Grids locked

Calgary kicks curvilinear network to the curb

There’s good news on the horizon for anyone who’s ever experienced frustration navigating in Calgary’s newer “curvilinear” communities.

Changes being made at City Hall will mean future communities will move back to the grid network seen in older communities, rather than the curvilinear pattern seen in many newer communities, which placed an emphasis on decreased traffic and the creation of cul-de-sacs in the community.

Jill Sonego, a member of the City’s planning team, is currently working on area structure plans for the communities of Cornerstone and Rangeview, located on the southeast and northeast boundaries of the city, which call for a “predominantly”
grid pattern.

“It’s a change in how we’re trying to design our new communities in Calgary, in terms of trying to make them more transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly and just more accessible compared to communities that we may have designed 10 or 15 years ago,” she said.

For Greg Callsen, who had lived in one of Calgary’s curvilinear communities before moving closer to downtown, the change couldn’t have come soon enough.

“Often, places like the grocery store or what have you were not easy to reach, despite being in close proximity,” said Callsen. “For example, you could live two blocks on foot from the Co-op on 130th (Avenue S.W.), but it could take you 15 minutes to drive there in heavy Saturday traffic.”

While Sonego admits there are some advantages to the curvilinear pattern seen in many communities —  such as reduced traffic, a greater number of pie-shaped lots and kid-friendly cul-de-sacs — the disadvantages are even more noticeable, especially to Calgary drivers.

“A lot of people trying to drive around new communities or walk around get frustrated and they really just want a more logical way of navigating around communities,” said Sonego. “Unless you have GPS, it’s pretty tough to get around some of these neighbourhoods. We’re hoping to get away from that.”

As far as where the motivation came from to make the change, Sonego said the move is part of a larger plan at City Hall, which places a priority on more well designed communities.

“[The push] has been coming for a long time, but principally, it’s the Municipal Development Plan – the new development plan in Calgary that guides all of our development which was approved in 2009 by city council. I think that established a major policy direction for this, and that sort of has trickled down to our area structure plans, which are the plans for new communities.

“I think also there is a desire on behalf of people in Calgary that the grid network is a more efficient, organized way to plan communities, and that’s what they would prefer to see in
the future.”

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