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General Construction Updates

CBBarnett

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I've always thought it was a huge missed opportunity to build the Telus Spark where the zoo parking lot is, which would have allowed easy access to the LRT station. Instead, it's a punishing 15 minute walk through parking lots and industrial land to get from the LRT to Telus Spark.

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Agreed. I have probably ranted about this before but we do terrible institution planning in this city from a connectivity and location perspective for anything other than cars. We could blame it on the provincial-city relationship - which certainly hasn't helped - but it seems deeper where the folks that make these decisions - politicians, fundraisers, institution leads, developers - perhaps don't have an "anti-transit" attitude, but its at least "transit oblivious". And of course there is lots of local specific factors that aren't always obvious at a glance (e.g. old landfills dictating development, logistic or circulation reasons etc.) and the tons of rules that get in the way (e.g. parking minimum requirements). Much like our heritage building challenges, the timing of our peak-growth in auto-crazy post-war 1960s-2000s certainly didn't help.

Regardless of the reasons and level of intention, the outcomes are the same: our institutions are wildly anti-transit.

Location issues:
  • South Calgary Health Campus: there was an interesting discussion on this forum a while back about how the proposed land switched from a South LRT adjacent parcel to Seton back in the 1990s. The result is an enormous auto-oriented employment centre located far from transit, ironically the very existence of it is one of the primary justifications for another enormous project in the Green Line.
  • Peter Lougheed Hospital: frustratingly close to LRT, but with terrible connectivity and complete auto-orientation otherwise. The LRT was well in the works when this was built in the late 1980s.
  • Alberta Children's Hospital: auto-oriented as far from LRT as possible, built in mid-2000s well after LRT was established. Helpful that University District and Max lines change this, but from an institutional planning perspective transit adjacency was clearly not valued.
  • Telus Science Centre (as mentioned)
  • Calgary International terminals: built far as possible from the city centre 1972, still without rapid transit (48 years). Even if we kept the runways in the same location you could save 10km off the average trip if you put the facility at the SW corner rather than the NE corner.
  • Mount Royal University only recently got rapid transit access (in theory, not yet in practice) in the form of the MAX routes in 2019. It's been at it's current campus location since 1972 (47 years).
Design issues:
  • Looking past the physical locations, all hospitals and universities are incredibly auto-oriented. Part of that is a feedback loop (i.e. why make them less auto-oriented when we put them in auto-oriented locations). But part of it is that "transit obliviousness"
  • SAIT: while arguably the most transit-oriented institution on the city, prior to the New Central Library - it was completely auto-oriented, only improving slightly with the late 2000s expansion and remodelling. That expansion remains remarkably car-oriented for $500M of spending by late-2000s post-secondary standards compared to other universities.
  • Foothills Medical Centre: while it's location can't be faulted alone - Foothills predates the existence of modern rapid transit. However it's continued expansion has some of the most inaccessible sidewalks and connections of any institution anywhere. Connectivity is a complete afterthought to parkades and vehicle circulation.
  • Telus Science Centre (as mentioned, particularly on the sidewalk connections to the LRT being ridiculous for something built in the last 10 years when we should have known better).
Further exacerbating our poor institution design, is Calgary's other problem: we don't have that many institutions to begin with. Fewer and smaller universities compared to other Canadian cities, acres of large corporate spaces but few large civic ones such as museums, theatres or venues etc. Many previous decisions actually removed transit-friendly institutions (Holy Cross Hospital, Calgary General Hospital, Telus Science Centre, a downtown train station etc.)

It's going to take a lot of transit expansion, but also a major change in how these institutional places think about their relationship to transit and the wider city to see any significant change on these issues over the coming decades.
 

1875

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  • Calgary International terminals: built far as possible from the city centre 1972, still without rapid transit (48 years). Even if we kept the runways in the same location you could save 10km off the average trip if you put the facility at the SW corner rather than the NE corner.
im sure there were logistical/capacity issues but ive always felt it was such a fail moving the terminal to the north end of the field. perhaps it was a massive brown envelope from the taxi operators.
 

Silence&Motion

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  • Calgary International terminals: built far as possible from the city centre 1972, still without rapid transit (48 years). Even if we kept the runways in the same location you could save 10km off the average trip if you put the facility at the SW corner rather than the NE corner.
im sure there were logistical/capacity issues but ive always felt it was such a fail moving the terminal to the north end of the field. perhaps it was a massive brown envelope from the taxi operators.
I've raised this issue before. Someone said that that terminal itself needed to be a certain distance away from the city centre due to noise pollution issues (because of all the taxiing).
 

