Defer Approval of the Green Line North #GreenLineDoneRight

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There’s no doubt that this is not a great time to have our heads wrapped up with the Green Line. Given that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, we have a lot of other things that are far more important - most importantly the safety and health of our family, friends, and neighbours.

But the Green Line process is continuing with or without us.

We all have our own thoughts and perspectives on the north leg of the Green Line, and they may differ from one another’s, but many of us can come together to agree on one thing  - the new proposed plan must not be approved without more community engagement and answers to a lot of critical questions that are still outstanding.

On June 15th, Calgary City Council is being asked to approve the new 2020 alignment for the Green Line. This is being done despite public engagement being halted as a result of COVID-19, and without answering critical questions regarding the final design of the north part of the line.

The Green Line is the most important transit project the City of Calgary has ever undertaken. We should do it right.

In 2017, after almost 10 years of planning, design, engineering, budgeting and public consultation, the City of Calgary had consensus on an alignment for the Green Line.

Then it got changed.

Due to budget concerns, City Administration was asked to come up with a new alignment that could be done within the available budget. That resulted in a fundamental change to the alignment from Eau Claire to 16th Ave N – moving the train from underground to run at street level.

We believe for the Green Line to be successful it has to be done right. This is a 100-year project for our city, and changing course without proper consultation or a thorough impact assessment is not a smart approach. 

We want Calgary City Council to be able to make the right decisions for us and for our city, and that means adequate time to evaluate the new alignment, complete impact assessments, and conduct extensive engagement with the citizens of Calgary.

As Calgarians who live, own businesses, and enjoy the parks, pathways, roadways and amenities in the neighbourhoods on both sides of Centre Street, we are opposed to the new Green Line alignment from Eau Claire to 16th Ave N being approved at this time. We urge Council to defer a final decision on the line north of Eau Claire.

We want approval deferred until proper community engagement can be completed, answers to critical questions can be shared with the public and all impacts of the project on our community can be fully understood.

That means delaying approval until

  • The Green Line Team can answer all outstanding design and planning questions
  • The Green Line Team can do appropriate community engagement on a complete plan
  • The City of Calgary has a plan and timeline in place to extend the line beyond 16th Ave

We should not compromise and build a transit system that we’ll regret. We need to build the right transit solution to serve our communities. We are willing to wait to get it right, so that it will meet Calgary’s needs in the short and long term.

City Council should not approve the new 2020 alignment north of Eau Claire and along Centre Street until proper engagement can be completed, and critical questions can be answered.

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10 critical questions that require answers prior to Council approval:

1.    How can you approve a new alignment without adequate community engagement?

The 2017 approval was based on 2 years of consultation. The 2020 alignment has had less than 12 weeks, and for at least half of that time we’ve been in a pandemic. Asking people during this time to think of anything but their safety and the health of their family and their communities is insensitive and dismissive. 

2.    How can you approve a new alignment without fully understanding and planning for the impact of traffic in residential communities?

We’re concerned about the diversion of vehicle traffic through our residential streets.  The proposed North Green Line plan considers the use of residential streets to detour traffic when there is an accident, to route traffic to business destinations, and to loop traffic through the neighbourhood in order to restrict turns from Centre street to designated intersections. In addition, there is no plan for the 20,000 commuter vehicles per day that will now have to be re-routed. Administration acknowledges that a mobility plan has not been done, and that it will not happen until after approval.

3.    How can you approve an alignment without understanding and sharing the design, cost and impact of the future crossing at 16th Ave N.?

The new alignment presented for approval terminates at 16th Ave N and does not include a plan for a future crossing of a major artery. The Green Line Team admits that they haven’t worked this out yet, and aren’t including that as part of Stage 1. The design of the crossing, with a potential portal south of 16th Ave, will have a significant impact on the surrounding community and businesses. It could essentially cut off access across Centre Street as far south as 13th Ave. The design of this component must be decided upon and the community consulted.

4.    How can you approve a new alignment if you’re not able to confirm where stations will be and how they respond to community need?

At this point, City Administration has not determined if there will be a station at 9th Avenue N. This decision will have significant impact on the community on issues ranging from access and business development, to traffic impact and neighbourhood crime. Budget cannot be the only planning criteria. Decisions regarding a 9th Ave N station must be part of the plan put forward and be based on community input.

Update: On May 12th, the City announced that they will be recommending a station at 9 Avenue N be included as part of the updated alignment and concluded it will enable opportunities for future transit-oriented development.

