University District welcomes new residents, eyes transit and road expansions to deal with traffic

The new northwest community was designed to be pedestrian-oriented but plans are in place to deal with traffic volumes that could increase by as much as 40 per cent in the next 20 years.

6,000 units will be built in the new Calgary community

The first few residents moved into University District at the end of July. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

With construction in full swing, the first handful of new residents have moved into University District — a new residential and commercial development tucked between the University of Calgary and Alberta Children's Hospital — and work to address potential traffic congestion is underway.

Six hundred of the expected 6,000 units are currently being built, with another 120 condos and townhouses expected to be ready for their homeowners by the end of August.

The neighbourhood is designed to be pedestrian-oriented — which was a big draw for some home-buyers. 

"Typically it would have been a 10 to 15 minute drive to work," said Jennifer Lathrop, who works as a nurse at Alberta Children's Hospital and was the first resident to move into University District.

"Now I only have an eight minute walk."

Jennifer Lathrop moved into her new townhouse on July 20. The nurse, who works at the nearby Alberta Children's Hospital, was the first person to move into the new northwest community University District. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Lathrop is looking forward to the the completion of the retail development, including restaurants, shops and a grocery store which is currently under construction.

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"Everything will be walking distance — so that really easy lifestyle, not having to use a car as much, " she said.

Population will balloon

According to West Campus Development Trust, once development is complete, there will be between 11,000 and 15,000 people, like Lathrop, living and working in University District.

Travis Oberg, senior development manager with West Campus Development Trust, says 600 of the expected 6,000 residential units at University District are currently under construction. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

"This area between the university and all the hospitals has the largest employment centre outside of downtown," said Travis Oberg, senior development manager with West Campus Development Trust.

"Any good urban village has the amenities that … encourages pedestrians [and] bicycling." 

Another 120 condos and townhouses are expected to be ready for University District residents to move in by the end of August. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Future traffic expected to grow

While the community is designed to be pedestrian and bike-friendly, there is no doubt vehicle traffic will increase over time.

A 2014 transportation impact assessment projected daily volumes along Shaganappi Trail could increase by up to 40 per cent by 2039, even with a newly constructed intersection allowing access to the community from Shaganappi Trail.

The study took into account traffic related to a number of developments in the northwest, including University District, Stadium Shopping Centre and the new Calgary Cancer Centre.

Access to public transit will soon be beefed up, according to Oberg. The city's new north crosstown Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) line, slated to open by the end of 2018, will run through University District.

"That's going to be a huge support to us in regards to providing regular and comfortable transit," said Oberg. The new BRT line will have heated shelters, said Oberg, and it will offer more frequent pickups than regular transit.

"It does snake through our site but it makes sure it hits those key employment areas and … it hits our main street," he said.

As construction continues, Calgary says its new north crosstown BRT line is slated to start running through University District by the end of 2018. (Jennifer Lee/CBC)

Long-term road expansion

The City of Calgary says in addition to new road networks in the community and a new intersection providing access from Shaganappi Trail, Shaganappi could be expanded in the future.

"There will be an increase in traffic," said Feisal Lakha, manager of transportation development services with the City of Calgary.

City council recently approved a long-term plan that could see Shaganappi expanded to three lanes in either direction from Bowness Road to Crowchild Trail.

"It's an unfunded plan at this point. But it allows both development in the area to proceed as well as add[ing] capacity in the future to the road network when required and when funding is available," said Lakha.

The plan includes improvements to the pathway network through the University District and along Shaganappi Trail.

With no funding allocated for the project it is unclear when the expansion might proceed. If and when it does proceed, the developer has committed to helping pay for construction.


Jennifer Lee


Jennifer Lee is a CBC News reporter based in Calgary. She worked at CBC Toronto, Saskatoon and Regina before landing in Calgary in 2002. If you have a health or human interest story to share, let her know.