Berlin: Boxhagener Flea Market Fashion Show

I was shocked when I learned Berlin's motto is "we are poor, but sexy!" But after a few days flaneuring the city, it is starting to make sense to me. It is a city of grit and glitz.  While there is lots of upscale shopping we love the fact the city is full of flea markets on the weekends, making it very attractive to those of us who love the "thrill of the hunt."  

You never know who you might meet at a flea market.

You never know who you might meet at a flea market.

One Weekend Four Markets

On our first weekend in Berlin, we hit four flea markets and each was very different. The Marheineke Platz Flea Market on Saturday was great, the RAW flohmarket in an abandon railway repair yard was more interesting because of the site, which looked like it had been bombed and the Hallen flohmarket is a huge warehouse packed with junk from floor to ceiling.  

However, the market with the best "poor to sexy" cultural statement was the Boxhagener Platz Flea Market.  After only a few minutes I quickly realized this wasn't your typical flea market as many of the shoppers were dressed very fashionably - no wonder the New York Times recommended it a few years back. 

Yes there was also some fun artifacts to be found at the market. 

Yes there was also some fun artifacts to be found at the market. 

Hommage to Bill

I have long toyed with the idea of doing a blog in the style of the famous New York Times street fashion photographer Bill Cunningham who died at the age of 87, in 2016 (Link: NYT Remembering Bill Cunningham).  

Each week Cunningham would produce a full page collage of curated photos of the fashions he saw New Yorkers wearing on the street. He was often credited with identifying new fashion trends before anyone else.  I will not pretend I am a fashionista, but I do love the flair they add to street life.

So her is my Cunningham inspired curated collages and some stills of Berlin's Boxhagener Platz fashionistas. 

And yes Brenda did find a buried treasure, this 1940s made in Germany scale to add to her collection of scales.  She has also found two others so far.

And yes Brenda did find a buried treasure, this 1940s made in Germany scale to add to her collection of scales.  She has also found two others so far.

Last Word

Now that you have scanned the images go back and have another look not just at the fashions but also at the narratives. As they say, "every picture tells a story." Or as they said in the 1950s Naked City TV show "There are eight million stories in this naked city; this has been one of them."

In the case of Berlin that would be 3.5 million stories; these are just a few.

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Berlin: Postcard Fun #1

Have been in Berlin for only a few days but already it is feeling like home.  Thought I'd share with you a few postcards to give you a flavour of the city which is a bit like Mexico City (old and gritty), a bit like Montreal (street art and murals) and a bit like Austin (graffiti).  

Hope you enjoy.....

Liking the flowmarkets where locals rent tables at their nearby "platz" aka plaza, park, playground and sell stuff.  It is a bit garage sale, a bit flea market.  Good vibe; this guy is getting right into it. 

Liking the flowmarkets where locals rent tables at their nearby "platz" aka plaza, park, playground and sell stuff.  It is a bit garage sale, a bit flea market.  Good vibe; this guy is getting right into it. 

It is hard to take a photograph and not get some graffiti in it. This cropped stained-glass like image was on the window of a gym at night.

It is hard to take a photograph and not get some graffiti in it. This cropped stained-glass like image was on the window of a gym at night.

Graffiti meets poster art, meets street art on this building.

Graffiti meets poster art, meets street art on this building.

This clever work of art is on the retaining wall of one of the canals. Love the way it uses the reflection in the water to enhance the image.

This clever work of art is on the retaining wall of one of the canals. Love the way it uses the reflection in the water to enhance the image.

I am curious to know why this piece of street art is on this very ordinary apartment block. 

I am curious to know why this piece of street art is on this very ordinary apartment block. 

I am a sucker for a steeple...

I am a sucker for a steeple...

Mom this one is for you....

Mom this one is for you....

A lone balcony with a great view of the street life.

A lone balcony with a great view of the street life.

Berlin's iconic garbage cans with their lovely urban patinas?

Berlin's iconic garbage cans with their lovely urban patinas?

The playgrounds in Berlin are all old school.  Loved this banana slide. So did this Dad....this was his third time going down.

The playgrounds in Berlin are all old school.  Loved this banana slide. So did this Dad....this was his third time going down.

I told you the playgrounds were old school.  These look like huge spinning tops.  

I told you the playgrounds were old school.  These look like huge spinning tops.  

Found an amazing warehouse of vintage industrial artifacts and other fun things like this piece of playground equipment in an old nightclub building.  It was very cool. 

Found an amazing warehouse of vintage industrial artifacts and other fun things like this piece of playground equipment in an old nightclub building.  It was very cool. 

Every picture tells a story....wonder what the story is here...

Every picture tells a story....wonder what the story is here...

Evening reflections....

Evening reflections....

Loved this chair...if it had a cushion I am sure we would have found a way to get it home.

Loved this chair...if it had a cushion I am sure we would have found a way to get it home.

This vintage sofa looks like it has been ravaged by urban wolves.

This vintage sofa looks like it has been ravaged by urban wolves.

Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Ohmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Doug Driediger: Public Art That Is Uplifting!

Mexico City would not be the same place without the powerful political murals of Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco and David Alfaro Siqueiros.  Montreal wouldn’t be the same without the colour and playfulness of its street art and murals. 

After visits to Mexico City in 2015 and Montreal in 2016, I have developed a much better appreciation for how murals and street art is important in capturing and expressing a city’s past and present, as well as an important tool in creating a unique sense of place. 

Link: Diego Rivera Murals

Link: Montreal Murals

While Calgary is not known for its murals and street art, I have always admired the work of Doug Driediger.  Many of Calgary old-timers will remember the fun Mona Lisa portrait on the side of the Metrographics building at 1114 - 12th Ave S.W. that included a fun “speech bubble,” so Mona could comment about current affairs in Calgary.  

Dry Cleaners?

When the building beside their office was torn down in the early ‘90s it left a blank wall facing the one-way traffic on 12th Avenue SW. Driediger and his colleagues immediately thought they needed to do something to the wall that would be fun, unique and help market their start-up graphics business. 

Driediger was was inspired by changeable sign on a Dry Cleaners building on Elbow Drive at 50th Ave SW which he use to drive by everyday from his home in the southwest to his Beltline (then Connaught) office. As he thought about options for his wall, he found himself intrigued by the how the Dry Cleaner’s little sign with different information every few days lingered in his mind. He soon realized what he wanted was not something big and showy, but something that created dialogue with people. 

Mona became a cult figure with her comments about the everyday life of staff as well as current affairs in Calgary.  One of the more memorable comments was “Mona is a grandma” after a Metrographics staff member had a baby.  Soon strangers were dropping off gifts for the baby, including one woman who made a hand knit sweater.  Another time it read, “It’s been a bad week, all gifts of chocolate welcomed!” They were quickly bombarded with chocolates. 

When Preston Manning was the leader of the Reform Party he did a flip flop on an issue so Mona’s speech bubble said “Presto Chango. ” A few days later a guy shows up at the front desk saying he wanted to talk to the guy responsible for Mona.  When Doug comes to the front desk, he realizes it is Manning and it turns out he wants to shake Doug’s hand and tell him “That’s Funny!”

Mona disappeared when the Metrographics building was torn down for the construction of Qualex-Landmark's first three Calgary condos – Stella, Nova and Luna – in 2005. 

But Doug did not disappear -  by that time he was a well-established mural painter in Calgary and beyond.

"Giving Wings To The Dream" is a 250' by 120' mural on the east side of the old CUPS building on 7th Ave across from the convention centre. 

"Giving Wings To The Dream" is a 250' by 120' mural on the east side of the old CUPS building on 7th Ave across from the convention centre. 

Murals 

In 1995, he did the “Giving Wings To The Dream” on the side of the former CUPS (Calgary Urban Projects Society) building on 7th Ave SW across from the Convention Centre LRT Station that still stands today (and has never been refreshed).  It depicts a large human hand reaching up (a hand-up, not a hand-out) to a white dove that is flying off into the sky. What a better metaphor for a CUPS, a non profit society that reaches out to Calgarians whose lives are in turmoil to help them turn their lives around.

It also speaks to Calgary’s strong caring society.

It could also be a metaphor for all of the people who have moved to Calgary over the past 100 years with the dream of working hard and being rewarded with a better life – be that the 1910s or the 2010s.

In 1997, Driediger painted a huge 48 by 150 foot mural on the backside of the downtown Petroleum Club visible from the busy 6th Avenue SW. At the time, Reuters reported it as the largest mural in Canada, and perhaps one of the largest in North America. It commemorates the impact of the oil and gas industry on the Alberta with the rig crew at Leduc #1, the original wooden derrick from Turner Valley find, a vintage water truck, and on the left, a farming/ranching scene with a landowner surveying his property, some cattle and pump-jacks all living in harmony.

It testifies the vital role oil and gas and agriculture have had and continue to have in the evolution of Alberta as a place for humans to thrive.

Turner Valley mural on the south side of the Petroleum Club building. 

Turner Valley mural on the south side of the Petroleum Club building. 

“The Promise” is an 18-foot by 60-foot mural created in 1998 on the south wall of the Alex Ferguson School in Killarney where his two daughters went to school. Facing the playground it has nine hands reaching out from the ground to touch or catch a circular object – a ball? a distant planet? perhaps Earth? 

The mural looms over the children as they play at recess, lunch or after school, one can only wonder what impact it has had on the minds of thousands or young children over the years?

"The Promise" dominates the Alex Ferguson's schoolyard. Visible from 17th Ave SW at 26th Street. 

