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 need a car for some portion of their trip. As well, park and ride serves those who do not have other options to access LRT such as those living outside of Calgary or in new communities where regular bus service has not yet been introduced. The majority of park and ride users are traveling to the downtown for work so park and ride offers a high level of convenience and a savings over the higher cost of downtown parking.

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 acts as a substitute for downtown parking and helps manage traffic congestion. It allows Calgary to preserve the character of our inner city.

The challenge with park and ride is to balance the amount of parking with other transit access modes (i.e. feeder bus, walking, cycling and passenger drop off) and land use opportunities. Park and ride is only one way to access transit service and it must be planned along with the other transit access modes. Since Calgary’s sustainable development goals are focused on minimizing personal auto use, the priority favours access to LRT by feeder bus, walking and cycling while keeping in mind the importance of park and ride for many customers.

Park and ride lots require a significant investment to construct.  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. The land costs only add to this. It’s also very expensive to operate and maintain parking lots (e.g., security, snow clearing, cleaning, sweeping, line painting, electricity, garbage collection and pavement patching).

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 uses that require 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 is also an excellent service since it is highly valued by those who use it. However, it requires careful management. Too much parking can detract from the general goal of minimizing personal auto use. The traffic generated by park and ride users can have a negative effect on community streets and nearby neighbourhoods. As well, too much park and ride will take away ridership from local feeder bus services. Without sufficient ridership, these local buses that also serve the community (e.g. schools, shopping and recreation) may not have enough ridership to be operated at attractive service levels.

On the other hand, too little parking may restrict the transit ridership particularly where there are few other options for accessing the system. As well, without some parking, customers may park in nearby communities and businesses.

With over 40 years experience with park and ride, Calgary Transit understands the need to strike a balance between providing a service that reflects demand and the costs and other implications. 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 considers the population of the transit service area for each station, the number of transit trips external to the community, percentage of transit trips accessing the station by auto and the efficiency of the parking lot.

As the transit system has been extended, there are several park and ride lots where the supply of parking greatly exceeds this policy (i.e. Anderson, Fish Creek Lacombe, Whitehorn and Brentwood). 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

Calgary City Council gave Calgary Transit direction (item 7.4.2) at its regular meeting on June 20, 2016. In summary, they asked Calgary Transit to:

  • Maintain current levels of parking relative to weekday CTrain ridership (15%).
  • Allow businesses near stations to make their parking available to transit customers by requesting changes to the bylaw.
  • Look at ways of making existing park and ride work for more people by considering different reserve prices in different lots, the amount of the lot allocated to reserve parking, a daily reserve parking fee, a way of putting spots on hold without losing the reservation and the hours of reserve parking.
  • Prepare for future transit oriented development by examining each station (or groups of stations) starting with Anderson Station.
  • Look at how we could charge higher prices for park and ride to people who don’t live in Calgary.

This work will be done between June 2016 and March 2018.