CTrain - B
In 2011, Calgary City Council directed that a long term Calgary Transit Plan be created, taking into account the overall Calgary Transportation Plan. A steering committee and project team, comprising some Council members, City planning staff, independent business people and Calgary Transit staff, after detailed scenario planning and extensive public consultation, produced the December 2012 "RouteAhead: A Strategic Plan for Transit in Calgary". A 30-year roadmap for public transit in Calgary, Route Ahead includes a long term vision for the CTrain system. The RouteAhead plan was submitted to Council and approved in early 2013.
- For the Red Line, in its 30-year RouteAhead plan, the South line may be extended another 3.5 km to a possible 210 Avenue SW station.
- For the Blue Line, from the same plan, there are more possible extensions to the northeast to either Calgary International Airport (via a spur line), or to 128 Avenue NE, or to have both.
- There are plans to build an additional line to the southeast from the city centre. Calgary Transit has drafted a plan for a transit-only right-of-way, known as the SETWAY (South East Transit Way) for the interim. A second, northern line is to be planned beyond 2023 but the alignment is still pending.
- As for a possible underground leg in downtown (under 8 Avenue South), the cost of the project will be at least C$800 million (in 2012 dollars), but its priority has been lowered because there is no funding available for it. However, the overall cost of this and other projects could be at least C$8 billion.
- This proposed future route would cross the downtown core at right angles to the downtown transit mall and connect two new legs: the Southeast leg and the North-Central leg. It would exceed the capacity of the downtown transit mall, requiring that it use a new right of way going over or under the existing transit mall. Elevated tracks would conflict with Calgary's downtown +15 system, which is the most extensive pedestrian skywalk system in the world, so this option is unlikely. Most likely the system will go underground, crossing underneath the future downtown subway, which already has a short section of tunnel built under 8th Avenue S and a ghost station under the Calgary Municipal Building. The exact routes and station locations are currently in the planning stages.
- Funding has been secured for the first stage of construction of the Green Line stretching from 16th avenue North through the downtown core into the Southeast to the future Shepard Station at 126th Avenue SE. It is expected to be complete by 2026. The $4.6 billion cost of the project will be shared in roughly equal portions between the federal government, the city of Calgary and the provincial government.
- This leg of the Green Line would serve the residential communities of Country Hills, Coventry Hills, Harvest Hills, Panorama Hills, and other communities, possibly in the future extending as far as the nearby City of Airdrie. The Green Line North, as it has been re-designated, will be a mix of grade level and underground infrastructure extending north from the downtown core along Centre Street North.
- In July 2015, the Canadian federal government committed to put $1.5 billion into funding the Green Line LRT or one-third of the project's $4.6 billion cost. Discussions between the city of Calgary and the province continue with the goal of building the new light rail line instead of developing a BRT system as an interim measure.
- In January, 2015, Calgary City Council approved the Green Line North (formerly known as North Central LRT), setting Centre Street N. as the route. In December, 2015 Council approved the planning report on Green Line funding, staging, and delivery. The North leg is expected to be the first section of the Green Line to be built. Actual completion dates will depend on delivery of promised federal and provincial government funding.
- This leg is planned to run from downtown (although on a different routing, not following the 7th Avenue corridor) to the communities of Douglasdale and McKenzie Lake and McKenzie Towne in the southeast, and onwards past Highway 22X into the so-called "Homesteads" region east of the Deerfoot Trail extension.
- Eighteen stations have been planned for this route and the project is expected to be completely built by 2039.
- Three of the proposed downtown stations are expected to be built underground, and the rest of the line will follow the 52 Street SE corridor from Douglasdale and McKenzie Towne to Auburn Bay (south of Highway 22X) and then wind its way through Health Campus (adjacent to the southeast hospital) and Seton. Unlike Routes 201 and 202, which use high-floor U2 and SD-160 LRVs, the eastern route is expected to employ low-floor LRVs, such as the Bombardier Flexity Outlook or the Siemens S70.
- From north to south, the proposed stations are: Eau Claire, Central (at 6 Avenue), Macleod Trail, 4 Street SE, Ramsay/Inglewood, Crossroads, Highfield, Lynnwood, Ogden, South Hill, Quarry Park, Douglasglen, Shepard, Prestwick, McKenzie Towne, Auburn Bay/Mahogany (at 52nd Street), Health Campus/Seton (the station likely will share the name of the hospital and expected to be completed by 2039), with further stations to the south expected in the future.
- Construction of the South East LRT would cost over C$2.7 billion over 27 years. Because there was no funding available, the city laid out plans to build a transit way for the South East BRT known as SETWAY. Open houses to explore the idea of a transit way for the South East occurred in the South East communities of Ramsay, Riverbend and McKenzie Towne in January 2012. Between 1999 and 2006 Calgary Transit conducted studies for the South East LRT to find ways to make improvements of overall transit use in the South East for short term while having LRT being the long-term goal.
