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Southwest BRT won't be immune to meteor strikes or Godzilla, Calgary transportation boss admits

Calgary's general manager of transportation is dismissing recent concerns raised by southwest residents about a planned bus rapid transit project not being credible.

Tongue-in-cheek response comes after residents' group raises concerns about bus lanes running over pipelines

Calgary plans to build dedicated bus lanes along sections of 14th Street S.W. as part of a larger bus rapid transit network. Some area residents say they have not been consulted, but the city says it made the plans public and has been actively seeking feedback since 2008. (David Bell/CBC)

Calgary's general manager of transportation had a tongue-in-cheek response to some recent concerns raised by southwest residents about a planned bus rapid transit (BRT) project, which he doesn't believe are particularly credible.

Mac Logan told the Calgary Eyeopener on Friday that he had trouble accepting certain criticisms from a newly formed group calling itself Ready To Engage, which accuses city officials of being too secretive about the southwest transitway — a planned 22-kilometre bus route running from Woodbine to downtown.

Mac Logan, the general manager of transportation for the City of Calgary, rejects accusations from a new group called Ready To Engage that says the city has been secretive about its plans for a southwest bus rapid transit route. 9:15

He also took issue with the group's suggestion that putting dedicated bus lanes above a natural-gas pipeline was a dangerous proposition.

"What I'm really worried about is actually the meteorite coming in from space, bouncing off Godzilla and hitting the bus, which is going to release the zombie apocalypse," Logan said wryly, before explaining that roads run safely over gas pipelines "all throughout the city."

"We're doing two projects right now that are adjacent to a gas pipeline and there's cars driving over them as we speak," Logan said.

"The folks that own and operate that gas pipeline are involved in the [BRT] project in the detailed engineering," he added. "It's going to be safely designed. We're going to be very, very careful."

The pipeline worry was just one of several raised by Ready To Engage spokesman Alan Hallman on the Calgary Eyeopener the day before.

"The biggest problem we've got is we haven't had a chance to actually discuss this BRT," Hallman said, adding the group is more than 100 members strong and includes residents of 14 communities from Lakeview to Woodbine.

"We are just simply, totally being kept out of the loop and that's what we're very concerned about," Hallman added. "I mean, we're not paranoid, but if they're not sharing stuff with us, we want to know what they're hiding."

A look at Calgary's Southwest Transitway plan. (City of Calgary)

Hallman acknowledged that the city held two open houses in October and plans several more workshops this month and next month, but said those meetings aren't giving area residents what they want.

"These are not consultations," he said. "This is — 'Here's the project, and this is what we're doing.' That's what we found out in October, and that was the first we saw of this project at all."

Logan, however, said the city's initial public consultation on the project "dates back to 2008" when the transitway was in its conceptual stages.

More detailed public consultation took place in 2010 and the summarized results were included as part of a broader package approved by city council in January 2011.

Logan said some area residents who are just getting involved in the consultations recently may have unrealistic expectations about how their feedback will affect the project at this stage.

"If you come out to a meeting on a project that we've been working on for eight years and you have a concern with it and you expect the project to stop in its tracks, then you're going to be disappointed," he said.

A group in southwest Calgary is trying to put the brakes on the proposed southwest Bus Rapid Transit line. Alan Hallman, one of the organizers of Ready to Engage, joins us to talk about why the group is opposed to the project. 7:54

Hallman said residents are "not against public transportation" but many oppose the higher-density developments that usually accompany new transit projects as part of the city's long-term plan for growth.

Logan said there will be some clusters of development in areas already zoned for higher-density projects along the BRT route — including the "intensification" of Glenmore Landing and the major redevelopment of the former Currie Barracks — but development elsewhere along the route is a long-term plan.

"To say there's going to be intensification around every bus stop? Over time, yes. But not immediately."

Overall, Logan said the point of the BRT is to connect "major activity centres" like Rockyview hospital and Mount Royal University to downtown in the north and the city's burgeoning suburbs in the south.

"This is going to help people get to those sites without spending the kind of money that we would have to spend to put in an LRT or to build a freeway down 14th Street," he said.

Below is a more detailed map of the planned changes. Click on the fullscreen button at bottom left to see it in more detail.

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