City of Calgary to explore feasibility, impacts of a limited turnstile system on CTrain line

Commuters board a Calgary Transit (CTS) light rail (LRT) C-Train at Fish Creek-Lacombe station on the transit system's "Red Line.". THE CANADIAN PRESS IMAGES/Bayne Stanley

The City of Calgary will investigate the feasibility of a closed, or partially closed system, as part of an overall refresh to transit security, city council heard Tuesday.

It comes following a question at Tuesday’s council meeting raised by Ward 13 Coun. Dan McLean, who asked what immediate action could be taken to improve safety for transit riders, and if there is the possibility Calgary Transit would consider piloting a limited access system at some CTrain platforms.

“Last week I took a ride along with Calgary Transit peace officers and I was, frankly, a little horrified by what I saw,” McLean said in council. “Open drug use, violence, alcohol, a lot of fare skipping.”

McLean said he’s heard from many Calgarians who are concerned about safety on city transit, and believes a closed system may be a potential solution to curb the issue.

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Read more: Calgary councillor exploring turnstiles at CTrain stations

A closed system, also known as a turnstile system, restricts access to the transit network until riders pay for their fare.

Calgary currently operates with a proof-of-payment system, where access to the platform isn’t contingent on paying a fare.

According to City of Calgary transportation general manager Doug Morgan, Calgary Transit and the city will be refreshing its work on physical security on the CTrain line.

“This work will investigate the feasibility of implementing a partial or full closed system, which will include highlighting the impacts to the customer experience, accessibility, and also the shifting of that social disorder to other areas of the city,” Morgan told city council.

Morgan said preliminary estimates show implementing a closed system creates challenges for accessibility as well as costs.

A 2014 Calgary Transit study pegged the cost of moving to a turnstile system for the LRT system at $400 million.

McLean said he is glad that his question to administration has sparked a conversation about a potential solution, and that he’d like to see work on a pilot project “sooner rather than later.”

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Read more: City of Calgary extends hours of LRT station closures over ‘social disorder’

“I think it’s a serious issue and something has to be done, so we should be looking at all options,” McLean told reporters. “Not looking for a completely closed system for $400 million, but maybe a pilot project in certain wards to see the effectiveness; and of course, more transit officers would be very helpful.”

According to Calgary Transit officials, it is too early to determine what the study would look like or when it would be implemented as there are procurement requirements that need to be looked into.

At this point, Calgary Transit said it’s looking into the “option of doing new research into the feasibility” of a closed system.

Calgary’s mayor called the turnstile system debate a “big conversation,” and said it is “not an overnight solution.”

“It’s not one simple fix that will fix everything,” Jyoti Gondek said. “We’re talking about human beings, some in positions of vulnerability and some of them dealing with incredibly precarious situations of employment; let’s stop and think about the people we’re here to serve and not just make snap judgements about how we fix things.”

Gondek added that she considers one of the city’s successes with transit is its accessibility and that Calgarians are owed an explanation as to why a closed system is a topic of conversation amongst city councillors.

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Read more: Calgary Transit relaunch strategy to include security personnel amid safety concerns

According to Morgan, Calgary Transit has increased patrols on the CTrain line after hiring contracted security guards and paid-duty Calgary Police officers to help local peace officers.

Morgan said the enhanced security measures, which were implemented earlier this year, also included more resources at the Calgary Transit operations centre to monitor CCTV feeds of the LRT platforms.

“While progress has been made, there is more work to do,” Morgan told council. “Social disorder is a complex issue and is not limited to the CTrain or transit service.”

Morgan said Calgary Transit is also working with community partners to provide supports for vulnerable Calgarians.

Council heard transit officials are also working to hire additional security guards to patrol the system, and implement customer information ambassadors to increase presence on the system as well as promote Calgary Transit’s safety reporting system.

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