Transit advocacy group suggests looking to Vancouver for positive examples

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The introduction of an independent transit commission would mean city council would have reduced control over the governance of Calgary Transit, in hopes to better monitor complaints.

The commission is said to hold more authoritative power, unlike the Calgary Transit-established Customer Advisory Group, which is based on volunteer input on how to improve customers experience on transit.

Council will consider a recommendation from city bureaucrats in May 2012 to approve or reject the commission.

TransitCamp, a subdivision of CivicCamp, is a Calgary-based transit advocacy group investigating issues and concerns with Calgary Transit. William Hamilton, co-chair of TransitCamp, said effectiveness depends on the form.

“If they [city council] can come up with a solution that responds to the needs of Calgarians, then absolutely we want to be a part of a solution that works,” Hamilton said.

Many cities, particularly in Eastern Canada, already have independent commissions such as the Toronto Transit Commission and the Montreal Transit Corporation. However, their powers differ in regards to political and public input.

The Toronto Transit Commission consists of nine city councillors, each appointed by their city council. The commission’s chair and vice chair are elected separately by the commission.


City council will begin exploring the possibility of introducing an independent transit commission to govern Calgary Transit. Until this month, which saw the official formation of the Calgary Transit-commissioned and volunteer-run Customer Advisory Group, transit matters were overseen by the City, which oversaw a multitude of issues and breakdowns this year.

Photo by: Aryn Guthrie
“The Toronto Transit Commission is not an effective form,” Hamilton said. “They have nothing but politics trying to press for their pet projects.”

In Vancouver, TransLink is a transit commission with representatives from regional mayors and a separate board of directors.

“Translink is a corporation held in the public trust; we encourage city council to look at a system closer to Translink,” Hamilton said.

Ald. Diane Colley-Urquhart said in her notice of motion in city council that “public transit is a high priority service for city council and Calgarians, with citizens identifying transit as one of the most important and pressing issues facing the city.”

In an October interview with the Calgary Herald, Colley-Urquhart also said the commission should be a governing body that reports to the city’s transportation committee.

“It’d be a smart move,” said Vanessa Ladoucer, who has relied on transit as her primary means of transportation. “We need a group of people whose job is to focus specifically on transit without the politics.”

Anna Lakatous, a Calgary Transit rider of five years, agrees that a commission is a step in the right direction.

“I think [a Calgary Transit commission] would be a good idea, as long as the service gets better. It would be able to make their own decisions instead of council making it for them.”

Added TransitCamp co-chair Hamilton: “We think it’s time for Calgary Transit to grow up. They’ve been stuck at the kiddie table too long. It’s time for Calgary Transit to govern itself.”

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