GREEN LINE DECISION NEARS
Late changes possible ahead of what is expected to be a very close vote
Tight vote expected this week
City council is about to debate the future of the Green Line LRT project — potentially for the last time.
Stage 1 of the massive LRT expansion project is due for a final vote this week after the city took nearly a year to redraw the path through downtown to avoid going over budget.
At least eight of Calgary’s 15 council members will have to vote in favour of the alignment for it to be approved, and a series of proposed changes could alter the result. As it stands, city officials are recommending a line that runs from Shepard to 16th Avenue N., with a tunnel under the Beltline and downtown, a bridge over the Bow River and a surface-level train running in the middle of Centre Street N.
This piece of the Green Line is the first in the planned 46-kilometre expansion from 160th Avenue N. to Seton.
Postmedia asked council members last week where they stand ahead of Monday’s meeting. Here’s what they said about how they might vote on the alignment as it currently stands.
MAYOR NAHEED NENSHI
Nenshi said after this month’s Green Line committee that he believes the city’s current plan is the best way forward, but he’s willing to consider “minor” changes.
“I do not go into stuff like this lightly,” he said. “And I am very confident that the recommendation we have before us is a battle-tested recommendation, it is a recommendation that can be delivered on time and on budget, and can get Calgarians the transit service that they’ve been waiting for.”
WARD 1: WARD SUTHERLAND
No, unless amendments are made.
Sutherland is part of a group of councillors asking for a change that would approve the Green Line from Shepard to Eau Claire, but hold off on the Bow River crossing for now. He said in a statement last week that “it would be reckless to move ahead with the current alignment,” and told reporters he thinks it would be “more pragmatic” to split Stage 1 of the Green Line into three segments — the southeast, the core and the river crossing to 16th Avenue N.
Sutherland didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday or Friday about whether anything has changed.
WARD 2: JOE MAGLIOCCA
Magliocca has consistently voted no on multiple Green Line decisions over the years, and said he plans to stay the course.
“I’m a definite no considering the current proposed route, the ballooning cost of the Green Line and the uncertainty around the future of public transit,” Magliocca said in a message Thursday.
WARD 3: JYOTI GONDEK
Yes, but with an amendment. Gondek said Thursday that while she’s “prepared to support the majority of the recommendations before us,” a firm commitment that north Calgary is the next priority for further LRT expansion is a must for her. She also wants council to agree on seed funding for bus rapid transit improvements that can be converted into LRT.
“My concern continues to be that if this council is not willing to make a commitment to the north, then why are we spending money on a bridge that makes people feel like they’re going to get service when we refuse to actually prioritize that service through a vote?”
WARD 4: SEAN CHU
Chu publicly announced Friday that he’ll support the Green Line, but he added in an interview that he’s also interested in an amendment to make sure the north is a transit priority for the future. Many of the neighbourhoods in his north-central Ward 4 would be served by future expansion of the Green Line.
“My decision is based on what’s the best for Ward 4,” he said. “What I’ve heard loud and clear from the public, residents of Ward 4, is that we need something.”
WARD 5: GEORGE CHAHAL
Chahal said he’s satisfied with the work that’s been done to decide on the recommended Green Line alignment. He also worries the city could lose the provincial and federal funding that’s been promised for the LRT if major changes are made.
“I’m a big supporter of public transit and the equity it brings to all Calgarians,” he said. “We need to cross the river, we need to go north, we need to serve north Calgarians as well, because they deserve faster, better mass transit.”
WARD 6: JEFF DAVISON
No, unless amendments are made. Davison said last week he won’t vote in favour of the Green Line alignment as it is. This month, he’s questioned the transit line’s path and cost, and he’s among the group that wants to push back plans to cross the Bow River.
“Personally, I need some changes to (the recommendation) before I can support it,” Davison said. “I think the problem right now is that council doesn’t actually have alignment on the recommendation, and for a project that has been going on for years, I find that completely baffling.”
WARD 7: DRUH FARRELL
Farrell said she’s had concerns about how the current alignment could affect Prince’s Island Park, Crescent Heights and Eau Claire, but she’s confident in the work that’s been done and the work that’s still ahead to make sure the LRT fits well with those areas.
WARD 8: EVAN WOOLLEY
Woolley said at the Green Line committee that suggestions to stop the train downtown instead of building over the Bow River would be a “disservice” to communities in the north.
“Imagine if we lose 20,000 riders because we wanted to cheap out and because we got scared of the big complexity of this incredible project,” he said.
WARD 9: GIAN-CARLO CARRA
Carra said last week he’s “very much a supporter” of approving the current vision for the Green Line. At committee, he said he “begs” council to vote in favour of it.
WARD 10: RAY JONES
Jones said he’s “leaning toward yes,” but on Friday he was still having meetings to find answers to some lingering questions and listening to what his colleagues are saying.
“The people in my ward are indifferent one way or the other whether it’s built or not,” he said, noting there’s already LRT service in his northeast ward. “But I am getting a lot of calls from other wards.”
WARD 11: JEROMY FARKAS
Farkas said he’s still waiting to see some information he asked for earlier this month about the Green Line. But he also wants the city to let Calgarians vote on the Green Line’s future in a plebiscite.
“There’s a lot of key information in the operating cost and ridership that are going to impact my vote,” he said. “I have raised a whole lot of questions around value and whether or not we should be proceeding, in this economic climate, with a project like the Green Line.”
WARD 12: SHANE KEATING
Keating has been one of the Green Line’s biggest champions for years, so his vote should be no surprise.
“Two elections were fought on the Green Line, on transit,” he said last week. “The people who are underserved are supporting transit in areas that are well served. All they’re asking for is equal service across the city.”
WARD 13: DIANE COLLEYURQUHART
Colley-urquhart didn’t respond to requests for comment Thursday or Friday, but she voted against the recommendations at the Green Line committee. Last week, she joined with Davison and Sutherland to raise concerns about the cost of the LRT project, and she was part of their call for “a lower-risk, higher-value option for the Green Line and north Calgary.”
But late Friday, Colley-urquhart posted to Twitter: “I’m voting for the Green Line.” She didn’t respond to requests for comment on whether that meant she would support the alignment as it is or with changes.
WARD 14: PETER DEMONG
Demong also didn’t respond to questions late last week about how he planned to vote. He’s been a part of the call to hold off on the Green Line river crossing, and he told Postmedia two weeks ago that he’s worried about being able to get future funding for more LRT.
“If I find out that there is a definite plan going forward, that there’s not going to be a concern about further grants over the next 10 years coming from other levels of government that will continue to build the Green Line out, I think I’ll go back to the original (recommendation),” he said at the time.
“But if this truly is the end of the money for the next 15 to 20 years, then it’s my opinion that we should build one solid line first.”
Ctrain Green Line supporters rally outside Calgary City Hall earlier this month. A key city council vote on the future of the project Monday could be close.