Warehouse district shows how the momentum of history can trump good design choices.

The subtlety of car-first thinking

Humans are allergic to change. They love to say, ‘We’ve always done it this way’. That is a quote from “Amazing” Grace Hopper (pictured), a pioneering computer scientist who is credited with creating the first compiler for a computer programming language. Her disdain for the status quo helped accelerate the field of computer science, but her philosophy can be applied to a very broad set of topics. Today we will see how the status quo can make its way into Calgary’s streets, leaving oddities

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We must no longer justify new highways on the basis of reduced congestion

Ring road, more lanes on Deerfoot will not improve traffic

Note: After some clarifying discussion with Councillor Keating on Twitter, I’ve amended the end of the article to better reflect his point of view. There’s a widely studied and documented economic principle known as induced demand. It stands on a very simple principle: If something becomes cheaper or easier to use, more people are likely to use it. This is a very basic but extremely powerful principle. What this means is that if more of something (like highway lanes, for example) becomes available, this increase in supply

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Understanding an oft-misunderstood city-shaping tool.

A desire named streetcar

I should start by coming clean: I didn’t come up with that clever title (though I wish I had). It’s from a 1992 paper [PDF] titled A Desire Named Streetcar: Fantasy and Fact in Rail Transit Planning, discussing a topic (US transit grant funding policy) that is only tangential to our discussion today. In 2014, the City looked at the feasibility of streetcars in Calgary, decided the cost was too high, and suggested dedicated bus lanes as an alternative solution to improving core mobility.

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A top-down approach for a bottom-up city

Re-imagining light rail

Calgary was one of the first cities to build light rail in North America. When the LRT was built it was largely seen as a best-bang-for-your-buck solution. Compared to a subway you could increase coverage and match frequency at the cost of dealing with some downtown traffic. You can see the cost saving mentality in the alignment of the C-Train near the Stampede Grounds, and McMahon stadium. The stations are “close enough”.  You can also see the desire to emulate a subway, in

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Support for SWBRT is there, it just doesn’t carry pitchforks.

The fallacy of vocal dissent on the SW Transitway

In response to a town hall hosted by her and her alone (no City staff were present), Diane Colley-Urquhart has decided to bow to the will of a small collection of angry voters who she apparently feels forms a representative sample of her constituents (despite the fact that the opposition is spearheaded by residents of Eagle Ridge, which are in Councillor Pincott’s riding). She has decided to pull her support for the Southwest BRT project, despite campaigning on it in the previous election. Unfortunately, it appears

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Circular style neighbourhoods make good transit difficult

Calgary’s obsession with circles

Note: This was first published on Klumpentown on December 17, 2015. It has been edited slightly for clarity. As someone with a math background and an interest in how cities work, I spend a lot of time thinking about how the geometry of certain neighborhoods affects transit’s ability to be effective. This is not a new idea, Jarrett Walker often discusses the geometry of transit situations in his blog and his book. In this article I hope to convince you that the basic shapes

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A much needed walkable improvement for one of Calgary’s busiest pedestrian spots.

Chinook LRT to Chinook Centre walkway improvements

As Council continues to sink it’s teeth into fixing decades of city design that has lead to about one pedestrian hit per day in 2015, the City has announced a $9-million dollar improvement to the walk between the Chinook LRT station, and Chinook Centre. The City’s official page on the project can be found here. From the visioning report, it’s clear that people have a good idea of what isn’t working in the area, and what can be done to improve them.

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Perspectives of an outsider

Is Downtown Calgary functional?

A successful and vibrant downtown is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for a healthy city. Countless cities in the United States serve as a grisly reminder of what a city looks like when it’s inner core collapses. A few within Canada stand out as well; namely Winipeg and Hamilton. In contrast the four Canadian cities that regularly rank amongst the top 25 in Mercer’s Quality of Living Index  all have vibrant city centres that define their identity (it is worth

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