"The Promise" dominates the Alex Ferguson's schoolyard. Visible from 17th Ave SW at 26th Street. 

Post Murals

While you won’t find any new Driediger murals in Calgary (which is a shame) that doesn’t mean he hasn’t been busy. In fact he was so busy I had to wait three months to meet with him to discuss his new work.

He reminded me that since his early murals he has created three murals in High River, two in Stoney Plain and a centennial mural for Sylvan Lake – to name a few.  He told me about the indoor mural ordeal at the Days Inn in downtown Lethbridge where he had to paint on sloping walls and ceiling around a pool using a cherry picker (a hydraulic crane with a railed platform that can be raised and lowered so people can work at variable heights).  He laughed when I said it was his “Sistine Chapel.”

He has also been very active working with Parks Canada creating interpretive murals at various locations that help visitors understand and visualize the uniqueness of the location. 

It is a perfect synergy of his graphic design and fine art skills.  He has worked in remote locations like Kwisitis Visitor Centre in the heart of Pacific Rim National Park on Vancouver Island to Sulphur Mountain Walk in Banff National Park

Rain Forest, one of four linked walls about 20ft by 70 ft in total at Kwisitis Visitor Centre, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve BC. 

Rain Forest, one of four linked walls about 20ft by 70 ft in total at Kwisitis Visitor Centre, Pacific Rim National Park Reserve BC. 

Crossroads?

He is currently working with Parks Canada and Science World Vancouver to create educational murals about how the introduction of “wildlife corridors” have decreased wildlife deaths by 80% or how condo owners can create pollinator gardens to help bees thrive. 

He finds this work both challenging and satisfying.

This spring he will complete a project working with the members of Calgary’s Crossroads community (the name for three north east communities Mayland Heights, Belfast and Vista Heights) to transform 11 utility boxes into works of art. Working with the community and the City of Calgary’s Biologist the theme of “Birds of Calgary” was chosen. 

The community got to vote on their favourite Calgary birds (Robin was #1) and some of the community even got to help with the painting.

Driediger on the left working with the Crossroads community to add some ornamentation to their utility boxes. 

Driediger on the left working with the Crossroads community to add some ornamentation to their utility boxes. 

Test of Time?

Driediger utilizes both his graphic and fine art skills, as well as his business partner John Twaddle’s technology skills to create art that blurs the boundaries between graphic, fine and public art.  

He likes the fact his art can be educational, entertaining and enlightening all at the same time.

I like that all of Driediger’s large scale murals are uplifting, perhaps that is why the public loves them as much today as when they were done 20 years ago. The test for any work of art is how it stands the “test of time.” Driediger’s work passes with flying colours. 

When asked, “if there was a site in Calgary he would like to create a major new mural?” he responded that one of the Crossroads community members thought he should create a mural on the Firestone Tower at the corner of Barlow Trail and Memorial Drive. 

He smirked and said, “I have never done a circular mural.”  I smirked and said, “Never say never!”

Firestone Tower, waiting for a mural?

Firestone Tower, waiting for a mural?

Calgary: Mannequins As Public Art?

On a cold Sunday afternoon I decided to go "chinooking," i.e. flaneuring at Calgary's Chinook Mall (Calgary's largest and one Canada's top malls, home to Nordstrom and soon Saks Fifth Avenue).  

I have to admit it had been years since I have been to the Chinook, but as I had an hour before my Apple store  "iPhone Photography" workshop (how to take stunning photos), I thought why not give my new iPhone7+ a workout.  

As soon as I walked in I was immediately reminded how much I love store windows as fun, funky and sometime provocative art installations.  I was also reminded how surrealistic-looking mannequins are used to make eerie and strange narratives. 

It never ceases to amaze me, what you see when you look closely at the windows. 

Then the light bulb went on - why not do a photo essay focusing on mannequins and womannequins!  So I did....

Womannequins?

Last Word

As I flaneured the mall, from hallway to hallway, from window to window; it was very much like being in a large public art gallery wandering from gallery to gallery. 

While I realize a shopping mall is not a public space, it felt like the mannequins were the equivalent of public statues and installations a form of public art. They were free for everyone to see as part of their everyday experience as much as downtown's Family of Man, Conversation, Famous Five or Wonderland.  

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MAD about Manchester?

With all the communities surrounding Calgary’s downtown becoming more gentrified with new condos, offices, restaurants and cafes people often ask me, “where is the next Sunnyside, Bridgeland or Inglewood?” 

One community that is not on most people’s radar is Manchester.

Urban Grub is the storefront for Indulge Catering Kitchen is just one of the many commercial kitchens in Manchester. 

Urban Grub is the storefront for Indulge Catering Kitchen is just one of the many commercial kitchens in Manchester. 

Where?

Manchester is the no-man’s land between Macleod Trail S.W. and Blackfoot Trail S.E. and from 58th to 34th Ave South.  Most Calgarians know it as a hodgepodge of junkyards, railway tracks, lumberyards, automotive shops, small industrial and a few assorted small office buildings. However, for the urban pioneer, there are lots of hidden gems to be discovered. 

Backstory: Named after the England’s industrial city, Manchester (in the early 20th century it was common practice to give new Calgary communities that would appeal to British immigrants) it was Calgary’s first industrial district, although it did have some residential development and even its own school until 1973. 

A row of small cottage homes that are a reminder of Manchester's residential past. 

A row of small cottage homes that are a reminder of Manchester's residential past. 

A cluster of mid-rise residential towers is developing at the southwest corner of Manchester. 

A cluster of mid-rise residential towers is developing at the southwest corner of Manchester. 

While the Manchester school closed a few years back, there is a lovely community playground. 

While the Manchester school closed a few years back, there is a lovely community playground. 

Castle Toys Calgary's premier toy store calls Manchester home. 

Castle Toys Calgary's premier toy store calls Manchester home. 

Ill-Fated Kustoms is part fashion, part second hand, part motorcycle store in Manchester. 

Ill-Fated Kustoms is part fashion, part second hand, part motorcycle store in Manchester. 

MAD?

Arguably, the first pioneers were Uri Heilik and Rogelio Herrera, who in 2010, opened Alloy Fine Dining in a nondescript building at 220 - 42 Avenue SE.   It immediately became one of Calgary’s go-to restaurants for foodies. So much for the adage, “location, location, location.”  There are no luxury condos nearby, nor any suits with their expense accounts. Seven years later, Alloy remains one of Calgary’s top restaurants. 

Then there’s Christine Klassen who, three years ago, made a bold decision to move her contemporary art gallery from the Beltline’s 11th Avenue Design District to a warehouse space behind an office building at 321 - 50th Avenue SE.  While the location is off the beaten path, the industrial chicness gives it a New York or London gallery look/vibe. 

“Moving to Manchester allowed us to go form 1,900 to 4,600 square feet.  It allowed us to show more artists and to show larger works.  The viewing vistas for the artwork is so much better. We love it here and so do our clients.” says Klassen. 

She even joked she’d love to see more art-oriented businesses open up so it could become the Manchester Art District – MAD for short.

Indeed, a short drive from Klassen’s takes you to the Alberta Printmaker’s Studio and Gallery at 4025, 4th St. SE.  It moved from its Inglewood space to a very fun yellow façade a funky ‘70s warehouse building that looks like a box of Crayola coloured-crayons. The Studio space is perfect for its 60+ members to make their art and a dedicated exhibition space open to the public. They love the location and the fact that right out their back door is Ukrainian Fine Foods.

Drying rack at Alberta Printmaker's Studio. 

Drying rack at Alberta Printmaker's Studio

Klassen’s MAD dream was further enhanced in 2016 when Jarvis Hall Gallery (also a former Beltline gallery) relocated to 333B -6th Ave SE. while not far away from Jarvis Hall is the artisan Banded Peak Brewery (119, 519, 34th Ave S.E.) 

We were sampling late on a Saturday afternoon and the tasting tables were full with people of all ages.  We were told several other small breweries will be opening nearby in the next year.

Jarvis Hall Gallery's Peter von Tiesenahausen exhibition 

Jarvis Hall Gallery's Peter von Tiesenahausen exhibition 

Banded Peak Brewery growlers. 
Manchester provides some unique photo opportunities for artists. 

Manchester provides some unique photo opportunities for artists. 

Baker, Butcher, Bootmaker?

While several of Calgary’s younger entrepreneurs are transforming Manchester from a dusty industrial district to fun, funky and quirky quarter, there are still a few old timers. 

The Calgary Italian Bakery, founded by Luigi and Myrl Bontorin in 1962, and one of the largest independent bakeries in Western Canada, has called Manchester home for 20+ years.  There is a popular small deli on site where you can get a fresh and very tasty, made-to-order classic sandwich. (Hot tip: if you go late on a Saturday afternoon there are some good deals to be had for a buck or less.)

Eric Day not only has rented space in Manchester for his Indulge Catering Kitchen for years, but recently also opened up Urban Grub in the old Sidewalk Citizen space (which moved to East Village’s Simmons Building) offering meals to go. 

Manchester is also home to several large corporate buildings.  CANA, one of Calgary’s oldest companies, has its funky bright yellow trimmed office building just off 58th Ave, while ENMAX’s sprawling head office building is on 50th Ave.  Safeway has a 256,000 square foot cold storage facility for meat and produce. 

And tucked away out of sight at 5340- 1st St SW is the contemporary Southern Alberta Eye Centre building.

