Park and ride is an important service for Calgary Transit customers. It helps reduce congestion downtown by making Calgary Transit easier to use and more accessible. It gives customers the flexibility of using public transit and having their car for part of their trip.  It encourages people to use public transit even when they live outside Calgary or in a new community without established bus service. It also helps offset the demand for downtown parking. 

Overview of Calgary Transit Park and Ride

Currently, Calgary Transit provides about 17,000 parking spaces at 33 locations. Parking at CTrain stations accounts for over 13,500 of these total spaces. As well, about 1,600 park and ride spaces are provided by other parking lot owners at five locations. In total, park and ride users account for about 15 percent of weekday transit customers.

Park and ride facilities complement public transportation by providing an option for those people wishing to travel by transit but who also need a car for part of their trip. In some cases, park and ride serves those who have limited options to access LRT including people who live outside of Calgary or in new communities where regular bus service has not yet been introduced. The majority of park and ride users travel downtown and park and ride is cheaper and more convenient. Park and ride benefits the City too. Calgary Transit’s park and ride lots are at least five kilometres from the downtown in order to intercept car commuters as soon as possible and encourage transit use. In this light, park and ride replaces downtown parking and helps reduce traffic congestion. It also allows Calgary to preserve the inner City’s character.

The challenge with park and ride is in finding the right balance of parking in light of costs and other transportation and land use priorities. Park and ride is only one way to get to the train and must be balanced with other access modes. Since Calgary’s sustainable development goals are focused on minimizing personal auto use, the priority emphasizes access to the LRT by bus, walking and cycling while keeping in mind that park and ride is important for many customers. We must also consider the impact that more vehicles will have on nearby communities including parking within those communities. 

Park and ride lots are also expensive to construct and maintain. A surface lot costs $5,000 to $8,000 per stall and structured parking (e.g. a parkade) costs $35,000 to $50,000 per stall. As well, it’s expensive to operate and maintain parking lots (e.g., security, snow clearing, cleaning, sweeping, line painting, electricity, garbage collection and pavement patching). Land costs are also expensive.

Land near CTrain stations and major bus stops is valuable – about 15 to 30 percent higher in than other comparable lands. Park and ride lots preclude transit oriented development on this land. Of note, Calgary’s Transit Oriented Development  Guidelines discourage large amounts of parking. Transit oriented development typically results in much more ridership than is generated from land devoted to parking. In this context it could be argued that transit oriented development is a better use of the land since many more people are located closer to where they want to go. 

Park and ride requirements over the past 30 years have been determined through the application of Council approved LRT access guidelines (1986). These guidelines specify that sufficient park and ride facilities should be provided at CTrain stations and along major bus corridors to accommodate approximately 15 to 20 percent of expected peak period transit trips from the nearby communities. Calculation of the park and ride supply includes consideration of the population of the transit service area for each station, the number of transit trips external to the community, and the percentage of transit trips accessing the station by car. As the transit system has been expanded, there are several park and ride lots where the supply of parking greatly exceeds this policy (i.e. Anderson, Fish Creek Lacombe, and Whitehorn). In these areas there are opportunities for redevelopment of a portion of these lands for transit oriented development. As well, where there is excellent access by local bus, walking and cycling, the need for parking is reduced.

Recent Council Direction

On March 19, 2018, Calgary City Council approved the following principles to help guide the way Calgary Transit improves and administers park and ride:

  • Make park and ride easier to use by increasing the certainty of finding a space
  • Offer up to 50% of reserved stalls per leg on all CTrain lines
  • Build transit ridership by pricing competitively with alternatives and optimizing the use of available stalls
  • Respond to changing technology that improves the customer experience

Calgary Transit is working on implementing this direction by 2020 and using it to shape our approach to park and ride.