City council is considering ways to capitalize on Calgary Transit users from outside the city, saying they currently get a "double subsidy" thanks to Calgary taxpayers.

The southernmost stop of the future Green Line LRT is expected to be within a 20-minute drive from Okotoks, while the northern tip will likely be the same distance from Airdrie.

"Our existing transit system is already heavily used from people outside the city and why not? We want them to use it," Coun. Brian Pincott told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday.

"We don't want people who work downtown to drive from Airdrie and park downtown. It's much better for us if they drive and they take our transit in."

Green Line map, City of Calgary

The southeast end of the Green Line will be within 20 minutes from Okotoks. (City of Calgary)

But if the Calgary Transit system is going to be part of a larger regional network, then those from other municipalities should pitch in for the costs, Pincott says.

Fares account for 50 per cent of transit funding, while the other 50 per cent comes from the tax base. 

"For somebody who lives in Okotoks and drives and parks and gets on the train, they're getting a double subsidy, care of Calgary taxpayers," he explained. 

Provincial help required

It's not clear what a mechanism to charge outside users could look like, but Pincott said the first step would be getting the province on board.

"This is where we, in Alberta, are different than any other province," he says.

"Every single other province, the provincial government participates in paying for the operation of transit service … recognizing that there is a regional nature to a local, municipal transit service, that there are people from outside the city who come and use it and that transit operation is subsidized."

But Pincott said the city would have to tread carefully if it moves ahead with a way to charge users who aren't from Calgary.

"We're working really hard to make sure that it remains affordable for people to use," he said.

"We want people to use transit. That's the bottom line. It is good for everybody for people to use transit. Whether you use it or not, transit benefits you."

Surrounding municipalities have their own plans for transit in the region. They're being asked to apply for millions in transit funding from the province's GreenTRIP program.

The Green Transit Incentives Program provides one-time funding to municipalities with an aim of taking more cars off the roads to benefit the environment.

Green Transit Incentives Program (GreenTRIP) transit program

The GreenTRIP transit funding program still has $415M left for municipalities to apply for. The original fund was $2B. (Supplied )


With files from the Calgary Eyeopener