Alberta Boot's 2017 collection

Alberta Boot's 2017 collection

Alberta Boot established in 1978 also calls Manchester home.  After 30 years in its Beltline location, it moved to #50, 50th Ave SE.  If you haven’t visited yet, it is a truly hidden gem - part factory, part showroom and part museum.  It is a great place to bring visiting family and friends. 

Did you know they not only make custom boots but also funky men and women’s shoes?   

 

Opps We Got The Wrong Name?

Manchester is also home for 1,332 Calgarians of which a whopping 23% (three times the City’s average) are under the age of 4.  There is a cluster of high-rise apartments near Macleod Trail and 58th Ave, as well as some old cottage homes, many of which have become small cottage businesses.

A huge opportunity for larger scale Transit Oriented Development (TOD) exists next to the 39th Avenue LRT Station, which has to be the most, unfriendly LRT station in North America.  It is almost as if Calgary Transit forgot it is even there.  In fact, it was originally called the 42nd Avenue Station even though it is located at 39th St.

However, it is on the City’s radar and is currently being analyzed to determine how best to capitalize on the opportunity.

North America's ugliest LRT Station.

North America's ugliest LRT Station.

Bakery District

“Manchester feeds Calgary through its network of warehouses, industrial bakeries, food equipment shops, coffee roasters and some nice restaurant finds such as Alloy and Black Apron, in addition to being home to the Calgary Food Bank” says John Gilchrist, Calgary restaurant critic and food writer. 

In some ways, you could call Manchester “the new Beltline”, given all of the businesses that have relocated from the Beltline to Manchester.  While Manchester might have a Walk Score near zero today, in the future it could become a thriving integrated and diverse retail, restaurant, residential and commercial community.   

Could become Calgary’s equivalent of New York City’s Meatpacking District or San Fran’s Tenderloin District. 

It might even become The Bakery District given it is home to the Calgary Italian Bakery, as well as Safeway and Weston’s bakeries, and numerous commercial kitchens.

Perhaps not in my lifetime!

 

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Should Calgary Transit Think Outside the Bus?

As a result of digging into the Calgary Transit’s “Electronic Fare Saga,” I also learned a whole lot more about the other issues that Calgarians and Calgary Transit are facing in a March 2016 report "Calgary Transit Service Delivery Goal Trends and Challenges."

As shown on Figure 1, in 2015 Base service is provided to about 60.4% of Calgary residences and 62.7% of jobs (business addresses). Areas that do not receive a Base level of service contain about 229,000 residents (18% of city population) and 158,000 jobs (18% of Calgary’s total employment) primarily in the developed communities in the northwest, west, southwest and southeast areas where base service levels are not provided. Areas with no transit service tend to be located in the newer areas in the north, northeast, southeast, particularly developing employment areas plus pockets scattered throughout the developed area of city. Some of these pockets are isolated and have sparse developments that are not feasible to serve. (City of Calgary, Transit Service Delivery Goals, Trends and Challenges, March 2016)

As shown on Figure 1, in 2015 Base service is provided to about 60.4% of Calgary residences and 62.7% of jobs (business addresses). Areas that do not receive a Base level of service contain about 229,000 residents (18% of city population) and 158,000 jobs (18% of Calgary’s total employment) primarily in the developed communities in the northwest, west, southwest and southeast areas where base service levels are not provided. Areas with no transit service tend to be located in the newer areas in the north, northeast, southeast, particularly developing employment areas plus pockets scattered throughout the developed area of city. Some of these pockets are isolated and have sparse developments that are not feasible to serve. (City of Calgary, Transit Service Delivery Goals, Trends and Challenges, March 2016)

Base service is a range of transit services (feeder, mainline and cross-town routes) providing service, within 400 metres of 95% of residents and jobs, at least every 30 minutes. In 2015, base service is provided to only about 60.4% of Calgary residences and 62.7% of businesses. 

I was surprised to learn there are thousands of households in 12 different Calgary communities  that no have no service within 5 kilometers and probably won’t have for a few years.

I can understand that new communities might have to wait for schools, libraries and recreation centers, but I have to wonder why the City would approve the development of a new community if they know they don’t have the money to provide reasonable transit service.

I wasn’t surprised to learn that most bus routes after 9 pm operate at less than 20% capacity (i.e. less than 12 people per bus). My observations over the years have found that in off peak times it is more like 5 or 6.

For a long time I have wondered if there isn’t a better way to provide transit service on low ridership routes.  What if taxis, Uber drivers and/or car2go vehicles waiting at the LRT Stations were somehow included in the transit fare so C-Train riders could just hop in and get home rather than waiting for a bus that comes every 30 minutes?

I then started thinking of lots of questions?

Would it be more cost effective for the city to just tendered out transit service to taxis, Uber or car2go from C-Trains Stations late at night? 

Would it make sense to replace some low occupancy bus routes with taxis and Uber service to the nearest C-Train Station at night?   

Would it be cost effective to tender out transit service to new communities to taxis and Uber, while a community grows in size to warrant transit service?

Would the Taxi/Uber option be cost effective on low ridership routes on the weekends?

Benefits

I hazard a guess to say transit users would love the door-to-door, on-demand service at night, especially in the winter. Waiting in the dark and cold is no fun.

Increased C-Train ridership at night as a result of Calgarians being picked up at home and driven to the closest C Train or picked up at the LRT Station and driven home could result in increased train service, yielding a win-win situation.

As well, it would be more environmentally friendly as buses wouldn’t be driving around empty and taxis and Uber drivers would be busy driving people, rather than sitting idling polluting the air while waiting for a fare.

Taxi drivers get a new client base, maybe making up for the Uber competition.

There could also be an increase in transit use by car owners with the added comfort and convenience of door-to-door on-demand service. Fewer cars on the road would be a good thing.

The records of the taxi and Uber drivers would provide the City with valuable information for future transit planning.

And yes, it should save the taxpayer money.

Research Says…..

In fact Miami, Denver, Quebec City and Phoenix already have partnerships with private companies (Uber, Lyft) to transport customers to and from transit services in low ridership areas or during times of low ridership (evenings & weekends).

Perhaps a pilot project in Calgary is warranted based on the lessons learned from these other cities.  

Link: First Mile/Last Mile Programs

Last Word

Perhaps it is time to think outside the bus.

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Calgary Transit: The Electronic Fare Saga

Ever since Mayor Nenshi said “Please, please, please, tell me you’re going to those cities not just to spend money looking at their smartcard systems,” when Council was informed (November 2016) Calgary Transit officials were headed to Vancouver, Salt Lake City and Philadelphia, I have wondered why Calgary can’t just buy somebody’s smartcard technology and get on with it.

So after a few months of asking around and doing some digging, I’ve discovered that despite all the customer conveniences that an electronic fare system offers, developing the system isn’t as easy as one might think. 

And it doesn’t come cheap. 

What I learned

The use of electronic fare systems has evolved in leaps and bounds over the past five years.  Many of the early systems were not very reliable.  Many transit systems have moved to electronic fares, but with mixed success.  

Other systems of similar size to Calgary Transit with fare electronic cards include Seattle, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Miami, Cleveland, Salt Lake and Phoenix.  There is also a good system in Saskatoon.  Many have experienced high costs to implement their systems and glitches in implementation.  Winnipeg’s smart card system know as peggo was 10 years in the development, before being launched in 2016.

In all fairness to Calgary Transit, there is much to be learned from these other cities. 

Over Promise, Under Deliver

The cost of a full fare card system appears to be in the $40 to $70 million range with implementation times of up to or exceeding 4-years due to the complexity of the systems involved. I have learned the reliability of such a system is more complicated to develop since payment card standards are changing and the reliability of on-board electronic equipment using GPS is difficult to achieve.  The systems are notorious for errors which result in lost revenue - even 0.5% loss of revenue is significant for any transit system.  

It seems too many systems over promise and under deliver.

Link: Florida Department of Transportation  Mobile Fare Report

Advantages/Disadvantages

The advantage of the current cash / ticket / pass system is its reliability. Customers pay a fare and transit gets the money. Cost for printing, distribution, vender commissions, and cash/ticket handling is low.

On the negative side, the disadvantages of our current fare system is that it makes introducing more flexible (e.g. sliding scale of single fares based on usage) or distance-based fares very difficult or impossible.

An advantage of a smart card system is it removes the burden on the customer to plan ahead to have exact change or having to purchase books of tickets or monthly passes in advance. 

As for the electronic system, not only does the technology cost millions, but on top of that, is the transaction fee from the finance provider for each transaction plus the cost of maintaining the equipment, software and accounting.

“New” technology

In fact, the standard of a transit system-only fare card is already outdated.  New fare systems are being developed using credit or debit cards or smart phones to pay fares. These latest systems remove the operating burden from the transit system and take advantage of cards already in customer’s wallets. 

Promises! Promises! Show me the card!

Edmonton Transit is getting close to implementing a Smart Fare card system. Hmmmm….perhaps they would like to share their technology, after all, we are living in a sharing society. 

Wouldn’t it have made sense for Calgary and Edmonton to have gotten together 10 years ago to develop a made in Alberta card and share the costs?  Why can’t we work together?

Today we could be exporting smart fare technology rather than importing it?

After posting this blog several readers suggested that perhaps we can do a swap with Edmonton or another City, we can give them our ParkPlus technology and they can give us their smartcard technology. Sounds like a good idea to me. 

Link: Edmonton Smart Fare

Something To Think About

As an entrepreneurial city, full of engineers and software developers you would have thought Calgary would be a leader and early adopter in the field of electronic fares.