MichaelS

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Adding to CBBarnett's list, I would include almost every (all?) major rec centers in the past 15-20 years. The most appalling example is the Rocky Ridge YMCA in my mind. Two that are sort of okay are the Quarry Park YMCA, and the Seton YMCA. Quarry Park, as it now has Max Teal service and will be kind of close to the Greenline LRT station. Seton as it will be close to the Greenline station.... in however many years/decades it takes to reach it.

Even the transit adjacent ones are very car oriented in their designs. The Shawnessy YMCA is a prime example, making sure the surface parking lots are the closest thing to the C-train station.
 

Silence&Motion

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Agreed. I have probably ranted about this before but we do terrible institution planning in this city from a connectivity and location perspective for anything other than cars. We could blame it on the provincial-city relationship - which certainly hasn't helped - but it seems deeper where the folks that make these decisions - politicians, fundraisers, institution leads, developers - perhaps don't have an "anti-transit" attitude, but its at least "transit oblivious". And of course there is lots of local specific factors that aren't always obvious at a glance (e.g. old landfills dictating development, logistic or circulation reasons etc.) and the tons of rules that get in the way (e.g. parking minimum requirements). Much like our heritage building challenges, the timing of our peak-growth in auto-crazy post-war 1960s-2000s certainly didn't help.

Regardless of the reasons and level of intention, the outcomes are the same: our institutions are wildly anti-transit.

Location issues:
  • South Calgary Health Campus: there was an interesting discussion on this forum a while back about how the proposed land switched from a South LRT adjacent parcel to Seton back in the 1990s. The result is an enormous auto-oriented employment centre located far from transit, ironically the very existence of it is one of the primary justifications for another enormous project in the Green Line.
  • Peter Lougheed Hospital: frustratingly close to LRT, but with terrible connectivity and complete auto-orientation otherwise. The LRT was well in the works when this was built in the late 1980s.
  • Alberta Children's Hospital: auto-oriented as far from LRT as possible, built in mid-2000s well after LRT was established. Helpful that University District and Max lines change this, but from an institutional planning perspective transit adjacency was clearly not valued.
  • Telus Science Centre (as mentioned)
  • Calgary International terminals: built far as possible from the city centre 1972, still without rapid transit (48 years). Even if we kept the runways in the same location you could save 10km off the average trip if you put the facility at the SW corner rather than the NE corner.
  • Mount Royal University only recently got rapid transit access (in theory, not yet in practice) in the form of the MAX routes in 2019. It's been at it's current campus location since 1972 (47 years).
Design issues:
  • Looking past the physical locations, all hospitals and universities are incredibly auto-oriented. Part of that is a feedback loop (i.e. why make them less auto-oriented when we put them in auto-oriented locations). But part of it is that "transit obliviousness"
  • SAIT: while arguably the most transit-oriented institution on the city, prior to the New Central Library - it was completely auto-oriented, only improving slightly with the late 2000s expansion and remodelling. That expansion remains remarkably car-oriented for $500M of spending by late-2000s post-secondary standards compared to other universities.
  • Foothills Medical Centre: while it's location can't be faulted alone - Foothills predates the existence of modern rapid transit. However it's continued expansion has some of the most inaccessible sidewalks and connections of any institution anywhere. Connectivity is a complete afterthought to parkades and vehicle circulation.
  • Telus Science Centre (as mentioned, particularly on the sidewalk connections to the LRT being ridiculous for something built in the last 10 years when we should have known better).
Further exacerbating our poor institution design, is Calgary's other problem: we don't have that many institutions to begin with. Fewer and smaller universities compared to other Canadian cities, acres of large corporate spaces but few large civic ones such as museums, theatres or venues etc. Many previous decisions actually removed transit-friendly institutions (Holy Cross Hospital, Calgary General Hospital, Telus Science Centre, a downtown train station etc.)

It's going to take a lot of transit expansion, but also a major change in how these institutional places think about their relationship to transit and the wider city to see any significant change on these issues over the coming decades.
The Jubilee Auditorium has always bugged me for these reasons. It's supposed to be the city's premier performance venue, but it's basically in the middle of nowhere. It did subsequently get an LRT stop, but you have to cross a surface parking lot and pass the loading docks to get into the building. I'd love to see a new theatre built at some point either around City Hall/East Village, or as another anchor for the arena/entertainment district.
 

CBBarnett

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Adding to CBBarnett's list, I would include almost every (all?) major rec centers in the past 15-20 years. The most appalling example is the Rocky Ridge YMCA in my mind. Two that are sort of okay are the Quarry Park YMCA, and the Seton YMCA. Quarry Park, as it now has Max Teal service and will be kind of close to the Greenline LRT station. Seton as it will be close to the Greenline station.... in however many years/decades it takes to reach it.

