We are very good at calculating costs, but bad at tabulating benefits.

Green Line: Let’s talk about money

If you are a semi-occasional reader of Spur, you might have noticed that I tend to avoid talking about costs when discussing projects like the Green Line. I very rarely talk about specific dollar values, and when I speak on the radio I tend to avoid them as well. Part of the reason is that I often don’t have access to meaningful numbers. Sure, reports come out here and there about how much the project is going to cost, but these

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City issues affect our daily lives, and having a voice is easier than any other level of government

Why municipal politics matter

In the 2013 Calgary municipal election, only 36% of eligible voters turned out to have themselves heard. Compared with the last provincial (58%) and federal (69%) elections, this is a really low number. We are middle-of-the-pack in terms of municipal voter turnout, though there are efforts afoot to increase turnout in this fall’s election. It appears that very few people want to make the effort to make their voice heard on a city level. So why is this? Existential Issues

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Taking advantage of human nature can be a cost saving

Fare enforcement and the perception of risk

Not long ago, at Brentwood Station, I had a wonderful interaction with a some Calgary Transit peace officers. They were checking fares at the door, and I passed them on my way to the pub. A few hours later, on my way back, they were still there checking tickets. Since this happened to be the third time I’d had my ticket checked that day, I piped up and said “boy you guys are active today, eh?”. The peace officer, presumably sensing

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New projects may ‘get it’, but we need to fix what we have

The Calgary pedestrian experience

Last weekend, I had the chance to be part of the planning process for the Southwest Transitway that is part of the larger expansion of the city’s primary transit network. The meeting was full of great input from community advocates who know their neighbourhoods like the back of their hand, and I learned a lot about that part of the city and about the project itself. One thing that stood out to me about the input during the breakout sessions

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Why the city has everyone scratching their heads in Victoria Park

The bus barn brain teaser

Back in December, both the Transportation & Transit Committee and City Council as a whole agreed that the Green Line LRT should travel along 12 Avenue S as it made its way through the community of the Beltline – the only thing left to decide was surface or underground. This was after months of careful detailed analysis by the Green Line team, including input from community organizations, businesses, and other stakeholders. It was, by all appearances, exactly how transit planning

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If transit is about serving people, a strong core is everything.

The Green Line through the lens of density

There’s been a lot of hubbub about the Green Line in the past few weeks. First, a Herald article about an internal document on phasing the project – building the city centre parts of the route first, and adding on as funding allows. Then, Mayor Nenshi’s response about avoiding phasing. More recently, the city has floated some possible changes in the alignment through Ramsay, to the ire of some residents. It seems that the Green Line project has gained some

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Innovation and good ideas require a few bad ones in between

Failure should most definitely be an option

This article originally appeared on Klumpentown Today I want to talk about something that people try to avoid, and why it needs to exist even in the transportation realm: failure I have been involved in improvised comedy shows for a number of years now, and of the many lessons it has taught me one stands out as perhaps the most important: you need to fail, and fail gracefully. Embracing failure is one of the pillars of how to be successful at improvised

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Geography can segregate parts of cities. With Calgary, it’s often our urban highways

The roads, rails, and rivers that divide our city

Last week, I attended the Urban Affairs Book Club (find them on Facebook) to discuss the book Subdivided: City-Building in an Age of Hyper-Diversity. There was plenty of interesting discussion about culture, diversity, and immigration. I want to expand on some of those musings here. One recurring theme revolved around what cities can do to make newcomers feel welcome and join the “fabric of Canadian society”, however you’d like to interpret that. Canada has a long history of welcoming immigrants and refugees with

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Truly new modes of transportation are rare, but hyperloop might just fit the bill

The Calgary-Edmonton Hyperloop

I want to propose another pipeline for Alberta. Only this time, it’s for people. In 2013 Elon Musk proposed a “new” type of transportation system. I say “new” with quotations because the idea has been around for a while, but Musk has put his own, sensible spin on the situation to try and bring it to reality. He has called this system Hyperloop. Usually, the first time I explain Hyperloop to someone, they smile wistfully at the idea like I am

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Let’s take advantage of the beauty and efficiency of our city grid

Calgary Transit should embrace the grid

When I talk transportation with Calgary’s politicians, residents, and planners I will inevitably hear some form of the phrase “Calgary was designed for the car.” Upon hearing or saying that, many people shrug and give me a “what can you do?” look. I disagree with the sentiment on two levels. For one, cars are not to blame for how our city operates. The fact that 75% of trips in Calgary are made by car is not because neighbourhood planners gleefully plopped down

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