SETWAY first step towards new LRT line

The City of Calgary held the first of three information sessions in the community of Riverbend Tuesday to introduce a new plan to improve transit in the southeast.

The Southeast Transitway, or SETWAY, is a project to create bus-only lanes as the first step in building a LRT line through the quadrant.

Chris Jordan, a co-ordinator and planner for Calgary Transit said the project would lay the groundwork for an eventual LRT line.

“What we envision is using the LRT right away and prebuilding elements of the LRT infrastructure like bridges and using (those) travel ways to bypass congestion,” he said.

“Obviously the fact that these lanes would be dedicated to buses is a big change.”

The transitway, if fully completed, would go from the new South Health Campus in Seton to the downtown core and would include sections of the 302 bus route already in place.

“You’re not just building and designing the line, you’re creating the opportunity for vibrant neighbourhoods to spring up around every station, which is really what I hear from my ward.”
— Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra,
via Twitter

To see a map of the proposed route, click here.

Calgary Transit reviewed a number of options such as a sky train system, monorails and some of the “more off the wall” systems like the Maglev trains currently used in Japan, Jordan said.

He added that a low-floor LRT, which uses street-level stations, was decided to be the best option because of better accessibility.

The estimated cost of the project would be $10-20 million per kilometre, and would be opened one segment at a time.

While between $100 to $400-million is estimated to be available for funding from various sources, Jordan acknowledges that the biggest obstacles facing SETWAY are funding and uncertainty.

Laura Shanks, a teacher who lives in the southeast, said despite the price tag, a better transit system in the short term is worth it. “I think it looks very expensive, but I think that lots of people that live in the south kind of feel left out of transit because to get downtown takes a long time,” she said.

While capacity isn’t an issue right now, Jordan said some areas of the southeast could see their populations grow by as much as 400 per cent in the next five years.A LRT station might be in Seton’s future.
Illustration by: Jordan Simpson.

In 2006, the southeast catchment zone — or population area — for transit service was 67,000. Jordan said that by 2019, that number is predicted to grow to 140,000. By 2039, it’s projected to be 190,000.

Ald. Gian-Carlo Carra, whose ward includes Riverbend, said that the new line could direct that growth around stations.

“You’re not just building and designing the line, you’re creating the opportunity for vibrant neighbourhoods to spring up around every station, which is really what I hear from my ward,” Carra said in a tweet about the information session.

Looking over a brochure detailing the project, Dave Eisenbart, a veterinarian and resident of Riverbend said although he wishes a full LRT line could be built, SETWAY is a good investment.

“I understand that the city has huge budget limitations in expanding the LRT to the southeast, so my thoughts are just build (SETWAY), make the investment and save the money in the intermediate step.”

Chris Kramer, who also lives in Riverbend with his family, said emphatically that it would be a “huge improvement” for the area. “It would help my family. Wife works downtown, children are on transit everyday.”

Construction on the project could begin as soon as 2014 if funding can be found.

For more information, visit http://www.calgarytransit.com/html/setway.html

jsimpson@cjournal.ca