The Southwest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project will provide southwest residents with efficient public transit access to a number of currently underserved locations, including Rockyview General Hospital and Mount Royal University.

Southwest BRT will offer residents more options and make communities more accessible

While too many choices can be overwhelming, options are generally a good thing.

That’s the rationale behind the new Southwest Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project. One of four additions to Calgary’s primary transit network, the project includes construction of new bus-only travel lanes and new BRT stations.

“For southwest Calgary, and especially south of the reservoir, this system gives people an effective transit choice that gets them not just into downtown, but also connects with major hubs along the way,” said Brian Pincott, city councillor for Ward 11.

The BRT project’s origins can be traced back to 2009, when the Tsuu T’ina Nation voted down a proposed ring road extension running through its territory. At the time, Pincott was in Ottawa and began looking for options.

“I thought ‘okay, the ring road is out, so getting out of southwest Calgary south of the reservoir is a problem – how do we solve it?’ ” he said.

His solution was to make transit more reliable by putting forth a notice of motion to explore the feasibility of a transitway on 14th Street S.W. When a report came back in 2010 confirming that it could work, the wheels were set in motion.

“We know that when we create effective, efficient and reliable transit, more people choose to use it,” said Pincott.

He says the Southwest BRT project will have a double-barrelled impact, in that it will be better for current transit riders and also reduce traffic jams by encouraging some drivers to leave their cars at home.

“Good transit is better for everybody, whether you use it or not,” he said.

“When people say it’s no benefit to them because they won’t use it, I say ‘yes, but the guy in front of you in traffic will.’ ”

As is often the case with an undertaking of this size, some residents of nearby communities have expressed concerns.

“I support the project but I don’t support the design,” said Steve Brown, president of the Cedarbrae Community League Association.

Good transit is better for everybody, whether you use it or not.

Brown has spoken to some residents in Oakridge, Pump Hill and Woodbine who expressed similar sentiments.

“I would have liked the chance to give input on the design,” said Brown. “I do see positive things with offering the service though, and agree with the reasoning behind it.”

While he acknowledges the reservations, Pincott says people have generally supported the plan, especially given the alternative.

“In the absence of this project, we would have to find other ways of improving transportation that would involve widening 14th Street and erecting interchanges,” he said. “We would be expropriating and bulldozing many houses and spending a lot more money.”

Not only will the Southwest BRT project benefit more people at a lower cost, it also promises to be less intrusive than tearing down homes and putting up walls, as the system will be built within the existing sound walls.

Now that the City has finalized zoning for the project, the tendering process is underway. Construction is slated to begin this summer and wrap up by 2019.

When it’s completed, Pincott says the benefits will be far-reaching.

“Right now, if you live in Oakridge and want to reach the Rockyview General Hospital by transit, you have to take a bus to the LRT station and another bus when you get off the LRT that takes you the rest of the way. To get somewhere in reasonable time, you must own a car,” he said.

“By proceeding with this plan, we are improving transit and empowering Calgarians to make their own transportation choices.”