that we do not know perfectly how our city will develop and how people will use transit, so we use actual performance and other criteria to decide how to invest in improvements. Most routes will start as limited stop services, and upgrade as necessary.
More details than RouteAhead- There are a few details that the TransitCamp plan includes, that RouteAhead doesn’t. Our plan includes stations beyond just transfer points, with the stops on each route shown on the map. We also commit to a few alignments that RouteAhead doesn’t, such as using Centre Street for the North Central LRT. As well, we have included what we call “Express Bus Transit”, which RouteAhead seems not to have included in their most recent plan. One example of this would be the providence line connecting Somerset station to the South Hospital.
Naming the routes- We decided to use names for each route. The names are based either on the major road the route follows (such as TransCanada, Crowchild, Macleod, Elbow, Barlow and Heritage lines), a prominent location the route serves (such as the Foothills line serving Foothills industrial park or Symon’s Valley) or a major geographic feature along the route (such as Glenmore reservoir for the Glenmore line, or Confederation Park for the Confederation line). These names are mostly used to help us identify the routes in discussions, as well as a point of discussion of how we label our transit routes (i.e. should we continue to use numbers, or go with names)?
Less commitment to phasing than RouteAhead- The routeahead plan includes a conceptual phasing plan, showing which improvements will take place when. At this point, we haven’t made such a commitment, because honestly, we don’t have an accurate picture of how well each route will do and when upgrades will be needed. For example, with the announcement that Imperial Oil is moving to Quarry Park, it may be the case that the Heritage line upgrades to dedicated bus lanes before the north central LRT is built. At this point it is hard to know.
Quarry Park as a transfer hub- One significant difference between our plan and RouteAhead’s plan is that we have the Foothills BRT (using 52nd street east) going to Quarry Park instead of the South Hospital. In fact, Quarry Park becomes a major transit hub with 4 lines (Deerfoot LRT, Heritage BRT, Foothills BRT and Barlow Express) all converging on the station. We had this idea before Imperial Oil announced its move to Quarry Park, which is quite a coincidence. The reasoning was that residents in the south and west should have a good connection to Foothills Industrial (and similarly northeast residents should have a good connection to Quarry Park). In order to do this, the Foothills line and Heritage line had to meet, the most logical point being Quarry Park. We do sacrifice a direct line between the northeast and the South Hospital, but we feel the change is worth it.
Additional crosstown routes in all quadrants- The TransitCamp plan adds one crosstown route in each quadrant, and two in the south. Looking at the entire network, we generally have one BRT and one Express Bus line serving as a crosstown in each quadrant. The north is served by the TransCanada BRT and the Northmount Express; the east with the Foothills BRT and Barlow Express, the south with the Heritage BRT and the Rivers and Providence Express lines, and the west is served by the Skyway and the Confederation Express. The result is a well integrated network with several crosstown routes serving a variety of destinations with multiple points of connection.
As always, we appreciate your thoughts. We will provide more details on our plan in the weeks to come.