Green Line Update and a Call for Transit Funding Commitment from Candidates

Yesterday the Standing Policy Committee on Transportation and Transit heard the quarterly update for the Green Line for the first quarter of 2019. You can find the report here if you’re interested. The report, notably Attachment 4, was updated since it was initially released late last week. I had been somewhat critical of the release as it had left the full line out of the future stages. However, the Green Line team fixed that and had an updated presentation yesterday that included options all the way up to North Pointe. I have been advocating for the Green Line since being elected and obviously want the line in place to serve the residents of Ward 12, but ultimately I truly want the entire line built so that all Calgarians benefit.

We heard that the project continues to move along, with enabling works continuing on and key deliverables continuing to be met. The team presented a checklist that saw everything progress from an angry red to the slightly less angry orange (meaning the item still needs attention). General Manager of Transportation Michael Thompson assured the committee that a lot of work was being done to get those report card metrics to the much friendlier green colour, meaning the deliverable is controlled, which is great news. This is the Green Line after all!

For Phase 1, we heard that 17 km of the 20 km route is now owned by the City. Some land acquisitions are still required and that work is coming along. The team is working on the single bore tunnel design plan to compare against the twin bore design. Looking ahead at some key deliverables for Q2, the Green Line Team expects to onboard its managing director, finalize the project execution plan, release the main project request for qualifications and finalize the light rail vehicle request for proposals.

A call for funding commitments to all Alberta candidates

Funding for Phase 1 of the Green Line is fully secured and the project is in good hands. Now we need to look ahead at getting further stages of the Green Line funded and built, all the way from Seton to North Pointe. The Alberta government recently introduced the City Charter Fiscal Framework Act, which pledged a combined $400 million per year for Calgary and Edmonton to fund transit projects starting in 2027. Based on a 50-50 split of this funding alone, the Green Line could be funded from Shepard to Seton four to five years after the opening day of Phase 1 (based on the Green Line team’s cost estimates). The Green Line could build out to 64th Ave in four to five years. If the federal government matches this funding through a program such as its Public Transit Infrastructure Fund, Shepard to Seton and 16th to 64th could be built concurrently.

With this stable funding source of $200 million annually, any additional funding from the province and the federal government could see the Green Line completed in a much shorter timeframe than some of Calgary’s past LRT projects. During Committee, Councillor Gondek had said she was essentially resigned to the fact the Green Line would not reach the north for 20 years. With provincial and federal support, we can make sure that this isn’t the case. Public transit investments are vital to a great city and we need to ensure that neither the north nor the south have to wait any longer than they already have to get fast, reliable and clean light rail transit service.

It’s time we as Council quit the squabbling on which direction the Green Line should be going and focus our efforts on securing funding like I pushed so hard for between 2013 and 2017 so that the line can go both to the deep south and to north-central Calgary. During the provincial election campaign, we need to lobby all parties to commit to further transit funding and will need to do the same during the federal election period later this year. Getting the entire Green Line completed needs to be our goal to help ease traffic congestion and provide an affordable and convenient means to get around town.

Some Councillors may choose to back certain candidates during the provincial election campaign. I have generally not gotten involved in anyone else’s campaign and I’m not about to start today. But what I am going to do is push all candidates and all parties to pledge their continued support for the Green Line. I want all parties to announce that they will honour the annual $200 million commitment to fund Calgary transit projects, whether that’s through the City Charter Fiscal Framework Act or another means as they see fit. It is absolutely crucial that money for future stages of the Green Line is set aside.

So I am calling on Ms. Notley, Mr. Kenney, Mr. Mandel and Mr. Khan to stand behind this stable funding source for Calgary transit projects. If they want to back more money for the Green Line, I am more than okay with that too. But Calgarians in the deep south and in the far north central deserve to know that whoever forms the next provincial government, the province will have their back and help deliver the Green Line to their door step.

As always, I welcome your thoughtful comments and concerns. You can share them with me here.