After last weekend’s grand opening of the new West LRT in Calgary, the line started regular operation early Monday morning. Being fortunate enough to have a home office, I didn’t have to join the morning rush. It was a few minutes before 11 o’clock before I started the 2 km walk to a nearby station for the ride downtown. Including the walk, which accounted for about half the time, I was downtown at the City Hall station in just under 40 minutes! Total travel time for the return trip was about the same, and with the aid of my handheld GPS receiver I discovered that our house is equidistant from two of the new stations – which means I can walk uphill both ways. Think of the stories I’ll be able to my future grandkids when I’m old!
There were a lot more passengers on board when I caught an inbound train just before 9 o’clock Tuesday morning, but there were still plenty of seats available. I took advantage of the “90 minute trip limit, inclusive of stopovers” to hop off the LRT at the Shaganappi Point station to run a very quick errand before catching the next train to continue my journey. I was downtown for several hours on Tuesday and I really appreciated not having to worry about parking time limits.
The skies were pretty grey both days, but here are a few shots I captured with my pocket-sized point-and-shoot…
After a couple of positive riding experiences, it was time to take a closer look at the numbers and the intangibles:
- Ignoring depreciation, and using the average variable operating cost figures from the CAA website, my out-of-pocket costs when driving are about $3.00 plus parking, which ranges from $1 for up to two hours (at my favourite parking lot) to $4 for up to 4 hours at the Calgary Parking Authority surface lot 59, just off Memorial and north of Princes Island Park. I’ve spent some time searching for the least expensive parking options, and these are the two best options I’ve found. They’re bargains given that Calgary downtown parking rates are the highest in Canada.
- Since my favourite parking lots are a fair distance from my usual downtown destinations, I have to add 10 to 15 minutes of walking time to my 15 – 20 minutes of driving time, for a total transit time of 25 – 35 minutes each way.
- Depending on traffic, weather and road conditions, the drive is more or less stressful – usually more stressful as I remonstrate all the bad drivers out there!
- Regardless of where I park, there’s always a slight concern about the potential for vehicle break-in.
- The biggest benefit is the complete flexibility to run other errands on either end of the trip, including errands way off my usual route between home and city centre.
- The current adult fare for a return trip on Calgary Transit is $5.50, increasing to $6.00 on Jan 1, 2013. If I expect to take more than 8 round trips in a calendar month, I’m better off purchasing a monthly transit pass. Comparing just the out-of-pocket cash costs, I’m better off driving if my stay downtown is going to be 2 hours or less.
- But, that ignores the avoided fuel consumption / CO2 emissions / depreciation.
- And, it ignores the benefits of walking 4 km (return trip) at a steady pace of 6 – 7 km/h (4+ mph). And, if you stand up while riding the LRT, you can get a light core workout at each station start / stop.
- Looking strictly at the out-of-pocket cost also ignores the overall lower stress level of riding transit compared to driving.
- There’s even some limited ability to do a couple of errands, thanks to the ability to make short stopovers within the same trip, so long as your total trip stays under 90 minutes. This provides the option to make quick stops at the Shaganappi branch of the Calgary Public Library, AMA, any of the shops at Westbrook Mall, etc.
Overall, on the few days each month that I need to go downtown, there’s a strong case in favour of riding the LRT. I wonder how many geocaches I can find using the stopover option?