Perhaps we are just not that smart?  Or maybe we are…. as early adopters often get burned!

If you like this blog, you will like:

Everyday Tourist: Transit Tales

Calgary Transit: The Good & The Ugly 

7th Ave Transit Corridor: Good but not great

 

 

 

Calgary's Downtown GLOWS with fun!

You gotta go!

I am giving GLOW Calgary's new family-friendly interactive light festival an 8 out of 10. I hope these photos and videos will tell you why.

It is just too much fun for everyone. 

GLOW light shows happen 6:30 to 11:00 pm Saturday Feb 18, Sunday 19th and Monday 20th.  

GLOW maps and more information at DowntownCalgary

"Nibbles" by Australia's Amanda Peer, is an installation of cuddly illuminated bunnies that appeals to the toddlers and anyone who is young at heart. Hotchkiss Gardens

Canada 150 glowing tricycle was going up and down Stephen Avenue. 

Canada 150 glowing tricycle was going up and down Stephen Avenue. 

"Chopsticks + Chandelier" by Toronto's Jeremy Tsang is located at James Short Park near Chinatown.  

"Chopsticks + Chandelier" by Toronto's Jeremy Tsang is located at James Short Park near Chinatown.  

Even the people were glowing at Olympic Plaza. 

Even the people were glowing at Olympic Plaza. 

Rabbit Down? 

Rabbit Down? 

Top Three Picks:

  • Harley Hotchkiss Gardens is centre ice (Festival Hub) for GLOW with a fun family of glowing bunny rabbits, TROPICALGARY (a dancing light show with music), "Light Shower" booth and warming igloo (for kids only).
  • The Door at Eight Avenue Place's (9th Ave plaza) was a fun surprise for kids of all ages.
  • Olympic Plaza’s PRISMATICA should become a permanent winter installation on the plaza or somewhere in the downtown. 

Other Downtown Delights!

Downtown Calgary's other public art came alive with young children exploring them. 

Downtown Calgary's other public art came alive with young children exploring them. 

Downtown's glimmering and shimmering glass towers become jewel-like at night. 

Downtown's glimmering and shimmering glass towers become jewel-like at night. 

A stain glass window that is almost invisible by day glows at night. 

A stain glass window that is almost invisible by day glows at night. 

Wonderland, aka The BIG Head, on the plaza of the Bow office tower is transformed into a ghostly image at night. 

Last Word

I have to admit I was jealous, of Montreal’s amazing winter light shows, outdoor movies, interactive playgrounds scattered throughout their city center when we visited this past December. Montreal's En Lumiere festival takes place Feb 23rd to March 11th, 2017. 

Link: Montreal En Lumiere

However, I was very pleased to learn in January that the Calgary Downtown Association and Canada 150 had teamed up to produce GLOW a free family-friendly winter light festival for our Family Day Weekend. It didn’t disappoint. 

Now if only we can make GLOW an annual winter event and grow it into a major North American winter event. 

I’d love to see more use made of the making our spectacular office buildings GLOW in the night.

This image a photo of PRISMATICA was combined with the reflection of Eight Avenue Place on the facade of 707 Fifth office tower using the app "UNION."   I am thinking there is technology that could transform our downtown office buildings into unique colourful glowing artworks all winter long. 

This image a photo of PRISMATICA was combined with the reflection of Eight Avenue Place on the facade of 707 Fifth office tower using the app "UNION."  

I am thinking there is technology that could transform our downtown office buildings into unique colourful glowing artworks all winter long. 

City Travel: Canada vs. USA

Editor’s Note: This the second of a two-part blog looking at how Canadian cities like Edmonton, Winnipeg compare to places like New Orleans and Chicago as alternative urban travel destinations given the turmoil in the USA. The first blog compared Calgary to Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver and Seattle, as hipster cities.

Link: Calgary vs. Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver & Seattle

Recently, MetroNews published an article looking at what Canadian cities tourists might consider visiting this year rather than American cities, given the current turmoil in the USA.

While MetroNews picked off the obvious ones I thought it would be fun to share suggestions that might not be so obvious.

Link: "Don’t want to travel to the U.S. Visit these Canadian cities instead"

Edmonton

For those thinking New Orleans would be a fun place to visit, you might want to consider Edmonton - Canada’s Festival City.  New Orleans is known for its laid-back culture and year-round festival atmosphere, much like Edmonton where in the summer, they host back-to-back-to-back festivals… Jazz Festival, Folk Festival, Blues Festival, Street Performers Festival, The Works Art & Design Festival and the grand daddy of all  - the Fringe Festival, one of the largest of its kind in the world.

Edmonton also boasts some spectacular contemporary architecture – Rogers Place arena, Art Gallery of Alberta and their City Hall.  Their river valley is spectacular too.

And then there is something called the West Edmonton Mall.

Link: Edmonton Tourism

Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

Sample the butter tarts at Edmonton's Duchess Bake Shop at 10720 - 124th St.  Edmonton is home to several delicious bakeries. 124th St. it a fun pedestrian district.

124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants. 

124th Street is also home to several galleries, boutiques and restaurants. 

Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

Rogers Place is the new home of the Edmonton Oilers hockey team and the anchor for their downtown's new sports and entertainment district called ICE district.  Next door is the new provincial museum. 

Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Edmonton is known for its big summer festivals, however there are also fun street festivals almost every weekend in the summer.

Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

Who doesn't like old fashion root beer delivered in a vintage truck. 

City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

City Market is the anchor for Edmonton's budding Brewery District. 

Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's east-side Quarters District. It is an architectural jewel. 

Hyatt Place Hotel is the anchor for Edmonton's east-side Quarters District. It is an architectural jewel. 

Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

Edmonton's Art Gallery of Alberta is located across the street from Churchill Square which hosts public events all summer long. 

Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Whyte Ave. is Edmonton's "bobo" district! 

Winnipeg

While MetroNews chose Toronto as an alternative to Chicago, what about Winnipeg? In fact, in the early 20th century, Chicago was worried Winnipeg would usurp it as the major transportation hub of the midwest.  Winnipeg’s Exchange District has one of the best collection of early 20th century architecture in North America. 

Visitors will love the Forks with its Human Rights Museum, Children’s Museum, Children’s Theatre, creative playground and one of the best minor league ballparks in North America. There is also the must-see Art Gallery of Winnipeg (largest collection of Inuit Art in Canada) and Assiniboine Park’s Polar Bear exhibit. 

And while Winnipeg doesn’t have a lake with a beautiful beach downtown, Grand Beach is just an hour away and it is a “sight for sore eyes“ (in a good way) in the summer.

Link: Visit Winnipeg

Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

Winnipeg has lots of great ethnic bakeries and restaurants. Our favourite is Stella's (named after the owner's cat). 

Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

Esplande Riel bridge links The Forks with Winnipeg's historic french community of St. Bonaface with its St. Boniface Cathedral historical site. 

Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

Winnipeg is famous for having the world's longest skating rink with warming huts designed by international artists and architects including Frank Gehry and Anish Kapoor. 

The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

The Polar Bear exhibit at Assiniboine Park is awesome. The park also has an art gallery, sculpture garden, creative kids playground and lovely restaurant.

Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

Public art is prominent in downtown Winnipeg.

In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

In 1971, the Winnipeg Art Gallery moved into its uber modern building designed by Canadian architects Gustavo da Roza and Isadore Coop, long before it became trendy to create iconic/signature art galleries. 

Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

Winnipeg's Exchange District is a fun place to explore or just hangout.

It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

It is fun to explore downtown and discover the ghost signs and murals. 

Montreal

After a recent trip to Montreal, I think it would make a great alternative not only to Chicago, but also to Boston, Philadelphia or San Francisco.  Montreal has its mojo back and this year is celebrating its 350 anniversary, making it one of the oldest cities in North America.  Old Montreal is like walking back a hundred years in time, as are its two major public markets - Atwater and Jean Talon.

Like Edmonton, it too is a huge festival city. The Montreal Jazz Festival should be on everyone’s bucket list. The Black & Blue Festival is one of the world’s largest gay festivals (Montreal’s Gay Village along St. Catherine St. East has a great evening vibe).  They even have Mural Festival to celebrate their extensive collection of street art.

Don’t rule out Montreal for a winter visit either. That’s when they light up the night with Montreal En Lumiere and Nuit Blanche festivals. Indeed the lights are much brighter in downtown Montreal.

Montreal is a joy to wander any time of the year and see what you discover; fun surprises lurk around every corner.  Real urban explorers will want to test their skills at navigating the 30+ km underground tunnel system that connects hundreds of downtown buildings.

I can’t say enough good things about Montreal as a tourist destination.

Link: Tourism Montreal 

Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

Montreal has the coolest streetscapes. 

Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre). 

Check out the fun cinema walls in Montreal's Place des arts (performing arts centre). 

Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

Montreal is a mecca for artists and artisans. 

Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

Montreal has been an international fashion centre for decades. 

Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

Montreals murals and street art create fun surprises as you wander the city.

Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

Montreal's two markets add a very European flavour to the city.

Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Montreal could be a stand-in for New York with its bagel culture. 

Victoria

Victoria could be a very good alternative to anyone thinking about heading to San Diego.  Its charming harbor, beaches, vibrant food and café culture, quaint antique district and world-class museum have won many people over. 

Shoppers too will love wandering the shops in downtown, Chinatown and Oak Bay. Two downtown hidden gems are the downtown Value Village (we always find great art there) and Capital Iron next door.  The Super Chance consignment shop in James Bay Village is a must visit, for treasure hunters preferring more of a curated collection of “finds.” We have almost always found something wonderful there.

