With over 9,000 full-time students funneling into Mount Royal University’s campus with no CTrain in sight, candidates from Wards 6, 8 and 11 zeroed in on transit as the top issue facing commuters at the southwest campus.

The Thursday afternoon meet-and-greet hosted by MRU’s student association — SAMRU —  drew a small but attentive crowd of students and staff.

Nine candidates from Wards 6, 8 and 11 shared plans for improving transit and decreasing travel time through projects such as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) routes and bike lanes.

“I would keep on doing exactly what we’re doing as a city,” says Evan Woolley, the incumbent in Ward 8.

Woolley — a supporter of the Beltline cycle-track network — says infrastructure must be designed in a way that allows for different mobility choices. The $208-million BRT program would provide additional transit access along gridlocked routes, connecting them to major destinations like MRU.

Chris Davis, one of Woolley’s opponents, says that while he is open to a conversation about the BRT to  ensure the city is “getting good value for our money,” his major concern is cross-town routes.

“I think we have a really poor service in Calgary getting people around the community from east to west, so I think all those things need to be explored further,” says Davis, a real estate lawyer who grew up in Ward 8.

”I am disappointed that we dropped the ball on the LRT — it should have come here, it didn’t. So let’s find the best solution for MRU outside of a Rapid Transit.”

Students and staff at Mount Royal University mingle with candidates from Wards 6, 8 and 11 at a meet-and-greet organized by Mount Royal University’s students association. Photo by Alec Warkentin

However, Candidates from Ward 11 seemed more supportive of the BRT program. Janet Eremenko, one of five hopefuls looking to replace outgoing incumbent, Brian Pincott, initially expressed concerns around the proposed BRT but has since re-evaluated her position.

“I’ve done my homework, I think the evidence does bear out, and yes, it is still required,” says Eremenko. “If it’s not required immediately in 2018 once we start construction, it will be a couple of years down the road with some massive projects and redevelopment coming up in Ward 11.”

Keith Simmons, also running in Ward 11, noted the shortcomings of Calgary’s transportation system.

“I want to be able to step out the front of my house and make a decision, easily, to say whether or not I want to walk, take a bike, drive, take a bus,” says Simmons.

“Unfortunately, most of the design parameters make that choice for you, and it’s going to be a tough struggle for us to dig our way back out of that.”

Ward 11 candidate Robert Dickinson called for more rapid transit routes that would help serve MRU when combined with the existing Route 306.

Ward 6 candidate Alex Columbos also called for improvements that would reduce ride times for students.

Steve Turner, another Ward 6 candidate envisions a different transit plan that he calls a “basic transportation service.”

Turner said that“would mean running transit 15 hours a day, coming to each stop at least once every 30 minutes and being within 400 metres of any given building so you don’t have to go very far to catch the bus.”

Ward 6 candidate Grace Nelson talked about the importance of candidates and constituents working together “as a family.”

While the majority of conversations revolved around transportation, Esmahan Razavi, running for Ward 6, says that one crucial issue facing the municipal election is low voter turnout — especially among youth.

“This is your city,” says Razavi “You’re going to live here for decades […] you will need to share its vision and you need to tell us what’s important to you.”

 Awarkentin@cjournal.ca

Cmacgillivray@cjournal.ca

Editor: Tyler Ryan | tryan@cjournal.ca