Calgary’s Red Line LRT to return to four-car trains

LRT riders in Calgary will be getting a bit more elbow room next week.

Calgary Transit announced it would be adding one car to the Red Line trains effective Dec. 19, part of the winter schedule changes.

“They, for the most part, just include minor changes in scheduling to just improve our schedule adherence and improve connections. We’ll also be returning four car trains to the Red Line for a.m. and p.m. peak times,” Calgary Transit’s Amanda Bradley told Global News.

Communities adjacent to Macleod Trail south of Fish Creek will also see changes to bus routes to improve coverage and efficiency.

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Bradley said this was in response to an increase in transit use, as transit ridership has returned to roughly 80 per cent of pre-pandemic levels.

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“We are seeing an increase in ridership, which is great. We’re also seeing some increases in our resources and as those resources increase, we can continue to make improvements to our service levels.”

Bradley said during morning and evening peak hours, trains are scheduled to run every three to five minutes.

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One transit expert said the increased capacity along the Red Line during rush hour is a good sign.

“That’s a really positive change I think,” Willem Klumpenhouwer, a transit researcher at the University of Toronto, said. “And it’s something that we know is going to further drive ridership and further drive use.”

Klumpenhouwer said going from three-car to four-car trains will have a payoff in rider experience.

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“Adding a car back in operationally is not that expensive. And really having that space to use the car and not feeling crowded when, obviously, the pandemic and all these viruses are still around and people may be very conscious of that – that can really add a lot of pleasantness,” the U of T postdoctoral fellow said.

“So the less crowded you can make a vehicle, the better people experience their trip.”

Calgary Mayor Jyoti Gondek said the return of four-car trains to an LRT line is a “very good news signal” for the city.

“I think any time we are seeing a return to pre-pandemic levels of activity, particularly on public transit, it’s a confidence booster for the city. It’s an indication that people are moving around the city and that they are, again, engaging with all of the things that they need to do on a regular basis,” the mayor said.

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Klumpenhouwer was disappointed that only the LRT system got marked improvements, pointing to the Max BRT system, saying that should be treated as a primary transit network.

He also said Calgary is starting to show a turnaround in political will to proactively change transit service levels to help induce demand, rather than respond to over-full trains and busses. It’s an approach that has helped transit networks in other cities rebound from the worst pandemic-related drops in ridership.

“The rate of return that we’re seeing at different transit agencies around the world, but even around North America, is a function of sort of how much they embrace this,” Kulmpenhouwer said.

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