Big City with a Small Town Feel Profile on Calgarians | Christian Wulff
Calgary has the least traffic congestion and lowest commute time of major cities in Canada and is ranked 157th out of 200 global cities (1st place being the worst commute), by INRIX 2017 Global Traffic Scorecard. People choose to get themselves around Calgary in all manner of ways: take your pick in terms of what’s right for you.
Some live close to work and are able to walk or bike on the city’s extensive paved pathways. Some make use of an efficient public transportation system that includes buses and light-rail trains. Some drive around the town’s network of highways and roads in their own vehicles.
The city is spread out – it covers more than 848 square kilometres – so moving people and goods from one point to another takes every inch of Calgary’s vast integrated network of roads, CTrains, buses, pathways, and bridges.
The city’s public transportation system features a combination of light rail transit (the CTrain), regular and low-floor buses, community shuttles buses and a shared ride, door-to-door transportation service for Calgarians with disabilities (Access Calgary).
Adult transit fares are $3.30 per trip and monthly passes and low income passes are available. Lower priced youth fare is available and children younger than six get to ride for free.
The system is well used: surveys show that 50 per cent of Calgary’s downtown workforce commutes by Calgary Transit every day. Calgary Transit strives to provide service within 400 metres -- a short walk -- of all residences and places of employment.
The ‘C’ stands for Calgary of course. The light rail transit system has 118.1 kilometres of double track, 46 stations and growing - with over 20 kilometres added over the last decade; it is the first emissions-free, wind-powered public transit operation in North America.
Park and ride lots are available at most CTrain Stations and several main bus terminals throughout the city.
Plans exist to build two additional CTrain lines from the city centre: a southeast and a north-central line.
Commuting From The Calgary Region
There are a couple of companies operating commuter shuttles that whisk workers and students to and from some of Calgary’s neighbouring communities: First Student Canada and Southland Transportation. Airdrie operates a two-way weekday commuter bus service between downtown Airdrie and downtown Calgary.
Calgary has a solid network of roads and highways that allow you to get anywhere in the city relatively quickly.
Get a driver's license - Driver’s licenses can be applied for at Alberta registries. Visit the Service Alberta site to find a registry in Calgary. If you have a valid driver’s license from another part of Canada (or Austria, Belgium, Germany, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, or the United States), you can exchange it for an Alberta license without having to write a test or pass a driving exam.
Alberta Transportation’s Vehicle Inspection Program - All vehicles registered in another province must pass an out of province vehicle inspection within three months of being brought into Alberta, before they can be registered in the province.
Register a vehicle - All vehicles in Alberta are legally required to be registered and insured. Upon registration you will be provided with license plates and appropriate registration stickers.Vehicles can be registered and license plates obtained at Alberta registries. Vehicle insurance can be provided by any number of private insurance companies.
Traffic infrastructure in Calgary is based on a grid system with numerous freeways and expressways supplementing the city’s smaller streets. Numbered streets run from north to south, while avenues go east to west.
The city is divided into four quadrants: northeast, northwest, southeast and southwest, with Centre Street dividing the east from the west, and the Bow River roughly separating the North and South. Certain addresses (i.e. 4th Street and 22nd Avenue) exist in multiple quadrants, for this reason all street names and addresses end with suffixes corresponding to the quadrant of the city (NE, NW, SE or SW).
In terms of speed, you can drive 50 kilometres per hour on most city streets, and 70 to 80 kilometres per hour on most trails (larger city roads). The speed limit in school and playground zones is 30 kilometres per hour.
Traffic volume flow maps are available from the City of Calgary, view the historic traffic volumes here.
There are dozens of new and used car dealerships in Calgary with every make and model of vehicle you might imagine. The following online resources should help you find that perfect vehicle in the city.
Canada’s largest website of used vehicles.
Calgary Motor Dealer Association
A listing of Calgary car dealers as well as information on buying and assessing used cars.
A directory with over 53,000 used vehicles from across Canada.
Several taxi companies serve Calgarians and a popular car-sharing program Car2Go makes driving accessible for those who don’t own cars, and high-occupancy vehicle lanes make the commute more efficient for carpoolers.
Car2Go has over 550 vehicles in their Calgary network that are always ready to go, for as long and as often as you want, just take it, drive it, park it.
For those who opt out of wheels entirely, the city’s extensive pathway network and pedestrian bridges make walking to work a viable option for shorter commutes.
At any given time, summer or winter, Calgary's City Pathways System is at the feet or wheels of Calgary walkers, runners and bikers.
With another 290 kilometres of on-street bikeways, including dedicated bike lanes downtown, the City of Calgary can boast the most extensive urban pathway and bikeway network in North America.
Over 800 kilometres of outdoor pathways run along the Bow and Elbow rivers, connecting Fish Creek Provincial Park, Nose Creek, West Nose Creek, the Western Irrigation District Canal and the perimeter of the Glenmore Reservoir. Dozens of Calgary communities are linked by the pathway system.
Much of the pathway network is kept clear of snow and ice so it can be used throughout the winter.
Bike Calgary is a nonprofit organization that works to improve cycling conditions for Calgarians through advocacy. They offer Urban Cycling Skills courses for those hoping to improve their skills and confidence.
Calgary may be a winter city, but that doesn’t mean you can’t cycle year-round. More Calgarians are embracing this method of keeping fit and active during the cooler months, and the City clears snow from no less than 300 kilometres of the pathway.
Interested in a good read? Look for Frostbike, written by local author and cyclist Tom Babin in 2014, this book that explores winter cycling in Calgary and around the world.
Commuting by the numbers
How Calgarians get to work, according to the 2016 City of Calgary Civic Census.