The Ross Bay Cemetery is a fascinating experience where you can visit the gravesite of artist Emily Carr (Canada’s Georgia O’Keefe).  Across the street is the Dallas Road beach, a great place for beachcombers and to watch kite surfers. 

If a more traditional sand beach is more to your liking, head to Willow Beach with its view of Mount Baker.  Just a few blocks away on Estevan Avenue is quaint Willows Village where you will find the funky Crumsby’s Café (family fun) and the tiny Willow Galley (fish & chips shack).

Link: Tourism Victoria

Victoria collage.

Victoria collage.

Victoria's beach life.

Victoria's beach life.

Victoria's waterfront.

Victoria's waterfront.

Ross Bay Cemetery.

Ross Bay Cemetery.

Toronto / Vancouver

Both Toronto and Vancouver could be excellent alternatives to New York City, Los Angeles and Miami.  Home to world-class shopping, museums, restaurants, cafes, festivals and architecture, both have a lively urban joie de vivre.   

Link: Tourism Toronto

Link: Vancouver Tourism

Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Frank Gehry's facade gallery at the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

Toronto's City Centre is blessed with several urban villages with active street life. 

Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall in the foreground and CN Tower in the background. 

Vancouver's beach life.

Vancouver's beach life.

Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

Vancouver was an early adopter of the food truck movement. 

An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

An impromptu Vancouver street market / garage sale that we stumbled into was too much fun.

Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Vancouver was one of the first cities to build an spectacular downtown library as part of an urban renewal project. 

Last Word

So as you begin to finalize your travel plans for 2017 - Canada’s 150th birthday year – there is not better time to “Think Canada.”

If you like this blog, you will like:

Museum of Fine Arts Montreal: A Hands On Tour

Battle of Alberta: Urban Design 

The Forks vs East Village

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What does "Smarter Growth" mean?

We have likely all read or heard the term “smart growth” but do we know what the term means? Smart Growth America defines smart growth as “an approach to development that encourages a mix of building types and uses, diverse housing and transportation options, development within existing neighbourhoods, and community engagement.”  

Makes sense.  Seems reasonable.

The devil is in the details.

In Calgary, the Smarter Growth Initiative website (smartergrowth.ca) is the work of BILD Calgary Region, the new name for the recent amalgamation of the Calgary Home Builders’ Association and the Urban Development Institute.

If you are at all interested in urban development or city building in Calgary, check this site out.  It is full of articles written in plain English covering almost every urban development or city building topic you can imagine. While some of the articles may be a bit too simplistic for some (writing for the public is a delicate balance between too much and too little information), in my opinion most Calgarians will benefit from the clear, concise and credible information presented.

It a also a great place to learn about the various acronyms that developers, planners and politicians throw around - like MGA (Municipal Government Act), MDP (Municipal Development Plan) or MAC (Major Activity Centre). Here, these and more are explained in layman’s language.

Everything You Need To Know

Want to understand the Calgary’s infrastructure saga? If so, there is a great article entitled “Who Pays For What?” outlining who pays for roads and pathways, streetlights, public spaces, traffic lights, sound barriers, water, sewer and other utilities. Dig deeper and you can download a Deputy City Manager’s Office Report to Council that details the new off-site levies bylaw and all the rates. It will be an interesting read for some.

Interested in Affordable Housing? The video,“4 Factors In Housing Affordability” is worth watching. Want to know more about the benefits of mixed-use developments, or what placemaking is or the new energy codes of Alberta Homes? Links to articles on these subjects and more can be found on the home page.

Or, click on the “Innovation” tab and you can read articles about “A Natural Cure For Urban Stress,” “Centres of Innovation,” and “Do tiny homes have a future in Canada?”

On the Policy page, you can read what Councillor Farrell thinks about growth, what Guy Huntingford, CEO, BILD Calgary Region thinks about the housing crunch or how to make sense of developer levies.

The Development page has instructive pieces like, “Main Streets YYC,” “Innovation in a New Complete Community,” “Designing Streets for Safety” and “Secondary Suites With A Difference.”

There is even a Smarter Growth Initiative newsletter that you can sign up for, which will keep you posted on new development news as it unfolds.

Something To Think About

The stated goal of the Smarter Growth Initiative is “to engage Calgarians in dialogue on the topics affecting planning and development.”  Given the municipal election this fall, it would be wise for all Calgarians to educate themselves about how Calgary can grow smarter.

Note: This blog was commissioned by the Smarter Growth Initiative. However, they had no influence on its content.  

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What is urban living? Who really cares?

80% of Calgarians must live in the 'burbs

Calgary's Growth Revisited: Greg Morrow University of Calgary

Calgary = Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver or Seattle

For decades Canadian cities have stood-in for American cities in movies. That soon may be true for tourists too. 

Recently, MetroNews published a piece looking at what Canadian cities tourists might consider visiting this year rather than American cities given the turmoil south of the border these days.

Calgary's Stephen Avenue Walk at noon hour is packed with people strolling the pedestrian mall. It is lined with shops, restaurants, vendors and patios.  (photo credit: Jeff Trost)

Calgary's Stephen Avenue Walk at noon hour is packed with people strolling the pedestrian mall. It is lined with shops, restaurants, vendors and patios.  (photo credit: Jeff Trost)

The Core shopping centre links Calgary's historic Hudson Bay department store with the flagship Holt Renfew fashion center.

The Core shopping centre links Calgary's historic Hudson Bay department store with the flagship Holt Renfew fashion center.

While MetroNews picked off the obvious ones i.e. if you want to go to San Francisco go to Vancouver. If you are thinking Chicago, think Toronto. If thinking Washington Ottawa would be a good alternative. And Quebec City is Canada’s equivalent to New Orleans while Halifax is our Boston. 

However, given my travel experience, I thought I’d share my suggestions that might not be so obvious.

Link: Don’t want to travel to the U.S. Visit these Canadian cities instead

You never know what you might encounter on Calgary's the River Walk in East Village. 

You never know what you might encounter on Calgary's the River Walk in East Village. 

Yes, Calgary has funky salvage yards (Ramsay) and flea markets (Hillhurst) for the urban scavenger. 

Yes, Calgary has funky salvage yards (Ramsay) and flea markets (Hillhurst) for the urban scavenger. 

One measure of a cool city is how fun are their window displays. 

One measure of a cool city is how fun are their window displays. 

When in Calgary, shop where Cher shops when she is in town. 

When in Calgary, shop where Cher shops when she is in town. 

Calgary 

If you are considering a trip to Austin, Portland, Nashville, Denver or Seattle might want to consider Calgary (you could add in Dallas and Houston, but that seems too obvious).  Politics aside, dollar-wise, a Canadian destination makes good sense.

Like Austin, Calgary’s vibrant City Centre with has lots of shops, café and restaurants and funky urban streets. While Austin’s outdoor playground is Ladybird Lake, Calgary’s is its two pristine rivers that form the hub for its 700+km of pathways and 5,200 parks. Yes, bring your bike, as this year will see the completion of the 138 km Rotary/Mattamy Greenway, a multi-use pathway that circles the city. Walking, running or cycling along the Bow River through downtown is the quintessential Calgary experience. 

Calgarians love to get out and enjoy their 325 days of sunshine. Downtown's Calatrava Peace Bridge is a popular spot. 

Calgarians love to get out and enjoy their 325 days of sunshine. Downtown's Calatrava Peace Bridge is a popular spot. 

Calgary's Elbow River is a popular padding, rafting and swimming spot. 

Calgary's Elbow River is a popular padding, rafting and swimming spot. 

Further along the Elbow River locals enjoy the grass beach at Stanley Park. 

Further along the Elbow River locals enjoy the grass beach at Stanley Park. 

St. Patrick's Island Park is Calgary newest urban playground.

St. Patrick's Island Park is Calgary newest urban playground.

Hipsters vs GABEsters

While Austin and Portland are known for its known for their hipster hang-outs, Calgary is a mecca for GABEsters (young geologists, accountants, bankers, brokers and engineers) who love to play just as hard as they work. You will want to check out places like Bridgeland’s Cannibales - barbershop, cocktail bar, sandwich shop. 

Link: Calgary & Austin: Sister Cities?

Even in the winter, Calgary's GABEsters like chill-out 17th Avenue's patios.  This photo was taken in mid-March at the Ship & Anchor which is perhaps the heart of Calgary's hipster community. 

Even in the winter, Calgary's GABEsters like chill-out 17th Avenue's patios.  This photo was taken in mid-March at the Ship & Anchor which is perhaps the heart of Calgary's hipster community. 

Calgary has one of the largest cosplay festivals in Canada, including a fun parade through the streets of downtown. 

Calgary has one of the largest cosplay festivals in Canada, including a fun parade through the streets of downtown. 

Music Cities

While both Austin and Nashville boast world-class music scenes, Calgary is on the cusp of becoming a very interesting music city.  The new mega National Music Centre museum is a must-see – one of the world’s largest collection of keyboard instruments including Elton John’s piano. for anyone interested in the history of Canadian Music.  Calgary’s boasts two lively Saturday afternoon blues jams- one at Mikey’s Juke Joint and one at Blues Can – both happen at 3 pm. Plan your visit properly you can attend Ironwood’s Big Band brunch. (Learn more about Calgary’s Big Band scene)

Link: Calgary: A Big Band Haven

Calgary’s year-round music festival includes Sled Island Music & Arts Festival, X-fest, Country Thunder, Calgary International Folk Festival, Calgary International Blues Festival, One Love Music Festival (Western Canada’s largest hip-hop festival), ReggaeFest, and Honens International Piano Competition just to name a few.  