- On December 3, 2016, it was announced that an additional C$250 million in additional funding was allocated in a joint venture by the Federal and Provincial Governments. This comes in line with a possible final cost estimate of the South East LRT to be announced in March 2017.
16 Avenue N
9 Avenue N
2 Avenue SW
7 Avenue SW
Downtown Transit Mall
Centre Street S
4 Street SE
26 Avenue SE
Spur line to Calgary International Airport
Other Future Improvements
In late 2015, Calgary Transit completed upgrading its entire system to operate four-car trains instead of the original three-car trains. When enough new LRVs are delivered to lengthen all trains to four cars, this will increase the rush-hour capacity of the system by 33%. By 2023, Calgary Transit also plans to begin decommissioning some of the original Siemens-Duewag U2s (as of 2010 80 of the original 83 were in use, and nearing 29 years of service, by 2023 they will be 42 years old). Calgary Transit has ordered some 60 new Siemens S200 LRV cars to replace 28 of the existing U2s in addition to lengthening many of the trains to four cars. Calgary transit has also integrated a new mobile ticketing system which allows riders to buy CTrain and other Calgary Transit tickets and passes anytime from anywhere with the use of a smartphone. This system, dubbed "My Fare" was rolled out at the end of July 2020, but faced issues at launch such as the incompatibility with Apple's iOS devices.
Further Underground Infrastructure
In addition to numerous tunnels to allow trains to pass under roadways, geographic features, and mainline railways, there are other notable underground portions of Calgary's CTrain system.
Part of the system through downtown is planned to be transferred underground when needed to maintain reliable service. Given this, portions of the needed infrastructure have been built as adjacent and associated land was developed. As a result of this original plan, when the City of Calgary built a new Municipal Building, it built a short section of tunnel to connect the existing CPR tunnel to the future tunnel under 8th Avenue S. The turnoff to this station is visible in the tunnel on the Red Line entering downtown from the south, shortly before City Hall. However, after urban explorers discovered the tunnel and visited it during a transit strike, the city walled off the spur tunnel with concrete blocks.
As the population of metropolitan Calgary increases and growing suburbs require new lines and extensions, the higher train volumes will exceed the ability of the downtown section along 7th Avenue S to accommodate them. To provide for long-term expansion, the city is reviewing its plans to put parts of the downtown section underground. The current plans allow the expanded Blue Line (Northeast/West) to use the existing 7th Avenue S surface infrastructure. The expanded Red Line (Northwest/South), now sharing 7th Avenue S with the Blue Line, will be relocated to a new tunnel dug beneath 8th Avenue S. The future Southeast/Downtown route will probably enter downtown through a shorter tunnel under one or more streets (candidates include 2nd Street W, 5th Street W, 6th Street W, 8th Avenue S, 10th Avenue S, 11th Avenue S, and 12th Avenue S). Although Calgary City Council commissioned a functional study for the downtown metro component of the CTrain system in November 2007, the city is unlikely to complete this expansion before 2017 unless additional funding is received from provincial or federal governments. The cost of bringing the potential underground leg under 8 Avenue South could be at least C$800 million, according to Calgary Transit's 30-year RouteAhead plan.
There are 45 stations in the CTrain system on 2 distinct lines. The typical station outside the downtown core allows for several methods of passenger arrival and departure. Many CTrain passengers travel to and from suburban stations on feeder bus routes that wind their way through surrounding neighbourhoods. Another popular option is a Park and Ride lot, in which commuters drive to a station by car and then transfer to a CTrain to complete their journey. Alternatively, some CTrain passengers disembark at drop-off zones from vehicles travelling elsewhere; because many of these commuters are conveyed by their spouses, these zones are branded as Kiss and Ride areas.
The CTrain's high ridership rate and cost effectiveness can be attributed to a number of factors. The nature of Calgary itself has encouraged CTrain use. Calgary has grown into the second largest head office city in Canada, with a very dense downtown business district. Most of the head offices are crowded into about 1 square kilometre (250 acres) of land in the downtown core. In the last half century the population of Calgary has grown dramatically, outpacing the ability of roads to transport people into the city centre, while the central business district has grown up vertically rather than spread out into the suburbs. Historically, Calgary residents, particularly its influential inner city community associations, voted against proposals to build major freeways into its city centre, forcing new commuters to use transit as their numbers increased while downtown street and freeway capacity remained the same. City planners limited the number of parking spaces in the downtown core since the narrow downtown streets could not allow more traffic to park. At the same time, Calgary's maturation as a globally influential head office city caused many surface parking lots to be replaced by new skyscrapers, which increased office workers while reducing parking spaces. This eventually made it prohibitively expensive for most people to park downtown. The shortage of downtown parking caused fees to become among the most expensive in North America. As a result, in 2012 50% of Calgary's 120,000 downtown workers used Calgary Transit to get to work, with a long-term goal of growing that proportion to 60% of downtown workers.
