Discussions are underway between the municipal governments of Chestermere and Calgary to link the two cities via public transit in 2021.
On Dec. 10, the City of Calgary’s intergovernmental committee agreed to advance negotiations with the City of Chestermere to extend Calgary Transit’s MAX Purple Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) route east to the lakeside city.
According to Chestermere Mayor Marshall Chalmers, there is plenty of demand for a public transportation service between the two communities. He said having access to transit in Chestermere would be a huge benefit for the city’s residents who commute to Calgary for work, its growing senior population and recent high school graduates who commute to Calgary for their post-secondary education.
As well, Chalmers said, many Chestermere residents work or do their shopping at the East Hills Shopping Centre, just west of the city. Currently, that shopping centre is the final stop on the MAX Purple line, which takes passengers east from downtown Calgary along 17th Avenue S.E.
“From day one, there have been lots of requests in the community looking for transit to Calgary,” Chalmers said. “We’ve been diligently looking at what options are there. One is extending the MAX Purple into Chestermere, which currently ends at East Hills. It’s literally a five-minute drive from there into Chestermere.”
Along with public enthusiasm for public transit service, Chalmers said there is support for inter-municipal transit at the council level, as well. Chestermere City council voted to proceed with formal negotiations for a transit connection with Calgary at their Oct. 20 meeting.
Chalmers said the next step is to work out an agreement, including details such as how costs and revenue would be split, where bus routes would be located, how many buses would run the route per day and what the fare structure would be.
“It’s definitely feasible – we’ve been advised to that,” he said. “It’s just about working out the details. Calgary has to formally direct their administration to advance those discussions.”
If a bus connection between the cities comes to fruition, it would mark the first time the City of Calgary extends its public transit system to another municipality, according to Mayor Naheed Nenshi.
“Although we do have regional transit in place with other jurisdictions, I’m not aware that we have ever actually used Calgary Transit as the service provider to provide this transit outside of the city,” he said in a media scrum Dec. 10.
The two largest municipalities in the Rocky View County region – Airdrie and Cochrane – each has its own form of public transit to take residents to and from Calgary. Airdrie Transit includes the Inter-City Express route, which travels to and from downtown Calgary, as well as Route 900, which transports passengers to the Rundle LRT station in northeast Calgary.
Since 2019, the Town of Cochrane has used Cochrane On-demand Local Transit (COLT) for its local public transportation service. While most of the service is locally focused, COLT does take passengers to the Brentwood LRT station in northwest Calgary, though this service is on a temporary hiatus due to pandemic-related restrictions.
Chalmers said a public transit set-up between Calgary and Chestermere would be different from Airdrie’s or Cochrane’s arrangements, as it would take advantage of pre-existing transit infrastructure.
“It seems to us more feasible to extend the service already in place and figure out all the details,” he said.
Considering the City of Calgary already has the buses, bus stops and drivers in place, Chalmers said he believes extending the MAX Purple line a few extra kilometres to Chestermere could come to fruition as early as next year.
“It’s not like they have to increase capital expenditure,” he said. “The buses are already there, the drivers are already there. This is just another five-minute drive on their route.
“We’re really excited for this opportunity. All my discussions to this point make me believe Calgary will see this favourably and advance those discussions.”