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Chestermere-Calgary transit connection an ‘important milestone’: Carra

A MAX Purple bus travelling down International Avenue Southeast. Global News

Calgary and Chestermere could be getting a little closer in 2021.

A Calgary committee agreed to continue negotiations with the city in Rocky View County to extend the MAX Purple bus rapid transit east, outside of Calgary’s city limits.

It would be the first time the city of Calgary is considering extending Calgary Transit outside of the city.

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The eastward extension is proposed to be operated on a revenue-neutral, cost-recovery basis.

Misty Sklar, acting manager of transit planning, told the intergovernmental affairs committee that extending the MAX Purple to Chestermere would not disrupt transit service on the route, as it would have two trips in the morning and two in the evening, with 80-100 one-way trips expected in the day.

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“So it’s not a huge volume of people that we’re looking at right now,” Sklar said.

Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the proposed extension would help his city in a number of ways.

“It removes cars from other cities coming into the city — wear and tear on the roads.”

“It’s got a benefit to greenhouse gas emissions,” the mayor said. “It helps Calgary Transit improve its ridership.”

Committee forwarded the matter to the Dec. 14 council meeting, and the Calgary mayor’s office will write the Chestermere mayor indicating a willingness to enter negotiations over the transit service.

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Nenshi called it “a new model” for the city.

“Although we do have regional transit in place with other jurisdictions, I’m not aware that we have ever actually used Calgary Transit as the service provider to provide this transit outside of the city,” Nenshi said Thursday.

The intergovernmental affairs committee is expecting info on a “clear process for evaluating and prioritizing extensions of transit beyond (city) borders” by the third quarter of 2021.

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An ‘important milestone’

Ward 9 Coun. Gian-Carlo Carra called the decision “an important milestone” in developing the Calgary-Chestermere corridor, something Carra has spent 15 years working on.

“We have a very tight little corridor in one of the highest-growth parts of Canada. We can either continue to respond by trying to move people in cars, or we can extend the amazing MAX Purple transit and really not only move people more effectively, but set the stage for developing that corridor in a more cost-effective … more climate-friendly way,” Carra told Global News.

Read more: Calgary’s MAX Purple line driving development along International Avenue

The plan is to build out the stretch of land along 17 Avenue S.E. towards Chestermere in stages.

“The beautiful thing about a bus is that it runs on a road and we’ve got the roads and we’ve got the buses,” Carra said Thursday. “So this could happen very quickly. And it’s really just about getting the service level right and getting the cost-sharing right between the two municipalities.”

Click to play video: 'Calgary adds on-demand transit in 6 communities'
Calgary adds on-demand transit in 6 communities

Chestermerians who work in Calgary could use the service to commute, Calgarians could go out to Lake Chestermere, and residents of both cities could shop in their neighbouring city, Carra said.

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The area councillor, who also chairs the intermunicipal committee with the bedroom community, said getting Calgary Transit to Chestermere has always been a real priority for Chestermere city council.

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Carra also said extending transit dovetails nicely with ongoing regional planning.

“Through a lot of study about the transportation needs of the entire region, the Chestermere-Calgary corridor there on 17th Avenue is the number one transit transportation priority in the entire region, of literally over one hundred projects,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Calgary’s Max Purple driving development along International Avenue'
Calgary’s Max Purple driving development along International Avenue

Nenshi said he’s looking forward to seeing the regional transportation ideas as part of the regional plan in early 2021, saying conversations to extend Calgary Transit to other communities outside the city limits are “certainly possible.”

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“We’ve got to not just be the good guys in the whole region — though that is important — but also that there should be direct benefit to Calgarians for the work we’re doing and for our future plans.”

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