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Calgary Welcomes BRT on Three MAX Lines

Calgary (AB) Transit introduced BRT service to the region with the recent launch of three MAX lines covering almost 50 miles—MAX Orange, MAX Purple and MAX Teal—with a fourth line to open in 2019.

Calgary Transit Director Doug Morgan noted that the planning process began six years ago, when the agency completed a strategic document titled The Road Ahead. Subsequently, the agency received Alberta provincial funding that could be used for a transitway and shuttles.

“That all came together quickly, which allowed us to build a good part of the network,” he said. “We were able to put capital in place, which lined up with the operating request we put in to open three BRT lines now and a fourth next fall. We also did a lot of rejigging of our other service to accommodate the new lines, changing about one quarter of our routes.”

Morgan explained that while the three new lines are Calgary Transit’s first with full BRT elements such as signal priority, separate right-of-way at some points, larger platforms, heated shelters, improved lighting, wayfinding signs and next bus arrival time displays, the agency previously operated what it called “Baby BRT”: limited-stop routes with color-coordinated shelters.

The introduction of MAX and the revised bus routes are not the only updates passengers will see, he added. “Calgary is also extending its light rail service,” he said. “That’s a major project, light rail as a spine down the center of city to the southeast, budgeted at $4.65 billion (Cdn.) extension. We’re using BRT to fill in the web of the city between buses and light rail. The changes also will allow travelers to go across town without needing to transfer to another route or mode.”

Launching the MAX Purple Line, from left: Calgary Transit Director Doug Morgan; Brian Mason, Alberta Government, minister of transportation; Francoise-Philippe Champagne, Government of Canada minister of infrastructure and communities; and Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi.

On opening day, Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi called MAX “the largest single addition to our city’s rapid transit network to date” and said it would “provide citizens of all ages and backgrounds the freedom to move around the city in an affordable, convenient and accessible way.”

Alberta Transportation Minister Brian Mason said, “Our investment in Calgary’s MAX transit lines will help improve people’s access not only to essential services, but also to their families, jobs and schools. I am proud that we are continuing to ensure Albertans have affordable and environmentally sustainable transportation options.”

Total investment in the MAX network is $304 million (Cdn.), of which $42.5 million comes from the Canadian government through the Public Transit Investment Fund. Provincial funding through the Green Trip Program totals $116.2 million for the three BRT lines, with an additional $43.7 million dedicated to the future MAX route. The city of Calgary allocated almost $76 million more to these projects from the province’s Municipal Sustainability Initiative Grant.

Calgary Transit said more than 320,000 residents in 53 communities have access to this enhanced transit service, allowing them to easily access key destinations such as post-secondary institutions, employment centers and hospitals.

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