Even the transit adjacent ones are very car oriented in their designs. The Shawnessy YMCA is a prime example, making sure the surface parking lots are the closest thing to the C-train station.
Totally forgot - yes all of the recreation centres are high on my list! And it's hard to blame inter-governmental alignment issues on those ones, they are firmly in the City's area of control. These recreation sites must be a product of bias baked-in from the beginning to end up like this. Rockyridge YMCA is the recreation equivalent of a 1980s ex-urban mall approach to development and it was built in like 2016. We essentially built West Edmonton Mall but with a fancy roof.

When I say bias is baked in, what I mean is we build giant car-oriented recreation multi-sport centres because we have always built giant car-oriented recreation multi-sport centres. We talked to our car-oriented stakeholders from our existing car-oriented recreation facilities and they say parking is a challenge and there should be more amenities, making our next site requirements even larger and more car-oriented. We don't ask for parking relaxations because our current giant facilities with giant parking lots have parking problems. We feel no pressure to change this as people say we do a good job when we deliver more amenities for less, not the same amenities but more accessible to more people.

The process is so clearly driven with one mindset - recreation amenity creation - that it completely ignores stuff like accessibility, transit, sustainability etc.
 
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darwink

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I've raised this issue before. Someone said that that terminal itself needed to be a certain distance away from the city centre due to noise pollution issues (because of all the taxiing).
When the terminal project was conceived, planes were much much louder than they are today, and one way to project into the future was the planes were going to get louder as supersonic travel took over. We should count ourselves lucky that we didn't end up with one 20 km further out like Halifax, Edmonton or Montreal (or Toronto's which hasn't been finished).
 

The Familia

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Well Telus Spark is a complete letdown and failure in every regards. Terrible design and layout, bad location, mediocre exhibits, atrocious exterior. It’s basically an industrial wear house box with sheet metal cladding. It’s our version of the Milner library in Edmonton. Honestly, the old science Centre is still more futuristic and awe inspiring than this junk. I would argue that it is Calgary’s biggest letdown and definitely the least impressive of any public or institutional building built in the past 100 years.
 

people.talking

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Calgary does TOD very poorly, instead opting for an approach more akin to Transit-Adjacent Development (TAD).
Hopefully we see better results through the Green Line than what has materialized on either the Red or Blue.
Once the green line is built up Centre street (eventually *eye roll*) the density boost and development the follows along that corridor up to, but not limited to around 41st Avenue will be amazing, I imagine lots of low and mid rise developments with street level retail around the 16th Ave area.
 

gsunnyg

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A station like Sunnyside still have the potential to become a complete TOD because the station stops right in the heart of the community, Unfortunately the extreme NIMBYism of the locals in the area has prevented the area from seeings its full potential. We need more buildings like Annex being built. I also hope the Safeway lot is redeveloped into a denser development with the retail better integrated with the station. Westbrook station is another one with potential but I've almost given up on it. On the flip side, Im stoked about the Green line because theres quite of few stations integrated into the communities rather than stopping in the middle of a highway or an isolated parking lot/plot of land.
 

zagox

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A station like Sunnyside still have the potential to become a complete TOD because the station stops right in the heart of the community, Unfortunately the extreme NIMBYism of the locals in the area has prevented the area from seeings its full potential. We need more buildings like Annex being built. I also hope the Safeway lot is redeveloped into a denser development with the retail better integrated with the station. Westbrook station is another one with potential but I've almost given up on it. On the flip side, Im stoked about the Green line because theres quite of few stations integrated into the communities rather than stopping in the middle of a highway or an isolated parking lot/plot of land.
While there are plenty of NIMBYs in Sunnyside, I don't see a lot of evidence that it has materially impacted development around the station. The Russell RED project next to Vendome was rejected at SDAB, and the Osteria project didn't survive Council. But there are approved projects out there that haven't been built yet for economic reasons, like Graywood Theodore, Truman Archer, and the second Minto site on 9A. Batistella Lifesport was headed towards approval as well before they backed out.
 

CBBarnett

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A station like Sunnyside still have the potential to become a complete TOD because the station stops right in the heart of the community, Unfortunately the extreme NIMBYism of the locals in the area has prevented the area from seeings its full potential. We need more buildings like Annex being built. I also hope the Safeway lot is redeveloped into a denser development with the retail better integrated with the station. Westbrook station is another one with potential but I've almost given up on it. On the flip side, Im stoked about the Green line because theres quite of few stations integrated into the communities rather than stopping in the middle of a highway or an isolated parking lot/plot of land.
I am most excited to see the low/mid-rise TOD keep improving (Sunnyside, Bridgeland, and now Shaganappi Point on the board with a few TOD-oriented apartments) while we struggle with the larger scaled projects (Banff Trail, Brentwood, Westbrook etc.) The smaller scale walk-up oriented TODs have had much more success, but again much has to do with the fundamentals of the design and layout and lack of TOD-thinking in our development culture. Let's dive into Saddletowne for an example of what not to do it what could have been another awesome low/mid scale TOD.

