Figuring out how to get to school every day is an issue that every student has experienced. Some choose to tackle their homework on transit every day, while others take things into their own hands and battle with other drivers on the Deerfoot 500.

Kristen Muncy, who studies at the University of Calgary, is one such student that has a 45-minute commute to and from school each day. Muncy says that although transit would save her money, the long waits in harsh weather conditions is mainly what forces her to drive.

“Weather, like waiting for a bus in minus 30, especially if the buses are late that’s, ugh, shoot me,.” Muncy says.

Muncy also argues that night transit is not always the safest option for some citizens, especially women.

“Being a woman in a large city and having to go through downtown late at night from school, then safety definitely becomes an issue as well.”

But Muncy’s 45-minute commute isn’t uncommon, as Calgarians spend on average more than 71 hours in congested traffic in one year, according to a survey by Statistics Canada.

Based on a 30-minute commute time, Calgary is ranked number one in Alberta for high congestion levels. The city also comes in at number five in Canada behind Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa and Montreal.

The city’s buses and light rail transit (LRT) may be a solution to avoid the city’s rush hour, but public transit is not necessarily the preferred option for some Calgarians. Aside from the cost efficiency of transit there are potential safety and weather issues that Calgarians run into on a daily basis.

Michael Kissinger, who has used transit as one of his main forms of transportation for a decade, agrees with Muncy that more safety precautions should be taken to protect women, as well as men and children.

“Just having a person stationed in each transit car, so let’s say something goes wrong, there is an accident, then there would be a special person who would like step in and help out,“ Kissinger says.

Despite the safety concerns, Kissinger still believes public transit is the better option for the average Calgarian. Not only because it’s the more cost-efficient option, but also because he finds it a great way to multi-task.

“I would rather sit on a Calgary Transit bus, simply because if I’m going to be waiting with no way to get their faster than I would like to be able to do something,” he says. “If you’re driving, essentially all you can do is listen to music, an audiobook or the radio. But if you are on transit you can be doing something like reading or doing homework.”

Chris Blaschuk, manager of the Transportation Strategy Division for the city, suggests Calgary’s traffic problem has to do with its huge population of more than 1.2 million.

“There is congestion in all cities,” Blaschuk says. “Calgary is the largest city in Alberta so generally when you have more population, congestion increases.”

However, Blaschuk suggests that the city’s new transit improvements are the better option for Calgarians who want to skip the rush-hour dash.

“Lots of investments in transit, to provide people another option through public transit. So that includes: LRT improvements, the Green Line project,” he said, referring to the north-south LRT line that has yet to be fully funded.

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However, until the north-south LRT line is completed, commuters will have to do what they’ve been doing – waiting for transit and sitting in their cars.

mjaquish@cjournal.ca

The editor responsible for this piece is Brett Luft, and can be reached at bluft@cjournal.ca