Go West

Calgary’s long-awaited west LRT line will transform the neighbourhoods that border its eight-kilometre stretch – and mostly for the better, city officials say.

Scheduled to open in early 2013 after first being approved in 1988, the $1.4 billion project will bring LRT service to an area of the city expected to grow from its current population of 105,000 to approximately 120,000 in the next 20 years. With so many people — both new and established — calling the area home, the obvious question of just what this mean to those buying and selling homes in the community arises.

“There will be people who are going to see it as a huge benefit and other that won’t, and I guess we have to be prepared to balance those,” said Neil McKendrick, manager of Transit Planning for the City of Calgary. “I think overall we will see a huge benefit to this area.”

While she admits that she doesn’t intend to use the new line, longtime Signal Hill resident Kathie Welsh views the impending arrival of a CTrain into her neighbourhood in a positive light.

“There have been a bunch of new condos that have gone up there – I think for them it will be great. I sort of equate it to the fact that there are a lot of very young families in the area I live in and having a school across the street from us is ideal. So, for us, that picked up the value of the houses,” said Welsh, who has lived in the area for 16 years. “I think the CTrain and the accessibility will only do the same.”

Welsh did say some of her neighbours have mentioned concerns about a possible rise in crime as a result of the new line, with “undesirables”
using that same accessibility to enter the area. But according to Brian Whitelaw, Calgary Transit’s coordinator for Public Safety and Enforcement Section, such fears are largely unfounded.

“The image of criminal opportunists travelling on the LRT to City of Calgary neighbourhoods and committing a crime is not supported by research or empirical evidence,” said Whitelaw in a report prepared by Calgary Transit.

Even with the opening of the line still months away, the more positive affects of the new line are already being felt, according to Ward 6 Alderman Richard Pootmans. Pootmans, whose Ward includes several of the communities impacted by the new line, said that he’s already seen a rise in the demand for housing along the route.

“Housing is trading quickly in Springborough, [which is within] walking distance to 69th St. station. [It has] fantastic access. I looked for a home in that neighbourhood when I moved in. People living along the route are appreciating that it’s going to enhance the value of their homes.”

With six stations (Sunalta, Shaganappi Point, Westbrook, 45 St., Sirocco, 69 St.), the West LRT line is expected to boost Calgary Transit ridership by between 37,000 and 44,000 people every day. In addition to taking roughly 6,000 cars off Calgary roads, it will mean commuters coming from the 69th St. Station spend just 20 minutes getting to work in the morning.

“If you take a look at real estate ads, they’ll talk about being close to the LRT,” said McKendrick. “The LRT has a tremendous role in helping to support higher density or even more compact development, more sustainable development, development that’s more walkable. That’s really what the values are that people are paying for when they live next to an LRT station – the ability to walk out their door and pretty much go anywhere in the city and get to major destinations without owning a car or looking at a schedule.”

The notion that the arrival of an LRT line in an already established community has a positive affect on the resale value of homes in the area is one shared by McKendrick, who relayed his experience in constructing the Sunnyside station back in the 1980s.

“So the City at the end of the game said ‘If you don’t want to live here, within a certain radius of the station, we’ll buy your property.’ And they did. And it’s one of the best real estate deals the city ever made because they immediately turned those around,” he said. “So we bought them out and a whole new group of people who really wanted to live there bought in at a higher price than what we paid.”

For CREB® president Bob Jablonski, the allure of having an LRT line in the neighbourhood is an obvious.

“The bottom line is that it’s very much a selling feature of a community,” he said. “You can enjoy living in your property, knowing that you can walk to public transit and get to work.”

Are you looking forward to the LRT expansion? Is Calgary moving in the right direction with their transit system? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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