20 Observations on Transit in Calgary
Having taken transit for most of my life, I have compiled a number of things I have learned about taking transit in the city. I am buoyed by the fact that the city is making improvements to the system and taking a look at the long term plans (Connect, RouteAhead, etc), but I am still disappointed that it continues to take such a long time to implement much needed improvements and a long term strategy for the system. When I take a look at the time span of when I first started using transit as a kid until now, very little has changed. Improvements implemented now should have been done ten years ago (real time information, electronic fares, decent bus service to airport). The list below covers suggestions and observations on transit as I have experienced it.
1. Since we will not be putting the C-Train underground any time soon, why not give trains priorities at intersections?
Every time I have to wait for the train to move because it is stopped at the lights, I wonder why we cannot give C-Trains the right of way to go? At least lessen the wait time.
2. C-Train operators should not allow any more people to board when they stop at a light downtown.
Why? Because we have already boarded and those who are late can wait for the next train. One person is going to run for the train, and then hold the door for the next person. By the time the light turns green, the train cannot move because five other people are now rushing for the door. Guess what happens when the door finally shuts?
3. Move to the back of the bus.
Many of the buses have steps near the back, and that somehow becomes a magical end point where nobody wants to move further back. I have no idea why a few steps on a bus can create such large barriers.
4. When the operators have an important announcement to make, they do so in the lowest volume possible.
When an accident or delay happens, guess who knows what is going on? Nobody. Maybe it is my experience, but apparently an announcement about a 20 minute delay from the operator sounds like static on a radio.
5. Despite the C-Train not being underground, I enjoy the view.
I came across a user comment awhile ago who defended the C-Train being above ground because she enjoyed looking at the greenery or the snow outside rather than at constant darkness. I 100% agree with that statement.
6. I take transit to and from the airport when I can, and it is great.
I used to take the 430 from the airport because it would stop in front of where I lived. Now with the 300, it is even better and I can go to the airport from downtown. However, you have to time it right or expect a 30 minute wait.
7. When you have to take the train during Stampede at either Victoria Park or Erlton, aim for the middle cart.
I have found from experience that it is better to wait for the middle cart during extremely busy periods. Even if the crowd seems overwhelming as you descend to either station, try to make your way to the middle cart and there should be sufficient room. The stations have been designed to funnel everyone to either the end car or front cart with little room to move to the middle. Does it apply to busy periods when the train is delayed? I would say 50/50.
8. If a train breaks down and operators tell you to go take shuttle buses, wait for the next train.
My two experiences of the train breaking down and waiting for a shuttle bus has taught me to just wait for the next train. Both times I watched trains resume service and travel past me as I sat in a shuttle bus in the middle of heavy traffic.
9. I use the Calgary Transit twitter feed a lot.
It at least gives me a heads up on what is happening when I am still waiting for an prolonged period of time for transit. I highly recommend it.
10. I have yet to see someone use the bike racks mounted on the front of buses.
Maybe it is just me.
11. Do not use transit to go to parks on the weekends.
I tried to take transit from where I live to two city parks: Baker Park and Carburn Park. One is located across from Bowness Park and the other one located next to the community of Riverbend. It takes me an average of an hour and a half to get to each park. I also do not see families taking their kids to these parks ever via transit.
12. When the bus is stuck, start walking.
In extreme weather, always wear appropriate clothing and be prepared to walk. I remember one year when the roads were extremely icy and I took the 20 home. There was a long line up of buses stalled as they could not go up the hill on 14th Street N and Northmount, and so I had to walk from Northmount to 4th Street N and Centre St with many other stranded passengers in order to catch another ride.
13. I still do not know what the policy is on whether bus drivers can stop for people not at a designated stop.
Apparently it is against transit policy for operators to do that, but some will stop and some will force you to wait for the next one. This is especially true when you see people running for buses leaving main terminals.
14. If your bus is late during rush hour, expect two or three buses of the same route when they do show up.
Just an observation. I do not think there is much they can do.
15. Route 20 should have articulated buses.
Apparently from one conversation I overhead between a bus driver and another rider, they cannot implement articulated buses on this route because the residents that live along it do not want it. However, it probably angers students who watch buses go by without stopping for them (there goes that mid term!).
16. C-Trains should run 24/7.
I do not want to wait until the Stampede to enjoy this privilege.
17. Somebody give the C-Train operator that announces the weather and sports news a thumbs up.
If you take the C-Train at a certain time, there is an operator that tells you what the weather is like everyday and tells you if there is a Flames game happening. Somebody give that guy a thumbs up.
18. Need stress relief from driving during rush hour? Take transit.
Read a book. Take a nap. Enjoy some music. It takes the stress off of you having to deal with traffic, especially during rush hour.
19. If you try to talk on your cellphone while the C-Train is running underground, you are going to have a bad time.
See above if you are reading this while the C-Train is underground.
20. Transit isn’t that bad.
For what it is and the taxes we pay, it is not that bad. I do take the transit every day to work, and even to outings, but I do live close to the 3.
I hope my observations help you/enlighten you as you weave your way around the city on transit. Hopefully you get there in less than an hour.