Calgarians ride the new West LRT line

Thousands of Calgarians celebrated the opening of the new west leg of the LRT Saturday.

New LRT line opens for service on Monday at 5 a.m. MT

Thousands of Calgarians celebrated the opening of the new west leg of the LRT Saturday.

It all started Saturday morning with the C-Train's inaugural run along the line with politicians and City of Calgary representatives aboard.

There was also an official ribbon-cutting led by Mayor Naheed Nenshi and Alberta Premier Alison Redford, speeches at Sirocco Station and at Ernest Manning High School, fireworks and parties with cake, music and entertainment at each of the six new stations along the track.

"The West LRT line is a shining example of our government’s commitment to connecting residents with the people and services important to them, and to supporting municipalities as they plan for the future," said Redford in a release.

When it opens for service Monday morning at 5 a.m. MT it is expected to carry 25,000 passengers along 8.2 kilometres between downtown and 69 Street S.W. in just 12 minutes. Ridership is projected to grow to more than 40,000 passengers per day over the next few years, according to the city.

'Great day for all Calgarians'

"This is a great day for all Calgarians, especially those in west Calgary," said Nenshi in a release. 

"A healthy public transit system is a critical part of a working, sustainable city. This major improvement to Calgary’s transit system will greatly improve transportation in the west by providing a fast and efficient way to downtown and around the city for 105,000 residents currently living there." 

During the celebrations, Alberta Transportation Minister Ric McIver also announced that, in addition to the $332 million for the West LRT line, Calgary will receive $133 million for the purchase of at least 50 new LRT cars and $8 million for the pre-design of the Southeast Transitway project from GreenTRIP. 

The city is sharing the cost of these initiatives with the province.   

"Coupled with our capital planning processes, we are funding and building the infrastructure to increase the quality of life and economic prosperity of our citizens and our province," said McIver in a release. 

New line cost $1.4B

One of those who showed up to Ernest Manning High School for the speeches was the champion of West LRT expansion, former Mayor Dave Bronconnier.

"Well it was certainly a very humbling experience to be recognized by both Mayor Nenshi and Premier Redford," he said

"But really this about recognizing the community who worked together through hundreds and hundreds of community consultation meetings and hours that went into the planning. As I said earlier, it really was about team work — a team of dedicated people working together.... Today we are here to celebrate it, and it's a great, great infrastructure project and I'm very proud to have played a part of it."

The new line cost $1.4 billion and was about three years in the making. The city says it is one of the largest infrastructure endeavours ever undertaken.

Driver with 48 years experience honoured

Amid all the formalities surrounding the opening of Calgary's West LRT leg, the mayor and premier made time to mention a special man.

George Dorn has been behind the controls of a C-Train since the very beginning.

"Like my own little office, got windows on three sides and the scenery changes every 60 seconds," he said.

Dorn has worked for Calgary Transit for 48 years — he's the longest serving city employee.

"He was there the day we started transit service in 1981, he drove the third train," said Calgary Mayor Naheed Nenshi. 

"He drove the first train on the northeast line in 1985 on the northwest line in 1987 and I am so pleased that 25 years later he drove the first train with me of the West LRT today. It's a beautiful nod to the history of this place and to the hard working men and women who make transit work every day."