Saddletowne is actually a fairly logically TOD built in 2012, well into the periods when the benefits of TOD and transit are widely known. The neighbourhood was built somewhat before that (early 2000s) however had the LRT planned in from the beginning. Unfortunately no material parking relaxations (in practice), a weird 3 lane one-way road loop, and rigid adherence to the standard box store design were also baked in early - effectively negating reasonably smart macro-level planning and turns it into another TOD wasted opportunity.

1597431045817.png


For comparison, here's a Dutch suburban neighbourhood in the city of Almere - about 25km outside the city centre of Amsterdam (similar travel time to downtown Calgary from Saddletowne). Pretty much the same land uses and density (low-mid residential, grocery, parking lot, schools, parks). It's slightly older - the station opened in the late 1980s when the neighbourhood was being developed.

1597431364631.png


Here's Saddletowne adjacent to the station in the bus bay:
1597432870338.png

1597433872731.png


Here's the neighbourhood in Almere adjacent to the station from the parking lot:
1597432796099.png

1597432371580.png


Ignoring the Dutch example is just a nicer and greener place, the TOD-thinking is just so much more advanced (even in the 1980s) at this small low/mid density scale. Most of these are just choices: they don't cost any more money to make things "fancier" (they might actually be cheaper), they are just bad designs and ideas that undercut our TODs before we even start. I should qualify - it's not because of a lack of interest, expertise and passion people have to get it right here, it's that the compromises, priorities and accepted designs are far less transit-friendly than anything you'd see in places with the culture to put TOD first.

Some examples:
  • In the Dutch example, while private vehicles can park adjacent to the station, no major roads are within 200m, and even then "major" road is a two-lane road with dedicated bicycle paths and sidewalks on either side. Compared to our 3-lane, highway scaled circle road directly next to the station in Saddletowne complete with slip-lanes to allow for high-speed turns (for some reason)
  • Both examples have a grocery store. The Dutch one (Albert Heiji in the labelled picture) has it's entrance directly at the train station on that diagonal covered walkway. Saddletowne's Safeway is just off the aerial photo to the right, faces the other way and towards a big parking lot of it's own like any Calgary suburban store, near a train or not.
  • The Saddletowne example aerial has a straight worn out dirt path cut around the north side of the park because of our weird love of curvy pathways that leads to pointless deviations that many people would rather walk in the dirt rather than follow the path. Relatedly a bunch of unnecessary fences, the random narrowing and widening of the sidewalks and no alignment between the path and the ramps occur throughout Saddletowne's example across the roads, parking lots and bus bay. In the Dutch example, there are no dirt path desire lines because the pathways are straight and efficient direct to destinations (hell, even the grocery store has a diagonal access carved directly through it to the station).
  • Given there are 3 lanes in the Saddletowne example, I am surprised we even needed the bus bay at all. The inside lane of the 3-lane road could easily be bus parking and the pointless road-adjacent green strip could easily be used for shelters and other needed amenities. The Dutch example has a bus-only BRT that is the bus bay, put directly next to the station on the right side (before another bicycle only facility). Note the straight lines and no provisions for bus parking or passing as it's not needed.
  • All the regular critiques not-TOD specific apply as well (Calgary's ultra-wide/overbuilt car lanes, wild amounts of fencing preventing logical straight-line movement, surface parking all over, buildings facing away from the station or where a person would walk, random sidewalks that just end at parking lots, no bicycle infrastructure etc.)
My conclusion:
We do TOD expensive and wrong, largely due to caring more about things that are actually antithetical to TOD such as big wide roads, curvy pathways and way too much parking. Our best stations and the ones seeing the most development - Sunnyside for example - has none of those things thanks to it's traditional grid of streets, no parking and design compromises that actually favour walking and transit. We should be more like Sunnyside and less like Saddletowne at the low/mid scale.
 

Surrealplaces

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My conclusion:
We do TOD expensive and wrong, largely due to caring more about things that are actually antithetical to TOD such as big wide roads, curvy pathways and way too much parking. Our best stations and the ones seeing the most development - Sunnyside for example - has none of those things thanks to it's traditional grid of streets, no parking and design compromises that actually favour walking and transit. We should be more like Sunnyside and less like Saddletowne at the low/mid scale.
You summed it up very well, and are spot on. Those large freeway style roads that seem to home with every new subdivision development in Calgary, are a large part of the problem. Unfortunately a vicious circle. They are there due to our auto oriented culture, and our auto oriented culture perpetuates due to those types of designs. I would like to see a development in Calgary or anywhere in NA tailored after that Dutch example.

As someone who cycles a fair bit, that Netherlands TOD looks 1000x better.
 

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