Governance & Politics
October 17, 2017

Nenshi Re-elected in Calgary

What does Nenshi’s re-election signify?  PT readers may have some thoughts.

From the Globe:

Naheed Nenshi has secured his third term in Calgary, fending off a more conservative challenger who came close to unseating the once-politically unassailable mayor of Alberta’s largest city.

Mr. Nenshi, 45, won against lawyer Bill Smith with about 51 per cent of the vote according to unofficial results late Monday night – a far cry from the 74 per cent support that Mr. Nenshi saw in the 2013 election. …

Mr. Smith still received about 44 per cent of the vote, but Mr. Nenshi’s win is a repudiation of those who believed Alberta’s conservatives – stung by the existence of an NDP government in Edmonton and a Liberal government in Ottawa – were poised to use the municipal election to help stage a comeback. …

The Harvard-educated son of immigrants, (Nenshi) worked around-the-clock the weeks during and after the 2013 floods, and has made issues such as public transit and housing hallmarks of his time in office. But he has gained a strong cohort of critics in recent years, and in recent weeks some polls had shown Mr. Smith’s campaign, with its focus on freezing municipal workers’ salaries and cutting city taxes, gathering steam.

The race was also affected by factors outside the realm of municipal politics. Both Mr. Nenshi and Mr. Smith said they often heard complaints while knocking on doors or meeting with business owners about policies originating in Edmonton or Ottawa – including Alberta’s carbon tax and plans to move to a $15 per hour minimum wage, or proposed federal changes to business tax laws.

Mr. Nenshi has significant challenges ahead as he continues on as mayor. He and his council have to grapple with a massive hole in the city’s budget as office vacancies stay stubbornly high. Mr. Nenshi has said he will carry over a $45 million program that shields remaining city businesses from the full brunt of tax increases that could come from a partially empty downtown core.

He will also carry the weight of a fraught relationship with the city’s professional hockey team. …

Mr. Smith had worked to capitalize on the perception in some quarters that Mr. Nenshi is quick to upbraid those who don’t agree with him. Some of the political opposition to Mr. Nenshi can be traced back two years to opposition to a rapid-transit plan, including the construction of bus lanes, from well-organized residents in the southwest of the city. Others criticize Mr. Nenshi’s blunt-speak in lambasting political opponents from the chief executive of Uber to local developers. Mr. Smith’s campaign said property taxes “skyrocketed” by 51 per cent during Mr. Nenshi’s time in office.

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. From Hair-Raising to Family-Friendly: How Calgary Built its Cycle-Track Network

Free

May 24, 2016

1–2:30 pm PDT

Register

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Calgary, Alberta. Not the same ring as Davis, Portland, Vancouver or Copenhagen when it comes to bicycling infrastructure or culture, yet Calgary put itself on the map with its ambitious implementation of a network of cycle tracks in the downtown core in 2015. It took a dedicated team of city administrators, advocates, business representatives and city builders to implement this game-changing project and Ryan Martinson was fortunate to lead the technical program for the consulting team. In the course of two years, conditions for bicycle travel downtown went from hair-raising to family-friendly. Now, more trips than ever are being made by bicycle, and the city is generating excitement across North America for the possibilities associated with the rapid implementation of bicycle facilities.

Ryan will walk us through the challenges and opportunities his team faced throughout this project and their ‘team’ approach to the cycle network study and implementation. By providing lessons learned and special considerations for treatments, he hopes to share the possibilities that other cities have in fulfilling their bicycle-friendly aspirations.

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From Agustin: “It’s not too often I get to say this. Check out how the headline that a Calgary AM radio station gave to the story that a new separated bike lane opened today on one of the city’s main car arteries into downtown.”

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It’s a whole new experience for bikers heading into the core.

The first leg of the cycle track is open for business ahead of schedule.

The barricades have been removed along 12th Avenue between 11th Street southwest and 3rd Street Southeast.

The new lanes were getting smiles and cheers from cyclists Tuesday morning.

Roy bikes to work everyday, and tells 660News, having a dedicated lane will come in handy.

“A lot of traffic and it gets really tough,” he said. “So, this will be easier for sure.”

Liam drove down 12th Avenue in a car, and said he wasn’t too bothered by the new kind of traffic.

“Taking up a lot of space,” he said. “But, if I rode a bike, I’m sure I’d like it.”

The city has put safety information signs in place to help people get through intersections safety.

There were also bike ambassadors handing out information cards to cyclists as they went past.

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Jean Chong thinks we might look to Calgary:

During Michael Geller’s talk a few weeks ago, several members of audience suggested Neighbour Day to celebrate.  In Calgary there is a drive to do it again this year.

City hall will encourage Calgarians to host block parties, barbecues and other community events to mark the flood’s second anniversary with Neighbour Day.

Mayor Naheed Nenshi launched the event last year, a day after June 20, to celebrate the volunteerism and community spirit that helped flood-ravaged districts recover from the 2013 disaster when the Bow and Elbow rivers overflowed their banks.

Council unanimously endorsed Nenshi’s motion Monday to declare the third Saturday of every June as Neighbour Day.

The City of Calgary provided poster templates, invitations to make it easy for volunteer organizers.  More here.

But do you need a flood first?

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Next City is doing what it can to help:

Calgary Bike Advocates: Don’t Call Our City the Houston of Canada

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Calgary’s petroleum-driven economy has earned the province’s largest city the nickname “the Houston of Canada,” but the streets of this city of one million feel far more welcoming to pedestrians and cyclists thanks to a proactive city government. …

If a city’s tone starts from the top, then Mayor Naheed Nenshi has made it clear what civic leaders want Calgary not to be. “The mayor said that he doesn’t want the city to build out in an uncontiguous, really bad way,” councilor Evan Woolley recalls. “So we asked, ‘what city is that?’ He said Houston and Denver.”

