Only a fool would build an expansion to a home as it goes up in flames.
Welcome to Calgary, a city doggedly plowing ahead with the most ruinous construction project in our history, further expanding the current transit system that’s in a veritable state of emergency.
If we can’t operate a system that currently leaves four out of five Calgarians uneasy, why would we work to grow it before first restoring citizens’ confidence in what’s already up and running? If something is so obviously broken, do we just make it bigger and then keep our fingers crossed, hoping size alone will solve the problems now infesting the current CTrain system?
This planned expansion — the Green Line — is subject to much controversy, even though actual construction isn’t due to start until next year.
What began six years ago as a planned 45-kilometre line, stretching from our city’s far north to deep south, with 28 stations along the way for $4.65 billion, has shrunk to a first-stage, 18-kilometre route with an unlucky-for-us 13 stations planned. And despite being a third shorter in length, the cost will be higher at $5.5 billion, though that’s just another civic placeholder number to be jettisoned sooner rather than later.
Everyone at city hall knows this is an economic disaster but won’t pull the plug any time soon — far too many egos and juiced-up budgets are at risk for that. And it has the “green” moniker tagged to it, so that alone gets a free pass from a good chunk of today’s council who want to save the planet but will never take the bus themselves.
Eventually, this Green Line house of cards will collapse upon itself, but by then the knowingly culpable will be happily spending their guaranteed pension payments, courtesy of Calgary ratepayers — those same folk who’ll be forking out for decades to pay for this line from nowhere to nowhere. (The first phase — running from Eau Claire to Shepard, not exactly the most urgent pathway required for commuters — may be the last phase because, by then, the financial goose will be cooked.)
This isn’t some startling revelation. Anyone with an iota of common sense sees where this track leads. The only good news is the Green Line project is so fatuous it possibly won’t reach the stage where downtown tunnelling begins and some engineers discover Calgary’s core sits atop a floodplain. Small mercies indeed.
It gets worse. Not only are we going to burden our grandchildren with so much debt they’ll think Justin Trudeau was a miser, but we’re also intent on expanding a current transit system that is toxic for those forced to ride it.
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Citizens group gaining momentum to ‘rethink’ Green Line construction
A recent survey found 80 per cent of us concerned about our safety boarding a CTrain. That’s not surprising, as city figures show calls for assistance to both transit peace officers and Calgary cops have almost doubled since 2018. Social disorder, vandalism and crime are rampant, says the city, which is blaming low ridership due to the COVID pandemic for much of the problem. The restrictions imposed during that dreary time have long been lifted, yet so many of us are still feel fearful.
So, we’re getting a revamped safety plan, involving transit officers stationed at three hub stations in problematic areas. Maybe it’ll work, though I suspect most Calgarians would likely think it more effective if those same officers were riding actual trains.
The upshot is our transit system is in a state of crisis, one the city hasn’t found any solution for. Yet we’re set on risking Calgary’s economic future by expanding that very same dubious system.
This council will go down in infamy unless it quickly pulls its collective head out of this massive sand dune.
Chris Nelson is a regular Herald columnist.