The MAX Purple line is not only boosting transit ridership, it may also be driving development along International Avenue Southeast.
As of the end of July, the latest numbers from Calgary Transit show, there were an average of 2,510 boardings per weekday.
Ridership for the entire 17 Avenue Southeast corridor is also up 2,270 boardings per day.
Karl, a student at SAIT, says the new BRT has cut down his commute by up to 30 minutes each way. And with the bigger, heated bus stops, better lighting and CCTV security cameras, it’s a welcome addition.
“Oh yeah,” Karl said. “I think it will bring a lot of value to the city.”
David Tsegai invested along International Avenue five years ago. He says the $188-million project is encouraging others to follow suit.
“It’s feeling much safer than what it was and it’s attracting more new Canadians to the area,” Tsegai said.
“It was already a diverse area before, but now, with a new image, it is attracting new people.”
Area councillor Gian-Carlo Carra earned a Master’s degree in 2005 by helping design a new look for International Avenue. Working to make that vision a reality, Carra says, is one of the reasons he ran for public office.
“The character of this avenue needs to be a great main street, celebrating its international character and actually providing a safe and beautiful environment,” Carra said.
“We hadn’t seen the commitment from Calgary city council to actually invest in these communities that have been paying taxes for decades.”
Alison Karim-McSwiney, executive director of International Avenue BRZ, said the next five years could see major development along the corridor.
“I do believe there is a stigmatization still, but I think that is changing,” she said.
Council approved a new area redevelopment plan last December. Karim-McSwiney said the BRZ is already working with developers to realize new changes that will follow future projects.
Now that the MAX Purple has delivered more people and improvements, International Avenue is better able to show what it has to offer.
“Having good, special events making it a safe and walkable experience is very important,” Karim-McSwiney said, noting that another benefit is encouraging people to visit local shops and businesses.
“Some of them are quite amazing. When you walk in, you are literally transported to another part of the world.”
WATCH: (Sept. 5, 2019) Calgary Transit service changes now in place
And though that development may come slowly, Carra said, there’s a reason.
“It’s just taking place a little more slowly because it is a community that hasn’t seen anything resembling development at all for decades and decades,” added Carra.
“The diversity of that community is its strength. And that diversity is a cultural diversity, but it’s also an economic diversity. One of the things we were seeing was the people that were becoming wealthy in that community were decamping from that community.
“What we want to see and what we are laser-focused on is a broad mix of everybody — all ages, all stages all wages.”