City preps for transit changes with official launch of BRT routes

The city's three new bus rapid transit routes, branded Max, will go into service next Monday, which will also see the biggest number of transit route changes in Calgary's history.

Monday will see biggest number of transit route changes in Calgary's history

Officials from three levels of government were on hand for the MAX bus ribbon-cutting ceremony on Thursday. (Scott Dippel/CBC)

Get ready. Max is only days away.

Politicians for all three levels of government were on hand Thursday for the official ribbon cutting of Calgary's three newest bus rapid transit routes.

The three cross-town routes, branded Max Orange, Max Purple and Max Teal, will hit the streets next Monday.

The North Crosstown route, which will run from Brentwood to Saddletowne, is to be branded as the Max Orange line.

The 17th Ave S.E. BRT route will run between downtown and East Hills and be branded the Max Purple line.

The South Crosstown route, which will run from Westbrook to Douglas Glen, will be called the Max Teal line.  

Investment in building modern city

Mayor Naheed Nenshi said the new routes will allow transit users to get where they need to go more quickly and directly.

"I get to cut a lot of ribbons in my job. I get to open a lot of things. But this is one of the most special for me personally," said Nenshi.

"The key to transit is to link places people live with where they want to go."

The key to transit is to link places people live with where they want to go.- Mayor Naheed Nenshi

The provincial government contributed $116.2 million toward the bus rapid transit lines.

Alberta's Transportation Minister Brian Mason said it's an important investment in building a modern city.

"People can get around safely, quickly. We reduce congestion. We reduce pollution and we help people get to where they need to be whether it's a job, to visit family or to do shopping in a safe efficient and rapid way," said Mason.

The federal government chipped in $42.5 million though the Public Transit Investment Fund for the BRT routes.

End of transitway construction

As part of the project, a new transitway of dedicated bus lanes was constructed along the middle of 17th Avenue S.E. 

The transitway includes three separate bridges that carry the bus lanes over Deerfoot Trail, the Bow River and an irrigation canal.

Doug Morgan, director of Calgary Transit, said while the finishing touches like landscaping are still being completed, the new routes will go into service next Monday.

"We've already been training on the transitway for the last two and a half weeks. So you had our drivers coming up and down the transitway and just observing what's going on. It's gone very well," said Morgan.

The arrival of the new routes marks the end of construction of the new transitway and of new transit shelters along the other routes.

The head of the International Avenue business improvement area, Alison Karim-McSwiney, said 17th Avenue has been given a long-awaited makeover.

It includes wider sidewalks, new lighting and each of the Max stations has been dressed up with public art done by artists who live in the area.

"I think everyone is absolutely tickled pink and the infrastructure is outstanding. I think people will be very excited to see how it all turns out," she said.

Discover new routes, new service

Several specially painted transit buses feature the Max Orange, Purple and Teal colours, but most buses on the routes will be regular transit vehicles.

Morgan suggests transit users check to see if their regular routes are changing.

Next Monday marks one of the biggest day of transit route changes in the organization's history.

"We have a new website out so they can see what their new trip looks like and of course, we'll have an army so-to-speak of Calgary Transit representatives out on the system, trying to help people on their way and discover the new routes and the new service," said Morgan.

A fourth Max route, the southwest BRT, remains under construction.

It's expected to go into service in the fall of next year.