Plan carefully and you won’t be disappointed.

Calgary is home to dozens of live music venues along its Music Mile. 

Calgary is home to dozens of live music venues along its Music Mile. 

Calgary's International Folk Festival on Prince's Island lets you get up close and personal with the performers. 

Calgary's International Folk Festival on Prince's Island lets you get up close and personal with the performers. 

Calgary International Folk Festival's Main Stage on the lovely Prince's Island. 

Calgary International Folk Festival's Main Stage on the lovely Prince's Island. 

Urban Villages

While Portland is the darling of many urban planners, Calgary actually has as much or more to offer when it comes to quirky urban villages. While Portland its Pearl District, Calgary has Kensington, Mission, Bridgeland, Inglewood, 17th Ave and the Beltline (perhaps the hipster capital of North America?). 

Denver has its popular 16th Street Mall, while Calgary has Stephen Avenue Walk that is lined with shops, restaurants and patios.  It is home to the historic Hudson Bay store (Canada’s iconic department store), the Core shopping centre, a flagship Holt Renfrew store and the Glenbow Museum.

Like Denver, Calgary’s City Centre is also home to 100+ public artworks; they are literally everywhere – from parks to plazas, from pathways to office lobbies. 

Link: Calgary vs Denver: Two Thriving City Centres

Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" sculpture of a young girl's head allows you to walk inside and see Calgary's urban landscape from a unique perspective.

Jaume Plensa's "Wonderland" sculpture of a young girl's head allows you to walk inside and see Calgary's urban landscape from a unique perspective.

Calgary is home to several street artists. 

Calgary is home to several street artists. 

Calgary's City Centre is full of lovely public art, parks and plazas each with their own character and charm. 

Calgary's City Centre is full of lovely public art, parks and plazas each with their own character and charm. 

We like to put the PUBLIC into our public art. 

We like to put the PUBLIC into our public art. 

Our Tower Is Taller

If you like Seattle for its tower, the Calgary Tower is taller.  If you like Seattle for MoPOP (Museum of Pop Culture), Calgary has the aforementioned National Music Centre, which by the way was designed by a Portland architect. Heritage Posters and Music if you are into collectables or Recordland if into vinyl.

If you like coffee and café culture, Calgary is a hidden gem with a number of local roasteries and independent cafes. Maybe start with Monogram Coffee, co-founder Benjamin Put placed third in the World Barista Championship (2016 and 2015).

You will also want to check out Phil & Sebastians in the Simmons Building in East Village.

Purple Perk has been a popular coffee house in Mission for years.

Purple Perk has been a popular coffee house in Mission for years.

Cafe Beano is popular with both the artists and GABEsters.

Cafe Beano is popular with both the artists and GABEsters.

The Oak Tree's patio is a popular chill spot in Kensington Village.

The Oak Tree's patio is a popular chill spot in Kensington Village.

Food Fun

Calgary like Seattle, Portland and Austin is becoming a culinary destination with the several of the best new Canadian restaurants opening over the past 10 years. 

In fact, Chef Jinhee Lee recently won the 2017 Canadian Culinary Championship. And not only is the food good but so are the settings – Calgary Tower with a revolving restaurant offers up spectacular, city, prairie and mountain views with fine dining.

Or you can dine in the 100+ year Deane House downtown or the majestic Bow Valley Ranch in Fish Creek Park (one of the largest urban parks in the world.)  River Café on an island downtown in the middle of the Bow River offer some of the best Rocky Mountain cuisine anywhere.

Link: Calgary: Eat Like A Local

10 restaurants, 7 courses and 280 people enjoy dinner on Stephen Avenue's really really really long table. 

10 restaurants, 7 courses and 280 people enjoy dinner on Stephen Avenue's really really really long table. 

A typical lunch on Stephen Avenue Walk

A typical lunch on Stephen Avenue Walk

Best & Biggest Parks

Yes Calgary also boasts some of the best and biggest parks in North America including one of the world’s largest public skateboard parks. 

And the Calgary Zoo located on a downtown island in the Bow River (one of the best fly fishing rivers in the world) is simply bucolic.

On Sunday our fishermen like to get dressed-up.  

On Sunday our fishermen like to get dressed-up.  

The Eau Claire Promenade is a strollers paradise. 

The Eau Claire Promenade is a strollers paradise. 

It is also home to some amazing used bookstores, one of North America's largest performing arts centers and one of Canada's largest history/art museums - Enough said? 

Link: Tourism Calgary

Last Word

Stay tuned… the next blog will look at how visits to Canadian cities like Winnipeg and Edmonton compare to Chicago and New Orleans.

Editor's Note: All of the photos in this blog were taken within 3 km of downtown. 

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Montreal vs Calgary: Underground City vs Above Ground City!

With the arrival of -20C temperatures, Calgary’s +15 walkway becomes the best thing since sliced bread for downtown workers and patrons.

However, that’s not how many urban planners in Calgary, Minneapolis, Edmonton and Winnipeg see it. Many think skyways are a bad idea because they suck the life out of the streets BELOW.  

Montreal's Desjardin Complex lobby is an indoor town square, complete with a dancing fountain and year-round programming. 

Montreal's Desjardin Complex lobby is an indoor town square, complete with a dancing fountain and year-round programming. 

Calgary's Bankers Hall lobby is magical at Christmas, but lacks the public programming space to make it vibrant evenings and weekends.

Calgary's Bankers Hall lobby is magical at Christmas, but lacks the public programming space to make it vibrant evenings and weekends.

+15 should be celebrated

I have always been a big defender of Calgary’s +15, believing that in good weather people love go outside, but in bad weather they love a coat-free way to get meetings, lunch or a coffee, or shop.  The +15 system in Calgary is also the best place to bump into that friend or business associate you have been meaning to call. (These observations are based on 10+ years as the Executive Director of the Calgary Downtown Association).

I have also been touting Montreal’s world famous Underground City (a 32-km network of tunnels connecting offices, hotels, shopping, entertainment complexes and subway stations) used by 500,000 people a day as an example of how indoor and outdoor urban vitality can co-exist. I don’t recall ever hearing a planner say Montreal should abandon its network of tunnels because they suck the life out of the streets ABOVE.

Not having been to Montreal for several years, I decided it was time to reacquaint myself on how Montreal’s “Underground City” compares to Calgary’s “Above Ground City” and its impact on street vitality.

Link: Fun Facts Montreal's Underground City

The Tour

Thanks to Tourism Montreal, I got hooked up with Thom Seivewright, a Montreal Expert (it says so on his business card) who regularly conducts tours of Montreal’s Underground City. We met at the information counter at street level at their Eaton Centre, just off St. Catherine Street (Montreal’s historic downtown shopping street) for an a-mazing (pun intended) whirlwind two-hour tour of the Underground City.

Tom standing beside one of the few Underground Maps showing all of the buildings that are linked by tunnels as well as to the METRO subway. 

Tom standing beside one of the few Underground Maps showing all of the buildings that are linked by tunnels as well as to the METRO subway. 

Am I that out of touch?

To be accurate, since rebranding in 2004, it’s called RESO (the word “reseau” means “network” in French and the “O” refers to METRO, the name of the subway). This was the first I have heard of the new name.

I am going to continue to call it the Underground City – expert Thom thinks that is a better name and I agree.

We quickly headed down the stairs (little did I know this would be the first of thousands of stairs and dozens of escalator rides), as the Underground City is a complex network of underground tunnels and street level lobbies. 

At first, it looked much like Calgary’s +15 with familiar franchise shops, food courts and a moderate number of people – it was 10 am.  As we walked briskly through the system of tunnels, Thom informed and entertained with stories about how the Underground City evolved tunnel-by-tunnel and new building-by-new building, not unlike Calgary’s +15. 

One of the hundreds of stairs and elevators that you must negotiate when exploring Montreal's Underground City.

One of the hundreds of stairs and elevators that you must negotiate when exploring Montreal's Underground City.

Calgary's The Core shopping centre is three blocks long with a huge glass skylight, creating an contiguous shopping experience, with sky bridges at both the second and third floors. Yes, there are some stairs and ramps to negotiate. 

Calgary's The Core shopping centre is three blocks long with a huge glass skylight, creating an contiguous shopping experience, with sky bridges at both the second and third floors. Yes, there are some stairs and ramps to negotiate. 

Busking in one of Montreal's tunnels.

Busking in one of Montreal's tunnels.

A busker belting out a song in Calgary's +15 bridge. 

A busker belting out a song in Calgary's +15 bridge. 

Tom beside a piece of the Berlin Wall located in a tunnel in Montreal's Quarter International. 

Tom beside a piece of the Berlin Wall located in a tunnel in Montreal's Quarter International. 

A Jack Shadbolt painting is just one of several original artworks by major Canadian artists (including Montreal's Riopelle) located in the lobby of Calgary's Eight Avenue Place. 

A Jack Shadbolt painting is just one of several original artworks by major Canadian artists (including Montreal's Riopelle) located in the lobby of Calgary's Eight Avenue Place. 

Similarities

Montreal’s Underground City started in 1962 when the owners of the iconic Place Ville-Marie office tower with a shopping center at street level wanted to connect to the upscale Queen Elizabeth Hotel (the site of John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Bed-In in 1969) across the street via a tunnel.  

