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By Jeff Stagl, Managing Editor
Over the past several months, several transit agencies celebrated notable anniversaries.
On June 18, the Denton County Transportation Authority’s A-train turned 10. The 21-mile commuter-rail line connects Denton and Dallas counties in Texas, and connects with Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s (DART) Green Line at the Trinity Mills Station in Carrollton, Texas.
DART reached a milestone, too, and only four days prior. On June 14, the agency’s light-rail transit (LRT) service marked its 25th anniversary. The starter system was only 11.2 miles long in 1996, but has grown into a 93-mile, 65-station network — the longest LRT system in the nation, DART officials said in a press release.
Another major milestone was notched in Canada in May when Calgary Transit’s CTrain reached the 40-year mark. The LRT system was launched on May 25, 1981. The more than 37-mile system includes a Red and Blue line and features 45 stations.
The CTrain has registered many accomplishments over the past 40 years, so it’s difficult to list them all, said Calgary Transit spokesman Stephen Tauro in an email. But continual ridership growth, the number of extensions into new communities as Calgary grew, renovations to make stations more modern, and new CTrain designs that improve comfort and the rider experience are major ones, he said.
In terms of ridership, daily and annual boardings grew from 107,800 and 30.7 million, respectively, to 309,800 and 92 million from 1990 to 2019. Passenger counts were negatively impacted by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
“There has been a continual increase in the number of people using the CTrain to get to important places like work, events and family gatherings,” he said.
The LRT system also has become a sort of Calgary icon. Most murals of the city show the Calgary Tower, a few of the city’s taller iconic buildings and the CTrain, said Tauro.
“Also, it really has developed into a connection between communities throughout the city that makes it easier for Calgarians to discover what their city has to offer,” he said.
The LRT system has faced a number of hurdles since 1981. The biggest challenge has been the CTrain’s popularity and ease of use, said Tauro.
“I know that doesn’t sound like a challenge, but over 300,000 Calgarians depend on the CTrain every day. We try to schedule major repairs and renovations that require closures during off-peak periods or weekends,” he said.
Another hurdle is bringing the CA$4.9 billion Green Line extension to fruition. Considered the largest infrastructure project in Calgary’s history, the CTrain’s 31-mile Green Line will be funded by the federal, provincial and city governments.
Construction on the extension is a few years off, so for now Calgary Transit is focusing on enticing people back to the CTrain after the pandemic.
“There is a lot of talk about how working from home could mean less commuter traffic, but there is also a very exciting opportunity there,” said Tauro. “If more people are working from home, they may decide to sell their car and take transit as their primary way to get around.”