The TransitCamp Network Plan

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:

The entire TransitCamp Transit Network


As well as a simplified version (express bus routes and station names have been removed):

A simplified version of the network

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).

Similarities

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.

Differences

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.

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8 thoughts on “The TransitCamp Network Plan

  1. For the North Central LRT, it is still undecided whether to use Centre St or Edmonton Trail. And hopefully the upcoming conceptual study answers that. But ultimately both streets might have to be used where it is most feasible, switching from one road to another when a bottleneck shows up.

    The amount of money the City decides to spend is another point of discussion. If the entire line is at-grade with road crossings, it makes it very hard for the train to operate at higher speeds. Or maybe it is underground or above ground, who knows. I guess this could be said for the other proposed routes, but I’m especially interested to see the alignment that gets decided on for North Central.

  2. First of all, this is very well done and well thought through. Great work.

    I like how express and BRT are separated and defined. How much consideration went into the effects to the local service along the same corridor as the express lines? I can see that the current 72/73 route is mostly covered by express routes in this plan, and I doubt that some sections of the express routes would be enough to satisfy the local demand for transit. Was there any thought into what the overall service plan for these corridors would be?

    Couple of connecting points: I know detouring a route a bit defeats the purpose of being express, but would connecting the Confederation Express to Lions Park be worth the detour? It would allow one-transfer trips from West Hills to the Northwest, and without the Skyway connecting directly to the LRT, I can’t see any other combination that would satisfy that. It’s a minor connection I know, but it’s a small detour for the benefit of network connectivity. It could even just have a stop on 14th St between 16th Ave and 14th Ave, or even just stop at 14th Ave then merge back onto 14th St before 16th Ave. It would be an unofficial transfer to SAIT…I digress.

    Second connecting point: If the SW Ring Road ever goes in, would it be feasible to continue the Glenmore BRT to the Providence Express? So long as the neighbourhoods of Providence itself (west of the ring road and south of Tsuu Tina) aren’t developped, it could even be the same route.

    Third connecting point: Skyway to Bowness/International Ave BRT (Route 305). Added cost of having it come back down into the Bow valley rather than have it fly right over it all, quite high over the area, but again, it would add connectivity.

    A question to be answered by the market and council over time…how much would adding these BRT and Express routes affect land use around current non-transit hubs (ie. Village Sqaure)

    • Great thoughts Trent! I really appreciate the well thought-out feedback. Let me try and respond to some of your comments.

      1. Consideration for local/express services. Why not stated (need to cut down word count somewhere), many of the routes would still run local service, much how the 301 and 3 do on Centre Street. Most of the services proposed here would complement rather than replace local service (however, with some reductions in local service frequency).

      2. Connecting Confederation to Lion’s Park. Great point. I purposely didn’t show a connection here to make a point (the subject of a later blog) on how roads designed for cars can be barriers to transit, especially for transfers. Rerouting to Lion’s park can be a plus, but would have to be weighed against increased travel times.

      3. Connecting Glenmore to Providence. Another great thought. Connecting these routes, even without the Southwest Ring Road (using 37th street), could help relieve pressure on the South Line and provide alternatives for communities south of Fish Creek. Definitely something worth consideration.

      4. Connecting Skyway to Bowness. This depends on how costly another gondola station would be and what is the incremental operational costs due to a third station.

      Hope that provides some clarity.

  3. Could you tell me what the barriers are to connecting MRU to an LRT line? Some would argue that this demographic has constantly been under served in terms of transit. Id like to know why neither consideration has looked at bringing LRT to MRU?

  4. Hi, i’d like to know why neither presentation has considered extending an LRT line to MRU? Some would argue that this demographic of potentially high use citizens is being constantly under-served. What are the actual barriers to bringing an LRT to MRU?

    • Hi Kurt,

      Our plan is to provide a rapid transit line to MRU, connecting from Westbrook Statio, through Heritage Station and on to Quarry Park (called the Heritage Line). While on our map, we have identified it as a “Bus Rapid Transit” line, that is only an assumption. The technology used for the line (express bus, bus rapid transit or light rail transit) will be decided based on a set of criteria, including ridership. So, if it is the case that the line is very successful, it may very well be upgraded to an LRT.

      The greatest difficulty with doing this, in our view, is crossing Glenmore Reservoir with a new rail link. Although not impossible, this is a pretty significant barrier to providing LRT to MRU on this route.

  5. Would it work better to use Chinook station as the transit hub in the south-central area somehow, instead of 39th Ave and/or Heritage? I don’t have the stats in front of me, but I’d hazard a guess that Chinook gets a lot higher ridership than the other two.

    • Good comment, it is a discussion that comes up often. The reason for choosing Heritage as a hub station rather than Chinook has more to do with geography than ridership, land use and development. Chinook is definitely more of a destination, not only with the mall, but also several office buildings nearby, and probably more to come in the future.

      The reason the Heritage Line goes via Heritage Station is because the route needs to connect to Rockyview Hospital (an important stop). You cannot connect to Chinook in any reasonable way without missing Rockyview Hospital. To do so, the route would have to go south on 14th, east on Heritage, north on Elbow, east again on 58th and finally south on 1a street to get to Chinook Station- going 6.5km just to cover a distance of approx. 2.3km. Using 75th avenue instead of Heritage would mean a rapid transit route through a residential street.

      While Chinook is a strong destination, there is really no logical east/west route nearby that allows for easy connection to Chinook station: Glenmore is too isolated from any development and is an environment hostile to transit, 58th avenue is a very indirect route and 61st doesn’t go east/west more than a couple of blocks. Heritage offers a fairly direct east/west route, connecting easily to Heritage Station, and also connecting to other locations such as Heritage Park and Deerfoot Meadows.

      It is really a decision based on geography rather than the development around the station itself.

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