In 2014 alone, city council passed a Complete Streets Policy and approved a 3.4-mile cycle track network that will break ground in March. Now, building on a cycling strategy adopted in 2011, the transportation department will spend this year preparing a pedestrian strategy. …

… different priorities echo in city council chambers. “On the same day, council may debate a $1 billion transportation budget for roads with very little scrutiny for just a few minutes of debate. Contrast that with hours of debate around a cycling project,” councilor Druh Farrell says, alluding to the $10 million or so spent on the pilot cycle track network.

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Calgary City Council’s Druh Farrell says the Peace Bridge was a turning point in the city’s attitude about pedestrians and cyclists. (Photo by Tom Babin)

 

These car vs. bike wars, common to cities across North America, have nevertheless played out in favor of the brave souls who take to city streets on two wheels, oftentimes feeling they have no alternative. …

Cyclists in the city are in positions of power. “Since I got on council, I have been pushing hard for us to begin to build the required infrastructure, and all the supports required, to make cycling a viable transportation choice in our city,” explains councilor Brian Pincott. “The main reason is that before I got on council, I was a 365 days a year cycling commuter. I saw the gaps, experienced them firsthand, and knew that we had to do more.” …

Until this point, winter riders have veered toward the dedicated. “Winter bike culture in Calgary right now is mostly made up of bold and brave men,” says Tom Babin, the Calgary-based author of Frostbike: The Joy, Pain and Numbness of Winter Cycling.

That, however, is changing, with a downtown bridge bike counter showing an impressive 25 percent of summer numbers during the bitter cold months. Babin says, “This winter, I’m seeing a lot more people riding in their regular work clothes, rather than that hardcore winter bike gear, which I think is a reflection of the improvements the city has made in inner-city bicycle infrastructure.”

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Full story here.

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Doug Clarke picked this up from the Transport Politic:

Calgary’s soaring transit use suggests high ridership is possible even in sprawling cities

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It’s an environment that looks a lot more like Dallas or Phoenix than Copenhagen.

And yet Calgary is attracting big crowds to its transit system, and those crowds continue to increase in size. Like several of its Canadian counterparts, Calgary is demonstrating that even when residential land use is oriented strongly towards auto dependency, it is possible to encourage massive use of the transit system. …

Much of the trend of increasing transit use has come recently, in part because of the expansion of the city’s light rail network, C-Train. That system, which opened in 1981 and has been expanded several times (it now provides service on 36 miles of lines), has become the backbone of the municipal transit agency and now serves more rides than the bus network. C-Train is now thesecond-most-heavily used light rail system in North America.

But, as the following chart demonstrates, that growth has not come to the detriment of the bus network. Indeed, Calgary buses now are providing about 20 million more annual rides than they were in 1996. Overall, the transit system is carrying about 80 million more riders annually than it was 17 years ago …

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At the heart of the matter seems to be a radically different view about how to manage automobiles downtown. Decades of progressive thinking about how to run downtown have produced a Calgary where there are no freeways entering the central city. Citizens there have been vocally opposed to building
highways there since the 1950s, with the consequence that it is simply not that quick to get into downtown by car. This has a number of related effects, including the incentivization of non-automobile modes and the reduction in outward suburban sprawl (since it takes a longer amount of time to get to the center of downtown).

Pro-transit policies have not produced a dramatic move of businesses away from Calgary’s center city — the fear many politicians and business promoters point to when complaining about limitations on automobile access to downtown.  … In other words, restricting automobile use and encouraging transit ridership not only don’t hurt business — they may be encouraging it. …

Calgary’s success — unlike that of Vancouver, Montreal, or Toronto, for example — comes despite its relative lack of pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods and a transit system that has encouraged them. To a significant degree, it is clear that it is possible to boost transit use simply by making it more expensive and complicated to drive to work, and relatively easier to take transit.

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Is it really necessary to point out the irony if the referendum fails to fund transit in Metro Vancouver as Calgary surges ahead?  (Oh yeah, it is.) 

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This might be surprising but understandable:

The number of vehicles coming in and out of downtown Vancouver in 2010 is about the same as it was in 1965.

But this?

Calgary traffic flow: Some downtown streets less busy than in 1964.

From Calgary’s Metro:

Major entryways into the Beltline like 4th Street and 14th Street SW, for example, saw less traffic in 2012 than they did in 1964, when the city’s population was a quarter the size.

“It is a little bit surprising,” Ekke Kok, the city’s manager of transportation data, said of the historical vehicle counts he and his predecessors have collected since Grant MacEwan was mayor.

In Vancouver, the biggest difference – in addition to the sheer growth of the downtown population – was the improvement in transit.  Same in Calgary:

(Transit advocate William) Hamilton added that the drop in vehicle traffic on Macleod Trail can be connected to the expansion of the south leg of the C-Train line in the early 2000s.

“If you make mass transit such as the C-Train a viable option for more commuters, then absolutely more people are going to take it, and that’s going to take strain off the road infrastructure,” he said.

And this:

Kok said a number of factors are likely at play in the changing traffic patterns over the decades, including “a conscious decision” made by city planners “not to increase the capacity of some roads” in the downtown area while also constructing a variety of other major thoroughfares.

And this:

The number of people riding Calgary Transit buses increased by 136 per cent between 1995 and 2013, he noted, while car traffic grew by just 1.2 per cent over the same period, according to the city’s annual “cordon counts” of traffic flowing in and out of the city’s core.

Pedestrian numbers, meanwhile, grew by 102 per cent and bicycle traffic increased by 153 per cent, although they make up a much smaller proportion of the total traffic volume.

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