When Naheed Nenshi campaigned for Mayor of Calgary in 2010, one of the focal points of his campaign’s platform was to make Calgary Transit a better option for our city’s commuters. “All you have to do is try to use it and you will immediately see that it’s not about the passengers,” he said. Nenshi won the election and, so far, he’s stuck to many of his campaign promises concerning the deficiencies in CT’s rider experience: removing the $3 Park-and-Ride fee, establishing an independent transit advisory committee, and rolling out a new electronic fare collection system (coming in mid-2012).
Mayor Nenshi’s priorities seem uncompromised in changing Calgarians’ perception of their transit system. Still, one issue that requires further consideration — and that would go a long way to “turning Calgary Transit into a preferred choice, not the last choice” — involves bumping up our city’s service to 24 hours/day.
While we should applaud the Mayor’s efforts to date, providing Calgary with even limited 24-hour transit will greatly aid in reversing what Nenshi himself claims is the opinion of most Calgarians: “[Calgary Transit] remains a system that no Calgarian loves. Too many see it as inconvenient, unreliable, and unsafe.”
Calgary’s C-Train service currently ends between 12:48 and 1:40 a.m., even on weekends (depending where you are on the line), and resumes two hours later. If you’ve ever been caught running to catch the last train going your way, you know how inconvenient, unreliable, and unsafe the transit system in Calgary feels at that late hour. With fares likely hiking, again, very soon, running between eight and 12 additional trains during the current no-service period would be a quick antidote to the entrenched displeasure many feel about CT’s schedule. It would also help promote the great restaurants and bars along the C-Train line: Calgary’s vibrant nightlife is less appealing when you factor in the high costs incurred getting through the city’s urban sprawl by taxi — and that’s if you can find a cab in the first place (another, related issue).
The desire is likely there, but gaining any traction on the issue is not going to be easy. Our step-city to the north’s citizens have been aggressively lobbying for 24-hour transit since 2008, and each time the Transit Riders’ Union of Edmonton (TRUE) seems close to getting its wish, everything evaporates in budget committees and contract negotiations. Nearly all the claims made by TRUE for the benefits of adding 24-hour service in Edmonton — reduced drunk driving, immense help to nightshift workers, increase of overall transit ridership — can be applied to Calgary, and deserve the same investigation and deliberation.
Let’s not forget: We have a mayor, elected partly due to the power of social media (and who continues to devotedly use Twitter to interact with Calgarians), who could and probably would get this issue pushed along the rails of city council, if only enough of us hop aboard.
Image courtesy of D’Arcy Norman.