Calgary’s +15 system was first discussed in 1963, (though it wasn’t realized until 1970) with the first bridge also connecting an office tower (Calgary Place) and a hotel (Calgary Inn, now the Westin).

Today, Montreal’s Underground includes all the major downtown office complexes -Eaton Centre, Cours Mont-Royal, Complexe Les Ailes, Place Montreal Trust, Place Ville-Marie, World Trade Centre Montreal and Complex Desjardins. 

The same goes for Calgary, where the +15 connects Bankers Hall, Bow Valley Square, The Bow, Eighth Avenue Place, Scotia Centre, Sun Life Towers, TD Square Towers, Canada Trust Tower and Suncor Energy Centre. 

And just like Calgary’s +15, Montreal’s Underground also has some gaps and its east side arts district (which includes the City’s convention centre) is not well connected to downtown’s main shopping and office complexes.

Both cities’ networks also include thousands of shops, cafes and food courts, on multi-levels, public art and interesting urban design elements, as well as “sketchy” areas at their peripheries.

Montreals Eaton's Centre lobby 

Lobby art in Calgary's Jamieson Place office tower. 

Lobby art in Calgary's Jamieson Place office tower. 

Fine dining in Montreal's World Trade Centre office building.

Fine dining in Montreal's World Trade Centre office building.

"Grab & go" lunch in Calgary's Bankers Hall.

"Grab & go" lunch in Calgary's Bankers Hall.

Montreal's World Trade Center tower is an indoor oasis of old world charm.  

Montreal's World Trade Center tower is an indoor oasis of old world charm.  

Calgary's equivalent would be Jamieson Place's winter garden with its infinity ponds, Dale Chihuly glass sculptures and living wall. 

Calgary's equivalent would be Jamieson Place's winter garden with its infinity ponds, Dale Chihuly glass sculptures and living wall. 

Public art is featured in many of Montreal's new tunnels. 

Public art is featured in many of Montreal's new tunnels. 

The +15 corridor at Calgary's Centennial Parkade is home to the Udderly Art Pasteur which is a legacy to the 2000 public art project that saw 100+ colourful cows adorn the streets, parks and plazas of downtown. 

The +15 corridor at Calgary's Centennial Parkade is home to the Udderly Art Pasteur which is a legacy to the 2000 public art project that saw 100+ colourful cows adorn the streets, parks and plazas of downtown. 

This was my favourite tunnel, it was like what I would imagine it would be to walk onto/into an ice berg. I am thinking it by be blog worthy on its own. 

This was my favourite tunnel, it was like what I would imagine it would be to walk onto/into an ice berg. I am thinking it by be blog worthy on its own. 

Calgary's playful +15 bridge connecting the Municipal Building and Arts Commons (Performing Arts Center) is a hit with the kids.  It offers a great view of the traffic along Macleod Trail entering the downtown.  

Calgary's playful +15 bridge connecting the Municipal Building and Arts Commons (Performing Arts Center) is a hit with the kids.  It offers a great view of the traffic along Macleod Trail entering the downtown.  

Differences

Montreal’s Underground City includes numerous residential buildings, dozens of hotels, post-secondary school and the Bell Centre arena.  Calgary’s +15 has only 9 hotels, no schools, no arena and I don’t believe there is single residential building attached to the system.

While Montreal’s system has more shopping than Calgary’s, it doesn’t come close to matching Calgary’s Core with its four levels of shopping under a three-block long skylight.  Montreal’s food courts and cafes, because they are underground, have a cozy vibe, but don’t have the spectacular sun and views Calgary’s +15 provides.  

Calgary’s +15 signage and map program is much more extensive and consistent than Montreal’s.  It is also easier to navigate the +15, because, you can see where you are going as you cross a bridge, allowing for better orientating yourself impossible to do in a tunnel. 

Map of Montreal's maze of underground tunnels in pink.

Map of Calgary's Above Ground Skywalk (yellow and white) with its 60+ bridges. 

Map of Calgary's Above Ground Skywalk (yellow and white) with its 60+ bridges. 

Montreal’s network, with its thousands of stairs, hundreds of escalators and few ramps is a nightmare for anyone with accessibility issues. While not perfect Calgary’s +15 system is definitely more accessible.

Thom noted that while a half a million people use the Underground every day, most downtown Montreal workers don’t use the system extensively as it is rarely convenient to go more than a couple of blocks. In fact, he apologized a couple of times as he asked if it would be OK if we went outside to save time.

Montreal Underground’s big advantage over Calgary’s +15 is its link to their METRO (subway) system; Calgarians have to go outside to catch a train.  The METRO system was very slick; our wait time was 5 minutes or less even at non-peak times, loading and unloading was fast as were the speed of the trains (up to 74 km/hr). It made our LRT system seem bush-league especially as it travels through our downtown.  On the plus side, Calgarians have a free fare zone in our downtown; Montrealers aren’t so fortunate.

Calgary’s +15 has nothing to match Montreal Complex Desjardins with its indoor town square space designed for public programming. Their Christmas programming was amazing - a Santa Village that included a Meet Santa Castle, carousel, mini-train and stage for various performances. It also had a special Disney-like fountain; light and music show for Christmas. The place was packed with families on the weekends.  Calgary’s renovated Devonian Gardens pales in comparison.    

Exiting Montreal's METRO directly into the Underground City. 

Exiting Montreal's METRO directly into the Underground City. 

Looking from Holt Renfrew +15 corridor to an outdoor C-Train Station in Calgary. 

Looking from Holt Renfrew +15 corridor to an outdoor C-Train Station in Calgary. 

Look out at Calgary's 7th Avenue Transit Corridor from the +15 bridge linking The Core to First Canadian Centre. 

Look out at Calgary's 7th Avenue Transit Corridor from the +15 bridge linking The Core to First Canadian Centre. 

Complexe Desjardins food court on the weekend in December is packed. 

Complexe Desjardins food court on the weekend in December is packed. 

Devonian Gardens (currently closed for repairs) includes a popular indoor children's playground. It is a popular winter picnic spot. 

Devonian Gardens (currently closed for repairs) includes a popular indoor children's playground. It is a popular winter picnic spot. 

IMHO (In my humble opinion)

While there are differences, for the most part Montreal’s Underground City and Calgary’s Above Ground City function in a very similar manner.

The big difference is that on the weekends and evenings, Montreal’s Underground City shopping areas, as well as St. Catherine Street sidewalks are just as busy, as weekdays, while Calgary’s +15 and Stephen Avenue have limited pedestrian traffic.

The reason for this isn’t because Calgary’s +15 system sucks the life out of the street but rather because Montreal’s downtown has more diversity of building types (uses) than Calgary’s, which will be the subject of a future blog.

In the winter Calgary's Stephen Avenue is often a hostile pedestrian environment, while the +15 walkway is animated with people shopping, dining and going to meetings.  

In the winter Calgary's Stephen Avenue is often a hostile pedestrian environment, while the +15 walkway is animated with people shopping, dining and going to meetings.  

When the weather is nice, Stephen Avenue is a fun place to stroll and people watch. 

When the weather is nice, Stephen Avenue is a fun place to stroll and people watch. 

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Calgary Postcards: Alberta Boot Company

Recently I tweeted out photos of four photos old hand-painted benches that we discovered during a recent day of flaneuring the community of Manchester asking, “Where in Calgary would you find these?”  While some guessed correctly the Calgary’s Alberta Boot Company’s showroom, I was surprised others didn’t know it still existed. 

Alberta Boot Company, Calgary

Yes, after 30 years in a red brick warehouse on 10th Avenue S.W. the Alberta Boot Company moved to Manchester (50 - 50th Avenue SE to be exact).  While not exactly off the beaten path (just a few blocks from Macleod Trail) or hidden gem (you can easily see it from 50th Ave) the Alberta Boot Company, it is easy to forget the fun things to see and do in your own backyard.

I highly recommend if you are visiting Calgary, or if you have visiting family or friends you make time to checkout the Alberta Boot Company and perhaps take home a pair of boots as a souvenir.

Alberta Boot Company, Calgary

Top 10 things you should know about Alberta Boot Company (ABC):

#1

It was founded by Clement Gerwing at the age of 62. It is never too old to launch a new career.

#2

In 2011, ABC made boots for Prince William and Kate when they visited the Calgary Stampede on their Royal Tour.  Also they have been making boots for the Stampede Princesses for forever. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 3.00.32 AM.png

#3

ABC was the official western boot of the Calgary Winter Games in 1988 and again for the World Police/Fire Games in 1997.

Alberta Boot Company, 1988 Olympic boots

#4

The Company has been making the world famous Strathcona High-Brown Police Boot for the RCMP since 1999 (there is a pair on display). In fact many police forces across North America rely on ABC to make their police boots - the Black Strathcona Boot is the most popular.

Alberta Boot Company, Calgary

#5

A pair of custom hand-made boots starts at about $350. You get to choose the leather, style and custom stitching; as well it includes a personal guided tour of the factory. FYI. There is no regular factory tour program so if you want a tour you have to buy some boots!

Link: How the Alberta Boot Company Makes a Cowboy Boot

#6

ABC now makes men’s and women’s shoes that are very fashion forward and also come with a tour.

Alberta Boot Company shoes

#7

All of ABC’s stitch patterns are named after Alberta towns and cities. One of the most popular patterns is "Edmonton."

#8

There is on average over 5,000 boots in the showroom so you can buy off the shelf.  We found a pair from the 1988 Olympics that would be a great collector’s item. 

