Calgary councillors make bid to halt southwest BRT

Two city councillors want to park the southwest bus rapid transit (BRT) project. Diane Colley-Urquhart and Jeromy Farkas want their colleagues to delay the awarding of the contract for Phase 2, south of Glenmore Trail.

Diane Colley-Urquhart, Jeromy Farkas call for further study on controversial project

An artist's rendering of a section of the southwest BRT project near the Rockyview hospital. (Supplied)

Two city councillors want to park the southwest bus rapid transit (BRT) project.

Councillors Diane Colley-Urquhart and Jeromy Farkas will bring forward a motion to city council later this month asking their colleagues to delay the awarding of the contract for Phase 2 of the project — that's the portion south of Glenmore Trail.

Estimates for the cost of the entire project range from $57 million to $65.6 million.

Phase 2 involves building dedicated bus lanes from the Rockview Hospital to Southland Drive, including BRT stations and an underpass at 90th Avenue.

The overall southwest BRT route will have buses running between Woodbine and downtown. 

Farkas, who campaigned in last month's election opposing the BRT, wants a review done of the project's scope, timing and funding.

'Defer this — for the moment'

Until that review is complete, he and Colley-Urquhart want no more money spent on the project. 

"We campaigned on revisiting this and we think that we can make the business case to city council to defer this — for the moment," said Farkas.

He wants the city to run a new transit service on 14th Street to gauge interest in communities south of the Glenmore reservoir.

"Let's pilot the proposed route using existing infrastructure including buses and bus stops," said Farkas. 

"I think that we can do this and measure the ridership, measure the return on investment with very little impact to taxpayers."

Mayor plans to defend BRT

Construction of Phase 2 of the southwest BRT was to go out for tenders this month.

But Mayor Naheed Nenshi said he has asked city bureaucrats to delay that while council deals with the motion from the two southwest councillors.

"It's a terrible idea. And I will fight it — hard. But it was important for me to give him that chance to actually have that discussion," said the mayor, referring to Farkas.

He said it amounts to interfering with council's already approved RouteAhead plan, which lays out the priorities for transit projects for 30 years.

The idea of that plan is to depoliticize transit decisions and provide a long-term vision for Calgary Transit.

"We can't horse-trade votes for transit decisions," said Nenshi. "Make no mistake. This motion to pause it is a motion to cancel."

SW delay could hurt another BRT

He's also concerned that any threat to the southwest BRT will hurt another transit project.

"The South Crosstown BRT, which is the BRT that takes people from Heritage station and further to Quarry Park and beyond, into Mount Royal University and Rockyview Hospital requires the southwest BRT lanes to work," said Nenshi.

The bar is high for the motion to pass.

Nenshi said that because it calls for council to reconsider a previous decision which set the timetable for the project, it will require 10 votes from council members.

Farkas disagrees with that assessment.

"I would argue that this is not a reconsideration. It's doing our due diligence to make sure that past investments make sense going forward," he said. 

The city wants the major construction of the southwest BRT to start in 2018, with service starting by the end of 2019.