Calgary Transit to reduce evening and weekend service in the fall

Commuters board a Calgary Transit light rail (LRT) C-Train August 24, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

Calgary Transit is reducing service on a majority of its routes during evenings and weekends starting in September, a result of the $60-million budget reduction approved by city council earlier this year.

Transit normally adjusts it schedule in the fall for the expected return to school and regular commuting patterns. But this year’s adjustments were more severe as a result of the budget reductions.

“This time around, with the direction that the city has received in terms of budget reductions, we had to make more changes than in previous years,” Nikhil Lobo, manager of transit planning, told Global News.

“But the guiding principles that council gave us in terms of taking that least-harm approach — to have the lowest impact on customers — was top of mind as we went through this process.”

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Riders of both the Red and Blue C Train lines will have to wait longer for a train on evenings and weekends. Red Line riders will have to wait 15 minutes and Blue Line riders 16 minutes between trains, up from 10 minutes for both.

A majority of bus routes will see their weekend service frequency lowered, with routes seeing 30-, 40- and even 60-minute waits between buses.

“In many cases, those are very minor changes: five- to 10-minute decreases in frequency. In some cases, they are more: 15- to 30-minute changes in frequency.”

Lobo said the scheduling and planning teams look at routes individually and as a greater part of the transit network, trying to ensure major connections between routes and the LRT are optimized. Lobo also said rider and driver feedback play into the planning process.

In February, after the introduction of the MAX rapid transit lines, Calgary Transit announced it saw an increase in ridership to 105.3 million trips taken in 2018.

The first half of 2019 saw continued growth in ridership, including in the MAX lines.

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“Ridership right now is up about one-and-a half to two per cent, year over year,” Lobo said. “And so we’ve seen about 24 consecutive months of year-over-year ridership growth.”

In June, city council voted for a $60-million budget reduction to help pay for non-residential tax rebates. Cuts to Calgary Transit amounted to $6.9 million.

On July 23, Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the majority of cuts to Calgary Transit would take effect in management cuts and reduced off-peak-hours service.

“To put that into context, we increased the service in 2019 by more than that,” Nenshi explained. “However, people will see a real impact because we have to absorb this in only one quarter of a year.”

The changes take effect on Sep. 2.

–With files from Melissa Gilligan and Aurelio Perri, Global News

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