The latest count of Calgarians commuting downtown has found more people are driving than taking transit to get to and from work.
The 2017 count collected data from 13 different locations. The report found just over 40 per cent of commuters took transit downtown, compared to over 46 per cent who arrived by vehicle.
It’s quite a change from last year, when over 47 per cent of commuters used transit while 42 per cent drove.
The chair of the city’s transportation committee says the downturn and high vacancy rate downtown are behind the increase in vehicles in the core.
Shane Keating told the Morning News on News Talk 770 it might be that many of the people who used to take transit are no longer working.
Of course, fewer people working means less congestion, and more parking.
“We used to have, I believe, in the range of a 2,000 to 4,000 (person) waitlist for parking in some of the lots here,” Keating said. “And I’m quite sure that waitlist is down quite a lot because it’s easier to get in.”
Keating said we’re also seeing a shift in where the jobs are. He pointed to Quarry Park as an example where large employers are setting up shop outside the core. He said that’s a good thing, but transit has to adapt.
“We have to have the ability to get to all areas of the city on transit. We won’t be able to do that until the Green Line and some of the cross town BRTs are completed,” Keating said.
“Calgary has one of the most, I would say, congested cores as far as employment centres and buildings for the municipality size that we are. For a while there, the core was the only place and now it is spreading out as a large city should.”
Expanding transit service isn’t the only challenge — revenues have to meet the service. Revenues are down at Calgary Transit and staff has been reduced.
Calgary city council’s policy has been that 50 per cent of revenue comes from fares and the other half from taxpayers.
“That’s one of the highest in all the transit systems that I’ve seen,” Keating said. “In some municipalities, it’s as high as 80 per cent coming from the taxpayer. I don’t want to go anywhere near that, but we have to look at what’s best for transit.”
Keating said the next council will have a tough balancing act to continue to keep transit viable.
Before this year, the report said transit had been the most popular way for 10 years for commuters to get downtown during the week.