5.    How can you approve a new alignment without a full understanding of how the bridge will impact the environment and the visitor experience on Prince’s Island?

The location, design and impact of a bridge over Prince’s Island is of critical concern to all Calgarian’s, not just those living in adjacent neighbourhoods. The current plan will disrupt the pathway system on both the south and north side of the river, as well as destroy existing green spaces.

It’s clear that the cost of the bridge will have a significant impact on the project budget, and that means it’s essential to finalize an acceptable design prior to approving the northern alignment. Once again, we worry that budget will be the only design criteria for what should be a critical urban design decision for Calgarians. In addition to aesthetics, a detailed environmental impact study can only be done after a bridge design is finalized.

6.    How can you approve a new alignment if there’s no firm commitment to extend the LRT beyond 16th Ave N.?

Currently, there’s no initiative in place to plan or fund LRT expansion north of 16th Avenue. According to the Green Line Team the future expansion of the green line past 16th Ave N is unknown and will be completely dependent on future funding proposals and budget. 

Without an expressed commitment and timeline to extend LRT beyond 16th Ave N, we question the value of a north line that is only 2 km long, and possibly stays that way for decades. The Green Line plan needs to commit to further northern expansion as a priority before approval.

Update: On May 12th the City stated the recommendation being made is based on the current available budget and allows for continuing to build the Green Line in stages as funding becomes available.

7.    How can you approve a new alignment without providing businesses a thorough and honest assessment of how this will affect their business?

The proposed 2020 alignment will have significant impact on the businesses along Centre Street. The combination of years of construction, reduced vehicle access and loss of parking will need to be carefully planned and managed to avoid permanent closure of businesses. The current recommendation does not provide solutions to these negative impacts, nor has there been adequate engagement with the business community to discuss mitigation strategies. 

Update: On May 12th the city announced on-street parking will be removed on Centre St., and the plan may look at changes to on-street parking on adjacent avenues and new opportunities for off-street short-term parking.

8.    How can you approve a new alignment without understanding how cyclists will be rerouted and the impact on residential streets?

The current recommended alignment does not provide any clear direction on how cycling traffic will be accommodated. With only one lane open for vehicle traffic on Centre Street, there won’t be any room for cyclists. The Green Line Team suggests that cyclists may be moved to 1st Street NE, but there are no plans for how this might affect residential parking or traffic flow.

9.   How can you approve a new alignment without clarity regarding what the total commitment is to enhancing the Centre Street urban realm?

There have been drawings presented of what the future urban space could look like on Centre Street. However, our understanding is that the recommended plan currently only allows for the construction of new sidewalks, and does not include benches, trees or other design elements that would complete the vision put forward by the Green Line Team. There needs to be much more clarity about what the City is prepared to commit to in order to live up to this ambitious vision for the streetscape.

Update: On May 12th the City announced streetscape improvements will be included as part of Green Line and will include new sidewalks up to building face (pending agreement with private land owners), pedestrian oriented street lighting, opportunities for tree planing, and new furniture such as benches, bike racks, and waste & recycling bins.

10. How can you approve a new alignment if you have not been able to determine something as significant as whether the trains are running down the centre or the side of Centre Street?

Design of the northern leg of the Green Line will have an inescapable influence on life in Crescent Heights, and that influence will be significantly different if the train is centre-running or side-running. It’s more than just a logistics questions, it’s an experiential question, and it’s unthinkable that the final decision hasn’t been presented to the community for feedback.

Update: On May 12th the City announced they will be recommending a middle-running alignment on Centre St. N, and provided some updated information on how that would impact turn movements on  Centre St. N.

 

This list of outstanding issues is not complete and there will be many more if and when a complete design proposal is put forward. However, given the scope and size of the project, and its lasting impact on the people of our City, as both users and taxpayers, we believe there is too much unanswered to approve the northern portion of this project at this time, and urge Council to defer a final decision on the line north of Eau Claire until such time as those questions are adequately answered.

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Key Green Line Dates

May 25 - Written Submissions

Written public submissions are due to City Clerk by 12 p.m. using their online form (click here for link)

June 1 - Green Line Committee Public Hearing

Public wishing to speak are invited to contact the City Clerk’s Office by email at publicsubmissions@calgary.ca​ to register and to receive further information. City Clerks will send out instructions on how to speak during the meeting by phone to members of the public who register leading up to and on the day of meeting.

June 15 - City Council Meeting

City Council meets to vote on the new Green Line alignment