A strategy to increase public transit service and frequency is expected to incur significant costs over the next decade, according to a memo to Calgary city councilors.
The RouteAhead strategy is a long-term plan to guide transit service, with a recent update moving to more frequent service along what’s called the Core Transit Network.
The updated goals would see a service frequency every 10 minutes, at least 15 hours per day, seven days per week.
According to a memo to councilors on the city’s infrastructure and planning committee, $755 million in capital costs are needed to achieve the goals outlined in the strategy.
Of these costs, $405 million would be spent on purchasing 540 net new buses over the next 10 years, as well as $350 million over the same period for a new storage and maintenance facility to meet the increase in the stock.
“For customers to be able to count on service throughout the day, evening and weekend, we need more service than we currently have,” Calgary Transit Acting Director Chris Chris said Tuesday. Jordan.
“This requires more buses on the road and facilities behind buildings to support them as well.”
The memo said costs for increasing the bus fleet would be spread over the next decade, while costs for maintenance facilities would be spread evenly over three years in the next budget cycle starting in 2027.
However, Calgary Transit’s budget would also require increases, the memo says, of $127.4 million by 2034; an average annual increase of 3.7 percent.
The increase in operating funding would cover “the cost of increased hours of service, fuel, maintenance and other operational expenses,” the memo said.
Funding would require multiple requests to Calgary city council over the next decade, with the first expected during budget deliberations in November.
Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek says it’s important to improve public transit reliability to help residents and visitors get around and that the city’s transit system “needs to be expanded” .
“I think it’s really important to continue investing in RouteAhead, which is the most equitable way for Calgarians to get around our city,” Gondek said. “This board is incredibly committed to that.”
David Cooper, founder and director of Leading Mobility, noted that the planned increase in operating expenses constitutes a “substantial increase” and could spark a conversation about other transit funding mechanisms beyond property taxes and tariff revenue.
“What gets people to use transit is service, and service is something that you have to find the financing tools for and the ability to pay for,” Cooper told PKBNEWS. “This is a large-scale conversation that Calgary needs to have much sooner than we think, given the growth that is currently happening across the city.”
The memo says Calgary’s population is expected to grow 14 per cent to 1,850,000 by 2035, and ridership would increase 2.2 per cent annually without any improvements or frequency of investment services.
Calgary Transit said its overall ridership has rebounded to more than 90 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, while CTrain ridership has completely returned to pre-pandemic levels.
Transit officials also noted that the service recorded more than 11 million individual transit boardings in August, up more than 30 percent from the same period last year. .
However, Calgary Transit expects ridership to increase by 38 per cent between 2024 and 2034 if the strategy is fully implemented.
“Calgary wants to be a city of investment and opportunity, you need to provide reliable mobility and a lot of that mobility will be provided by public transit,” Cooper said. “But they won’t accept it unless it’s a realistic option for them and for that you need services and lots of services.”
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