7 Reasons the Special Interest Group’s "Sensible Alternative" to the Green Line is a Buffet of Bad Ideas

Green Line opponents address City Council, June 26, 2019 (Source: Sprawl Calgary).


Wealthy interest group is trying to derail the Green Line

A small, special interest group backed by millionaires is trying to derail the Green Line in the lead up to critical City Committee and Council votes on the future of the project this June. They’ve hired a boutique PR firm to spam the internet with ads displaying misleading information and are touting a “Sensible Alternative” that guts the Green Line.


The special interest group's "Sensible Alternative" is a buffet of bad ideas based on short-sighted assumptions that hacks and slashes the Green Line to the detriment of all Calgarians.


We took a look at the hefty three-page "Sensible Alternative" to the Green Line from the special interest group to see if it really lived up to the hype. Turns out, it’s a buffet of bad ideas previously rejected by Calgarians that will cost more money, and potentially kill the Green Line project altogether.

REASON #1: Dumping people at one end of Downtown will kill ridership


The Red Line on 7th Avenue is already overcapacity during peak hours. Dumping riders on the east end of Downtown will drastically reduce ridership and reduce the overall utility of the Green Line for Calgarians.


REASON #2: Slashing Calgary’s largest employment centre from the project will decimate ridership on the Green Line

Downtown is the single largest employment Centre in Calgary and the 16 Ave North station will be the busiest station outside the Downtown and Beltline, providing a vital connection to the new Max Orange BRT line.


The crucial cross-river link at the core of our city is more complex, but not “problematic”. Connecting north central communities with the rest of the city provides cross-city trips and the first stage of vital relief along an already at-capacity transit corridor (Centre Street). 


There is currently a $3 billion investment on the table from the provincial and federal governments today to build the vital LRT connection across the Bow River. But if we don’t do it now it will likely never happen. 




REASON #3: Hacking the Bow River bridge out of the Green Line means north central communities will likely never see the LRT service that they deserve.

Either the authors of the “Sensible Alternative” did not read the City’s plans or they are trying to mislead Calgarians. The updated alignment already includes significant BRT enhancements for North Central Communities north of 16 Avenue N. 

There is currently a $3 billion investment on the table from the provincial and federal governments today to build the vital LRT connection across the Bow River. But if we don’t do it now it will likely never happen. 

REASON #4: Public engagement resoundingly rejected the idea of surface or elevated LRT through the Downtown and the Beltline.

While no sources or backup calculations were provided by the special interest group to demonstrate that this option would actually result in $1.4B savings, it should be noted that many North American cities have chosen underground alignments in the urban cores of their cities (the Beltline has more population density than many Toronto communities served by subway). 

Businesses and property owners in Calgary’s downtown core resoundingly rejected the option of elevated rail in previous consultations. Inner City residents elected City Council members who campaigned on underground alignments through their communities. Elevated rail would block additional sunlight that is much needed amongst tall buildings and negatively impact major property developments in the Downtown and the Beltline.




REASON #5: High-floor platform-loaded cars are outdated and more expensive to operate.

No backup calculations or information has been provided by the special interest group to actually demonstrate any real savings. The Green Line project rail car budget is $300M so $500 million savings is highly unlikely.

High-floor LRT cars are no longer the industry standard, and are difficult to source. This is because low-floor LRT provides much better integration and accessibility with the surrounding street and requires drastically less expensive platform construction.

This suggestion also seems to not have considered that if the City’s existing maintenance areas and facilities are used, a rail interchange would have to be built in the downtown core, at significant additional cost. This is on top of the extra operating difficulties and costs associated with dispatching trains to run on the Green Line from Anderson and McNight-Westwinds stations. Doing so would require either dead-heading with significant additional long term operating costs.



REASON #6: The Green Line project already has risk reserves. Did the special interest group not do their homework?


Risk reserve is already built into the Green Line project budget.




REASON #7: The Green Line has already been subdivided into smaller segments to enable more competitive construction contracts. Did the special interest group really not bother to read the report or are they just trying to mislead Calgarians?


Stage One has already been segmented into smaller segments to allow for more competitive construction contracting and competition from local industry.


Fortunately, there is already a sensible plan for the Green Line

Rendering of Green Line on Centre Street North. (Source: City of Calgary)

Over the last nine months, the City’s Green Line team has significantly de-risked the project with the updated Segment Two alignment replacing deep underground tunnels through the Beltline and Downtown with a lower risk and more cost effective cut-and-cover alternative. This has freed up project budget and risk to enable Phase 1 to extend much farther than the original 2017 Green Line scope bringing major BRT enhancements to northern communities along Centre Street while still delivering efficient public transit service through Calgary’s downtown core and economic engine.


Green Line updated Stage 1 alignment significantly de-risks the project while ensuring the vital LRT connection across the Bow River is built and adding enhanced BRT services well beyond the scope of the original 2017 alignment. (Source: City of Calgary)


There is currently a $3 billion investment on the table from the provincial and federal governments today to build the vital LRT connection across the Bow River. But if we don’t do it now it will likely never happen. 


The special interest group wants to gut the Green Line based on short term thinking and misinformation. Calgarians aren’t fooled. It’s time to move forward.


It’s time to build the Green Line.

Read more about the City’s sensible plan for the Green Line by visiting the City of Calgary Green Line website >>



About the authors


Willem Klumpenhouwer holds a PhD in Transportation Engineering from the University of Calgary's Schulich School of Engineering and an Honours Bachelor of Science in Theoretical Physics from the University of Guelph. He is a long time transit advocate with experience in railway logistics, transportation modelling, mathematical modelling, programming and web development, geospatial analysis, data visualization, and transit and transportation planning.



Peter Oliver is a longtime transit and community advocate in Calgary. His experience in successfully advocating to save the Southwest BRT led him to co-founding Project Calgary to ensure Calgarians are served by a fast, efficient rapid public transit network.



For more info on the Green Line visit the City of Calgary's Green Line engagement page>>.