Transit – moving the conversation beyond ‘affordable’

Public transit must be connected, convenient, accessible, and affordable

8 November 2021

Public transit must be connected, convenient, accessible, and affordable in order for Calgary to be a vibrant and equitable city. These four core principles guide the work of Fair Calgary Community Voices (FCCV).

Sparking new and meaningful conversations

Improving affordability has gone a long way to making transit a realistic option for thousands of Calgarians. In 2016, 213,000 passes were sold to 33,000 people. In 2019, after the launch of the sliding scale pass, over 465,000 passes were sold to 68,000 people. Transit riders said it was easier to get medical care, stay connected to friends and family, and make it to job interviews. 

Now that affordability has been largely addressed, it’s time to think more critically about the other qualities of transit systems that create an inclusive city. Enough for All, Calgary’s poverty reduction strategy, states: “Being able to travel easily to work and access basic services such as food, education and health is critical in overcoming poverty.” More broadly, great transit improves everyone’s quality of life, builds community and makes a city more vibrant and equitable.

Calgary Transit’s strategic plan, RouteAhead, states that “mobility is the lifeblood of a city.” The ability for people to move from place to place and reach a destination efficiently, connecting people to places, helps our city thrive. This strategic plan also asks Calgarians to consider how we as a city provide choices to those who do not drive or are unable to drive. Are we providing low-cost mobility and accessible transit for people with disabilities? Are we providing options for youth? Does our transit system enable people to drive less or own fewer vehicles, helping reduce a household’s transportation costs? Great transit benefits cities, helping promote development, and investment, all while lowering impacts on the environment.

As we expand on the transit conversation, we’re left to ponder a number of questions. Here are some of the things FCCV is considering:

  • Connected

    To be well-connected, transit needs to consider the spectrum of communities with overcrowded routes and limited or no routes. How well are Calgary’s communities linked to one another? How many people are covered by transit infrastructure, i.e. how many people live within a reasonable distance to a transit stop? Do existing transit routes connect to people’s places of employment? Are on-demand services available to smaller communities? Are they connected to daycares, schools and grocery stores?

  • Convenient

    To be convenient, transit must be easy and comfortable to use, which means it must be well-integrated between lines and offer appropriate information and ticketing options, while also being safe, clean, punctual and reliable. When deciding on the level of transit service, we must also consider the need to make trips shorter and avoid crowding (especially relevant in these times).

  • Accessible

    Is transit easy to use? Transit must be accessible to people with different levels of mobility. This includes aspects like ensuring ramps are in place at transit stops and sidewalks nearby, and lifts in vehicles. As well as the maintenance of transit stops – for example, is snow removal impacting Calgarians’ access? It includes ensuring that door-to-door shared transit service is available for people with permanent or temporary disabilities that prevent them from using fixed-route transit. Also, is the language on maps or ticket apps accessible? And, how easy is it for people to buy tickets without internet or a credit card?

What People are Saying in the Community

Poverty Talks! held a community conversation in 2020 about transportation and transit and heard from members of the community. They discussed how transportation is not just a mobility issue, but it’s a social, dignity, and living a full-life issue.

Early in 2021, the Calgary Chamber of Commerce did a deeper dive into the benefits of public transit. Read their take on how vibrant communities include a strong public transit system.

Creating great transit for all is foundational to a vibrant and inclusive city, and the conversations in Calgary must continue. How will you contribute to the conversation? Share thoughts, comments, and transit stories with FCCV.

A few resources

Fair Calgary Community Voices is a collaborative of citizens living on low-income, community organizers, and service providers advocating for public transit that is affordable, accessible, convenient and connected for all Calgarians. FCCV has long championed the work of Enough for All and is the group leading poverty reduction efforts under the Transportation lever of change.