The Value of the Green Line

Has the LRT project doubled? NO.

This is one of those questions that is asked and answered a lot, and to make the answer stick I’m writing this blog.

The original 46 Kilometers of LRT was planned 10 or 12 years ago. So sure, inflation is one of the reasons we have seen an increase, but one of the main reasons is actually that when the Green Line was first conceptualized it was planned to be at-grade. That also happens to be the least expensive approach. On average, an at-grade LRT runs about $100 million per 100 km. That comes in at roughly $4.5 billion for the expanse of LRT line from the far north to the deep south.

Engaging the citizens of Calgary is a very essential part of the Green Line process, and according to what we’ve heard from Calgarians, to do this project right mean:

  • That the Green Line component running through the downtown core should be underground;
  • That some locations needed to be altered to allow for better transit-oriented developments, which will better suit commuter needs while providing some interesting possibilities for the future.
Architectural sketch commissioned by The City that depicts what a station entrance at 2 Street SW and Riverfront Avenue SW might look like once integrated into the future redevelopment of the Eau Claire Market site

So looking at the original price and the original plan and comparing that to what we have heard from residents, we can see why costs have gone up. Changes like underground tunneling mean an increase in cost.

There are also the technical realities. Some sections of the Green Line are going to be more expensive than others due to challenges with factors such as, land acquisition, construction, and unforeseen obstacles. I know the Green Line Team has done their due diligence in preparing for these things. They eat, sleep and probably even dream about the Green Line.

The first phase, which will run from 16th Avenue in north to 126 Ave in the south is the most expensive part of the project. But it’s also the most critical. We are tunneling through the core, we are building a maintenance facility, and we are buying vehicles for the fleet.

We’re building the most expensive part of the line first, so the Green Line has not doubled in cost as some have said. The remainder of the Green Line will be less expensive than Stage 1 because we will have the key pieces of infrastructure in place. At this point, we will already have the path through downtown, the maintenance facility, and the train cars. The land needed for the Green Line in the far North and deep South have already been acquired.

I like to think of it like remodeling a house. When we look at remodeling a house, what are the two most expensive rooms to renovate? The bathroom and the Kitchen. Which two rooms provide the most utility to us? The bathroom and the kitchen. When you look at renting an apartment or a home, those two rooms often make the decision for you.

The Green Line will be a key piece of infrastructure that provides opportunities and utility for Calgarians and Calgary as a whole. And that’s what we’re building first, the bathroom and the kitchen.

When we look at why the price has changed, it’s because of the long time it’s taken to get here, the changes in construction style, but most importantly it’s because we listened.