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 2.58.26 AM.png

#9

The Company is still a family owned business, with grandson Ben now the General Manager after taking over from father Tim who took over from his father Clement.

#10

And yes they still have the colourful, politically incorrect, hand-painted children’s benches originally made for a shoe store in Bowness.

2026 Winter Olympics Bid: Insights From Holmes & Parker

I received two very informative emails in response to the blog Calgary 2026 Olympics: To Bid or Not To Bid?” from two, very respected and knowledge able Calgarians.

Parker’s Insights…

The first was from Richard Parker, former Head of the City of Calgary’s Planning Department from 1988 to 2003. He wrote:

“I enjoyed your article on the Olympic Bid but I think you missed two very important points.

We won the 1988 Games in September 1981. The boom was still going strong although signs of trouble were beginning to appear. As I used to say we won the bid in a construction boom but built it in a bust, hence coming in under budget on a number of construction projects. (Everyday Tourist’s Note: Let’s hope our current bust doesn’t last until 2026.)

Also, the 1988 Olympics were the last time the local Organizing Committee got the TV revenues. I may not have the figures correct but the order of magnitude is right - we budgeted to get around $200 million and got that from outside the USA and got over $350 million for the US rights.

Our timing was perfect; we put out the bid just after Los Angeles, often referred to as the first true TV Olympics.”

Parker also cc’d his email to me to Bob Holmes who was on the Board, the Executive Committee, and the Finance Committee of the Calgary Olympic Organizing Committee (OCO’88).  

Holmes’ Insights….

Holmes confirmed the US TV rights were sold for $309M in 1983, far and away the largest ever for a winter games. And shared additional insights:

“The US Men’s Olympic Hockey team won gold in Lake Placid in 1980. It was referred to as the “Miracle on Ice.” This heightened the interest in the US TV rights for the Calgary games, as did the fact Calgary was in a “good time zone” for US TV.

The next Winter Olympics after Lake Placid were in Sarajevo, located in a much less desirable time zone for live broadcast back to North America, thus making the 1988 Calgary Olympics the first real opportunity for US television networks to capitalize on the “Miracle on Ice.”

In fact, the bidding for the US TV rights to the Calgary games was deliberately – and strategically - conducted in 1983 before Sarajevo. The timing of the bidding, the memory of Lake Placid, Calgary’s time zone, as well as the US hockey games being strategically placed on the schedule for the US audience, all led to very high bids by all three US networks for Calgary’s 1988 Winter Olympics.

Los Angeles in 1984 set a new standard for corporate sponsorships, and the revenue derived from this source, as well as TV rights. Their sponsorship program was at an international as well as national level, attracting worldwide corporations like Coca Cola and Visa to pay millions for the rights. Calgary benefitted greatly from this. By contrast, Lake Placid in 1980 had the official potato chip sponsor, and dozens of other small categories, generating small revenues.

After the financial success of Los Angeles and Calgary, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) changed the cost sharing formula between the Host City/Organizing Committee’s share and IOC. The IOC also took over both the TV rights and worldwide sponsorship program and gave a share of these revenues to the host city/organizing committee.

More recently, there has been a shortage of bidding cities - many have considered but backed out because of cost and uncertainty of revenues. Sochi is mentioned as an example of this although I think the costs in Sochi were driven as much by the Russian government as the IOC. The IOC is apparently concerned about the lack of interest and has recently said it was going to streamline the bidding process and also take steps to reduce the costs of staging the games.

It is absolutely critical that before any bid takes place, Calgary understands as much as possible how the IOC intends to streamline the bidding process and staging of the games as well as what will be the total revenue projections and how they will be shared.   

As well, before any bidding decision is made, Calgary must determine the cost/benefits of the infrastructure legacy opportunities. How much would Calgary benefit from having a new, state-of-the-art multi-purpose arena, a new convention centre (media centre for Olympics) and renovated or replaced McMahon Stadium for opening ceremonies paid for by all three levels of government and corporate sponsorships that we would never be able to access without the Olympics? As well, maybe an LRT link to the Airport and/or to Canmore and Banff could be added bonuses.

Nor should we underestimate the value of the publicity and civic pride benefits that comes with an international event like the Olympics. 

Last Word

“Indeed, the world has changed since 1988, but it is too soon to dismiss the idea of the hosting the 2026 Winter Olympics. I commend the City for taking the time to do their due diligence before deciding ‘Yes or No’ to what could be a great opportunity to kick-start the next phase in Calgary’s evolution as a city,” says Holmes. 

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Calgary: Time to think outside the car?

It seems everyday for the past month or so there have been one or more articles on my Twitter or Flipboard feeds dealing with how car ownership in North America is declining and the impact this will have on cities in the future.

It started in mid September with a Flipboard headline that read “Lyft’s President Says Car Ownership will ‘All But End’ in U.S. Cities by 2025.”  While it is hard to believe car ownership will end by 2025, it does make one think – what if car ownership was to shrink by 15% by 2025 and by 30% by 2050 from the current level of approximately million vehicles.   

A 2016 GasBuddy Calgary poll (22,044 voters) indicated 16% of Calgary households have 4 or more vehicles, 20% three or more, 40% two vehicles, 21% one vehicle and only 1% no vehicle.

What if some Calgarians were to decide they could live with one less car and use car-sharing to replace it? Could this already be happening?

Research says… 

In July 2016, Elliot Martin and Susan Shaheen, of the University of California, Berkeley Transportation Sustainability Resource Center published, “Impacts of car2go on vehicle ownership, modal shift, vehicle miles travelled, and greenhouse gas emissions:

An analysis of five North American cities. ” Calgary was one of those cities.

The Calgary findings for 2015 were enlightening:

  • Car2go removed an estimated 6,058 vehicles from Calgary roads (existing car owners who sold their car or individuals who were planning on buying a car but decided against doing so.
  • Car2go reduced overall vehicle miles traveled (VMT) by up to an estimated 52.9 kilometers for the year or 6% reduction in VMT traveled per car2go household.
  • Car2go prevented up to an estimated 8,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions from polluting Calgary’s air. That’s an estimated 4% reduction. 
  • Car2go resulted in a slight increase in walking and bicycle ridership frequencies (10% and 2%, respectively). 

These findings are based on a sample of 1,498 Calgary car2go users. Similar results were found in the other four cities studied – San Diego, Seattle, Vancouver and Washington DC.

Link: Impact of Car2go...

 The Times They Are A Changin’

Obviously some Calgarians have already or are now making the decision to live with one less car  - or without a car at all. This number is going to increase as car-sharing programs expand the geographic area they operate in. As well, new competition will result in more cars and better pricing, which will make car-sharing even more attractive to more Calgarians. 

In addition, services like Uber and Lyft are sure to become commonplace over the next 5 years in Calgary and Calgary will probably have a bike-sharing program in the near future (over 500 cities world-wide already have programs), making living without two cars, more feasible especially in the inner city.

And then there is Calgary’s multi-billion dollar transit expansion plans like the Green-Line and several cross-town Bus Rapid Transit routes designed to make transit a more viable option for Calgarians’ everyday transportation needs.  

In addition, the Calgary Regional Partnership is piloting (October 2016 to October 2018) a regional transit system for Black Diamond, High River, Okotoks and Turner Valley, which may be expanded to Strathmore and Chestermere in 2018.

Little by little, Calgarians are being offered more options for commuting to work and other activities. 

I suspect many Calgary households would be willing to give up one of their cars if offered a viable alternative - especially for their Monday to Friday commute.  Who wouldn’t want to save some of the $10,000+ per year it costs to drive a car in Calgary, not counting parking fees and hassles if going downtown? Money that could be used to buy a bigger home, take a vacation or save for a child’s education.

Looking ahead…

Is it possible that we could return to building houses with just a single garage?  What impact would that have on how we build new suburbs?

Could we see more condos and apartment buildings with no parking (like N3 in East Village)?  Will the next generation rather spend $50,000 (the cost of an underground parking space) on a bigger condo than a parking stall for a car that sits idle 95% of the time?
Could we see downtown, hospital, post-secondary and airport parkades being converted to new uses?  
Could driving around looking for a parking spot at Chinook Centre, Market Mall and Southcentre at Christmas all but disappear?

With fewer cars on the road, could gridlock on Deerfoot, Glenmore and Crowchild Trails become a thing of the past?

And heaven forbid we might even see lower downtown parking rates as supply exceeds demand?

Fewer cars and less demand for parking would also make it easier to create wider sidewalks and more bike lanes where appropriate.  

Never Say Never…

I remember in the early ‘90s when the City of Calgary’s GO Plan set a goal of a 50/50 modal split for downtown commuters by 2020 i.e. 50% would use transit and 50% would drive many said it would never happen. Today the Downtown modal split is 49% transit, 10% walk/cycle and 41% drive.

Link: City of Calgary, 2016 Calgary Downtown Cordon Count 

While Calgarians love their cars, they are also young and highly educated, the ideal demographics for car and bike sharing programs, as well as services like Uber and Lyft (90% of Uber users are 16 to 44 years of age and 80% have a post-secondary degree). 

LInk: Rideshare Passenger Demographics 

Indeed, Calgarians have already demonstrated they love car-sharing with 99,000 car2go members, second only to Vancouver (118,000 members) in North America. 

Perhaps we don’t need to spend billions on Crowchild Trail, but rather fast track bigger and better car-sharing programs and private transportation services like Uber and Lyft?

Last Word 

Maybe it is high time to think outside the car!

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