Transportation in the Calgary Regional Area
Do we want to spend $17 billion creating 8 lanes on Highways 1 & 2 between Airdrie, Okotoks, Calgary and Banff, or $3 billion on enhancements to the existing railroads in order to enable an efficient and environmentally friendly passenger rail network? Studies show that rail service attracts more riders than bus services. One of the principle responsibilities of Government is Transportation Infrastructure that enables the free movement of goods and people, congested infrastructure networks inhibit economic growth. Bus services are an efficient and economical short term solution, the road network is already in place and the buses are relatively inexpensive, however they are not a long term solution. Amalgamation of On-It, Roam and Airdrie Transit under a single entity controlled by a Calgary Regional Partnership Transportation Group would be an initial step, the Airdrie Transit buses on routes 901 and 902 could be used for an enhanced connection between Canmore and Banff, and to an intercept lot at Fenlands and another at junction 89 on Highway 1. GO Transit's Regional Express Rail program will not become operational until 2022, at which point rolling stock will become available to use for commuter rail services Airdrie-Calgary and Okotoks-Calgary, and weekend/holiday train service Calgary-Banff. For the longer term, establishing an intercept lot at Fenlands would lead to an aerial gondola to Norquay, eliminating the hill climb and allowing development of the parking lot, and another aerial gondola to the Cave and Basin and on to Banff Upper Hot Springs/Sulphur Mountain, creating a transportation hub at the Banff railway station, with access to the bus station for scenic tours and easy walking distance to Banff Avenue. From the Calgary Regional Transit Plan 2009, the medium-long term (2020 and later) calls for the development and implementation of commuter rail linkages from downtown Calgary to Cochrane, Okotoks and Airdrie. "Commuter rail is an essential component of the overall Calgary Regional Partnership Transit Plan". Commuter rail should become a reality in the Calgary Region when the following conditions are present:- - When population and employment levels have significantly increased. - There are firm and significant Federal and Provincial commitments for the capital costs. + GO Transit was started in 1967 with the Lakeshore East and Lakeshore West lines, in 1974 the Georgetown line was established through Brampton. In 1971 the population of Brampton was 41,211, by 1981 the population had exploded to 149,030. The current population of Airdrie is 61,581 (2016). From the Airdrie Transit Master Plan, according to the 2015 Municipal Census, 45.2% of workers commute to Calgary daily, residents commuting to Calgary represent a significant portion of Airdrie Transit's market. The primary destination in Calgary for commuters is the downtown core. The Intercity Express bus service already has a high level of ridership and expanding this market means putting faster, more convenient and more frequent service to places residents want to go. In the short term this can be achieved by additional busses, for the long term the best way to achieve this is by a commuter rail service. + Alberta Transportation recognizes the importance of having an integrated transportation system with seamless connections between all modes and will work closely with Municipalities and other partners in implementing the Provincial Transit Strategy. Although the vast majority of public infrastructure in Canada falls under Provincial, Territorial or Municipal jurisdiction, the Government of Canada has a long history of making strategic investments in a wide range of infrastructure categories. The Government of Canada has announced a historic plan to invest more than $180 billion in infrastructure over 12 years. The priority is to promote infrastructure that will contribute to long term economic growth, build inclusive communities, and support a low carbon, green economy. The Banff Long Term Transportation Study shows that 93% of Banff's annual 3.8 million visitors arrive in a personal vehicle, traffic congestion is an issue with approximately 1,000 parking stalls required in the short term. Banff has a reputation for being one of Canada's national treasures, options that are up for consideration to improve visitor experiences include park-and-ride lots, new roadway links, transit enhancements and aerial transit (gondolas). On average 23,751 vehicles per day enter Banff town-site. Intercept parking is commonly used where space is not readily available at the destination area, or where the presence of vehicles would undermine the visitor experience. By providing a safe and inviting place for visitors to park their vehicles outside the destination, the character of the destination can be retained and the visitor experience can be enhanced with the removal of congestion and a convenient and environmentally friendly transit system. A trail of the intercept lot concept is possible using existing stalls in the Fenlands lot, if successful it would be easy to expand the lot size. Expanding road capacity will not substantially reduce vehicle wait times and would simply shift the problem elsewhere in the road network that has not been expanded. In order to resolve congestion, around 7,400 vehicles per day would need to be removed from the road system, in the short term park-and-ride schemes will be effective, for the long term and efficient, frequent and fast rail service will meet those needs. For movement of people around Banff, aerial transit would be a convenient long term solution, being grade separated they are not subject to congestion that occurs with at-grade solutions, aerial transit is also a visitor experience in itself. The best alignment for an aerial transit system would be one that does not travel over private property, has minimal visual impact from residences and principle viewpoints, and connects the principle visitor destinations. By establishing the intercept lot at Fenlands, it would make a convenient point as a start of aerial transit, one gondola up to Norquay, and another to the Cave and Basin and on to Banff Upper Hot Springs/Sulphur Mountain. Neither of these routes cross private property, and nor do they cross Banff town-site or Banff Avenue. For the destinations, aerial transit could lead to the closure of various parking lots that could instead be used as locations for additional facilities that could enhance the visitor experience.
If commuter/regional rail is not built, the alternative is to build additional road capacity, a highway costs $8.25 million per lane-kilometer. Per lane capacity of a highway can be estimated at 1,700 passenger cars per hour, a Bi-level coach can carry up to 360 passengers, GO Transit operates 10 coach trains moving 3,600 passengers per train, therefore 1 GO Transit type train per hour has a greater capacity than a 2 lane highway. Using the Airdrie-Calgary corridor as an example, the existing rail infrastructure would support an early GO Transit or West Coast Express style commuter service, Calgary direction trains for the morning rush hour and Airdrie direction trains for the afternoon rush hour. With an approx. travel time of 25 mins between Airdrie and downtown Calgary, an initial service enhancement would be a station with passing tracks south of Country Hills Boulevard, allowing a back and forth service with a frequency of a train every half an hour. Further service enhancements would be to twin the entire line enabling an improved frequency of trains to every 15 or 10 minutes, and extending the service to Olds, or Red Deer, or even on to Edmonton. GO Transit is currently engaged in an enhancement to their services to improve frequency and extend service to all day on most lines, and to using electric trains to improve efficiency and the environment, called Regional Express Rail. With GO Transit switching to electric train-sets, their existing diesel locomotives and passenger rolling stock will become available for use. At the end of March 2017, GO Transit received $8.5 billion to start construction, meaning rolling stock would become available around 2022, giving 5 years to study and evaluate, plan, design, construct, and implement commuter rail services into Calgary. Once basic commuter rail services are established, enhancements can be made where necessary. Do we want to spend $17 billion creating 8 lanes on Highways 1 & 2 between Airdrie, Okotoks, Calgary and Banff, or $3 billion on enhancements to the existing railroads in order to enable an efficient and environmentally friendly passenger rail network? Source material: Calgary Regional Transit Plan 2009 GO RER Initial Business Case Summary 2015 Bow Valley Passenger Rail Presentation Banff Long Term Transportation Study 2016 City of Airdrie Transit Master Plan 2016 https://www.albertaregionalrail.com/