Traffic is beginning to return to the downtown core as more Calgarians go back to in-person work, according to new data released by the city.
That data is part of the city’s quarterly mobility trends report, which is information the City of Calgary has been studying about how people use the transportation network during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the latest update presented to the city’s Community Development Committee on Wednesday, vehicle traffic on the 10 Street Bridge into the downtown core has reached 85 per cent of pre-pandemic traffic volumes.
Meanwhile, travel to workplaces has increased to 80 per cent of levels recorded prior to the pandemic.
“It’s just like pre-pandemic, it’s just back to normal,” said Nikki Mountford, who commutes daily for her job. “Lots of traffic, lots of people moving at all hours, and I think it’s starting earlier because people are trying to get off earlier to try to get back to their lives and their kids.”
The city report also showed that parking transactions have increased in the core, which the city believes can be attributed to more activity in Calgary’s downtown.
“It is encouraging to see that people are returning to some pre-pandemic behaviour,” Ward 11 Coun. Kourtney Penner said. “We see the trend in mobility, now we need to have conversations about how that is translating to support for our businesses, especially in the downtown core.”
Dean Brown, the CEO of the Bow Valley Athletic Club, said foot traffic has been picking up in the downtown facility.
“There’s no doubt that within the last two months, it’s much more vibrant down here,” Brown told Global News. “We’re getting many more people coming in for walk-ins and for tours.”
The club was closed through much of the pandemic for a major renovation, but Brown is optimistic about a return to normal business with increasing traffic through the core.
“We’ve got room for 1,000 members here,” Brown said. “Our goal is to fill the club by the fall.”
Calgary’s Chamber of Commerce said it would be reaching out to its members to determine what kind of impacts the increased traffic would have on business.
According to the Chamber’s CEO, Deborah Yedlin, some businesses are still facing staffing and supply chain challenges, but bottom lines could begin to look stronger at the end of the next fiscal quarter.
“All of those small businesses that were supporting office workers that haven’t had the office workers here, this is just a great opportunity for them to re-establish themselves,” Yedlin said.
The report also noted retail and recreation activity is within 10 per cent of levels recorded in February 2020, and trips to places like grocery stores are nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.
Calgary Transit relaunch strategy
Other commuters who take transit to get to work told Global News that the CTrain does see a lot of riders in the morning.
“There are lots of delays after work,” Mary Brown said.
According to the report, ridership on Calgary Transit has remained consistent since February, but travel to LRT stations “remains low.”
The report shows the transit network has 54 per cent of the average annual pre-COVID ridership and is operating at 78 per cent service compared to levels prior to the pandemic.
Sharon Fleming, director of Calgary Transit, told committee on Wednesday that a relaunch strategy is in the works.
“That plan will be formulated probably next week or the week after,” Fleming said. “We’re already beginning a whole series of engagement strategies that include community outreach and the relaunch of the MyFare application.”
Fleming said the work underway is possible thanks to an $82 million combined funding commitment from the provincial and federal governments to help cover revenue shortfalls caused by low ridership during the pandemic.
“A variety of strategies are going to be in place including some additional safety strategies to help bolster what we’ve already completed,” Fleming said.
According to Fleming, Calgary Transit is about to begin a “significant” hiring of operators, and working to get some buses back into service after they’ve sat idle during the pandemic.