West Coast LRT Tour

Next week members from the City of Calgary Transportation Department and I will be travelling to the West Coast for a transit tour.  This tour will bring us to Vancouver, Seattle and Portland to meet with city administration in those cities to discuss their expansions in light rail transit (LRT).

With the full realization of the Green Line LRT in Calgary, it will be important that we do our due diligence and learn from similar projects in other cities.  On these types of projects Council is typically presented with recommendations and reports from administration.  Council then makes a decision that may or may not coincide with those recommendations.  This tour gives me the unique ability to gain firsthand experience of what a similar project would look like for Calgary.  Tours of this nature are an industry standard and will give us some insight from others who have already “been there and done that”.

Here are some of the key takeaways I hope to learn more about on this trip:

  • Low floor trains. Portland currently uses low floor vehicles for their LRT.  These same vehicles will be put into use on the Green Line.  It is important that we understand the benefits and potentially some of the challenges with this more modern approach to LRT.
  • Transit Oriented Development (TOD). TOD will play a critical role in the southeast portion of the Green Line as we explore ways to redevelop tracts of land that currently are not meeting their maximum potential.  Vancouver has gone through significant TOD as they have expanded their LRT network.
  • Public – Private Partnerships.  The City of Calgary will be subject to a P3 screen with the Federal government contribution of $1.53 billion.  Other cities will be able to share their experience with P3 transit projects and how we can find the maximum benefit.
  • Tunnel/grade/elevated. Council will have to decide how the Green Line will go through the downtown.  Some of the options include tunneling under downtown, moving through the downtown at grade or using an elevated track above the roadways.  LRT expansions in Vancouver, Seattle and Portland faced similar decisions.  Understanding the advantages and costs of these options will be very important.
  • Cost control. The scope of the Green Line LRT is immense.  While the Green Line LRT is desperately needed, we still need to find a way to deliver this project on budget and on time.  We need to understand where savings can be identified on a project of this magnitude.

The itinerary for the trip is still awaiting some finishing touches, but here is what has been confirmed thus far:


 Monday, August 31

13:00 – 16:00    Meet with Translink Staff

  • Translink is the corporation responsible for the regional transportation network of Metro Vancouver.
  • Calgary Transit will give an overview of the visit from a Calgary perspective.
  • VP Infrastructure Management and Engineering with Translink, will give an overview of Translink. Will also share Translink’s experience with P3 projects in Vancouver.
  • VP Strategic Sourcing and Real Estate with Translink, will give an overview of Transit Oriented Development in Vancouver
Map of Vancouver's Sky Train Network
Map of Vancouver’s Sky Train Network

16:10     View the Evergreen Line extension

  • The Evergreen Line will open Winter 2016
Ever Green Line Extension
Evergreen Line Extension

16:30     View ongoing redevelopment surrounding Brentwood Town Centre Station


Tuesday, September 1

09:45 – 11:30   Meeting at Canada Line Operations and Maintenance Centre (OMC)

  • Introductions of the Canada Line
  • Overview of Canada Line operations
  • Tour of maintenance facilities and control room



Wednesday, September 2

9:00 – 10:00        Coffee and welcome from Sound Transit CEO, Executive Director of Design, Engineering and Construction and the Executive Director of Planning, Environmental and Project Development.

10:00 – 12:00      Tour of light rail

13:30 – 15:30       Discussion/Q&A with Sound Transit

  • Advantage/disadvantage of tunnel vs elevated
    • Planning perspective
    • Design perspective
    • Construction perspective
  • TOD program
  • Low floor options

Thursday, September 3

Morning              Self guided tours

  • Nordstrom Mall Station
  • Beacon Hill Station
  • Airport

Seattle Streetcar project overview

Elevated LRT in Seattle
Elevated LRT in Seattle



Friday, September 4

8:15 – 10:00        Introductions with TriMet and City of Portland staff


10:00 – 15:00      Tours

  • Portland Streetcar to Blue Line
  • LRT back to Rose quarter
    • Those needing to get back to Hotel for Airport can be accommodated by cutting short.  Staff will travel from tour back to the hotel.
    • Yellow line to Overlook Park or Killingsworth (TOD)
  • Yellow line back to Hotel  – tour over


Low Floor LRT in Portland
Low Floor LRT in Portland

The full scope of the Green Line is estimated at $4.6 billion, and we have many logistical hurdles to deal with before the line is fully operational.  As a member of Council there is an expectation that I stay current and educated on issues that are important to Calgarians.  I am going to have an important vote that will shape how Calgarians move around their city.  In order to make the best decision possible it is of critical importance that I understand all aspects of our LRT expansion.  I look forward to learning a lot next week and hope that lessons learned from other jurisdictions can make a positive difference in Calgary’s transportation future.