Forward planning for the CTrain played an important role. Although the light rail system was not chosen until 1976, the city planners had proactively reserved transit corridors for some form of high capacity transport during the 1960s, and the right-of-ways for the system were reserved when Calgary's population was less than 500,000, whereas today it is well over twice that number. Bus rapid transit lines were put in place along future routes to increase commuter numbers prior to constructing proposed future LRT lines. Rather than demolishing buildings, the city reached an agreement with CP Rail to build most of the south line in available space inside an existing CPR right-of-way. Large parts of the other lines were built in the medians and along the edges of freeways and other major roads. Automobile driver objections were muted by adding extra lanes to roads for cars at the same time as putting in the LRT tracks, which reduced costs for both, and by adding grade-separating intersections which reduced both driver and train delays. The lines and stations were placed to serve large outlying suburbs and the central and other business districts, and to serve existing and predicted travel patterns.
Costs were controlled during construction and operation of the system by going with the lowest bidder and using relatively cheap, commercially available technology without regard for "buy Canadian" policies. This has worked out well for a pioneer system because the German technology chosen has since become a more or less standard design for most North American LRT systems, and compatible new-generation equipment with new features is available off-the-shelf. A grade-separated system was passed over in preference for a system with few elevated or buried segments, and the trains and stations selected were of the tried and tested, utilitarian variety (for example, vehicles were not air conditioned, storage yards were not automated, and stations were usually modest concrete platforms with a shelter overhead). This allowed greater amounts of track to be laid within available budgets. The CTrain reduced fare collection costs by using an honour system of payment. Transit police check passenger tickets at random, and fines are set at a level high enough that those who are caught pay the costs for those who evade detection. Staffing costs were kept low by employing a minimum number of workers, and because the system is all-electric (wind powered) it can run all night with only 1 driver per train and 2 people in the control room. It now runs 22 hours per day without significantly increased overhead. (The other 2 hours are reserved for track maintenance).
Although not universally grade separated, the CTrain is able to operate at high speeds on much of its track because it is separated from traffic and pedestrians by fences and concrete bollards. The downtown 7th Avenue transit way is limited to trains, buses, and emergency vehicles, with private cars prohibited. Trains are given priority right of way at most road crossings outside of downtown. As a result, trains are able to operate at 80 km/h (50 mph) outside of downtown, and 40 km/h (25 mph) along the 7th Avenue corridor. 7th Avenue is a free fare zone, intended as a downtown people-mover to encourage use for short hops through the downtown core. The city manages to achieve very high transit capacity on the 7th Avenue transit corridor by staging the traffic lights, so that all the trains move forward in unison to the next station on the synchronized green lights, and load and unload passengers on the intervening red lights. The trains are now 1 block long, but buses occupy the empty gaps every second block between trains and the buses unload and load passengers while the trains pass them.
In 2001, the U.S. General Accounting Office released a study of the cost-effectiveness of American light rail systems. Although not included in the report, Calgary had a capital cost of US$24.5 million per mile (year 2000 dollars), which would be the sixth lowest (Edmonton was given as US$41.7 million per mile). Because of its high ridership (then 188,000 boardings per weekday, now over 300,000) the capital cost per passenger was $2,400 per daily passenger, by far the lowest of the 14 systems compared, while the closest American system was Sacramento at $9,100 per weekday passenger). Operating costs are also low, in 2005, the CTrain cost CDN$163 per operating hour to operate. With an average of 600 boardings per hour, in 2001 cost per LRT passenger was CDN$0.27, compared to $1.50 for bus passengers in Calgary.
- Anderson Garage – LRV indoor storage and training facilities
- Haysboro Garage – small indoor and outdoor LRV storage; LRV yard and Turner Storage Area
- Oliver Bowen Maintenance Centre – major LRV repair and shops; storage for 60 cars (and up to 108 cars after expansion)
Transit type: Light rail (details)
Number of lines: 2
Number of stations: 45
Daily ridership: 313,800 (Q4 2019)
Annual ridership: 61,604,600 (2019)
Began operation: May 25, 1981
Operator(s): Calgary Transit
Train length: 3 or 4 cars
System length: 59.9 km (37.2 mi)
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in) standard gauge
Electrification: Overhead lines, 600 V DC
CTrain System Map
Sunalta Lions Park
Blue Line 202 Jubilee
Red Line 201
8 Street SW
7 Street SW
6 Street SW
4 Street SW
3 Street SW
1 Street SW
Red Line 201
Blue Line 202
Erlton/Stampede Calgary Zoo
39 Avenue Barlow/Max Bell
Haysboro Storage Yards Rundle
Anderson Oliver Bowen Yards
Anderson LRT Yards McKnight–Westwinds
Canyon Meadows Martindale
Fish Creek–Lacombe Saddletowne
Station 7th Avenue Free Fare Zone
westbound only stop
tunnel eastbound only stop