12 July 2015

Calgary's CTrain—embracing green

Fortunately, while our federal government remains a persistent laggard on global warming, the provinces and cities are stepping up. Calgary is no exception. In 2012, the city committed to meeting all its electrical needs from renewable sources. One result was the construction of two wind farms totaling 144 megawatts.

The city relies on a variety of sources—wind, hydro, biomass and solar—but its rapid transit system, the CTrain, is powered 100 per cent by wind. The electrons do not of course run directly from a wind farm to the train, but the power from 12 turbines is committed to the system. Calgary was the first city in the world to have its rapid transit system powered entirely by renewables.

And the system is a great success. It boasts a ridership of 325,000 trips per day. According to Mayor Nenshi, "About 50 per cent of the people who travel downtown every day come downtown by public transit, and the majority of those use the CTrain system.” Toronto still has the highest ridership per capita, but Calgary now leads the country in rapid transit lines per capita.

Furthermore, the train has contributed to denser development around its stations, leading to an environmentally smarter, more compact city. With more people living close to stations, less is spent on transportation, and there is less pollution and road congestion.

According to environmental journalists David Dodge and Duncan Kinney, Calgary's CTrain "is one of the greatest examples of electrified transport in Canada." And, if I may add a personal note, it's fun to ride.

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