Calgary's War on the Car
It started with the War on Parking.
The City decided to make parking hard to find and extremely expensive in much of downtown Calgary.
In fact, Calgary had the dubious distinction of having the most expensive parking in Canada, and the second most expensive parking in all of North America.
That's right - more expensive than Los Angeles, Chicago, Washington DC, Atlanta, and Seattle.
The only place with more expensive parking than Calgary? Downtown New York City.
Then they decided that some condo towers didn't need parking, even though an overwhelming majority of Calgarians continue to own and operate cars.
This meant that those who bought into those condo towers were forced to find surface lot or street parking - at an added monthly cost. And in a lot of cases, there simply wasn't enough parking available.
Next came the War on Commuters.
Downtown Calgary already had traffic congestion at rush hour, but then the City decided that commuters had too many lanes available to them on their drive home.
So they removed car lanes and installed dedicated bicycle lanes - at a cost of millions of dollars - for the tiny fraction of commuters who commute in and out of downtown by bicycle.
And what about the traffic?
With the reduction lanes, restrictions on making turns on red lights, and just plain bad design of some parts of the cycle track network, Calgary commuters found their daily drives home to take longer and longer.
Then was the War on Convenience.
Driving around Calgary can be a frustrating experience with road closures, detours, and construction projects.
But this spring brought this frustration to an entirely new level in the downtown and Beltline areas. With little regard for the impact on either drivers or local businesses, the City tore up street after street for repairs and renovations.
But the most frustrating aspect appears to be the seemingly random nature of when a particular street will be blocked.
And the City certainly doesn't seem to be in any hurry to complete many of these projects. Often times projects are left half-finished and closed for weeks or months at a time, with no work being done on them, while continuing to make our driving lives more difficult.
Local businesses have been hurt by the ongoing construction, and the City has done little to address their concerns.
And most recently, the City has launched the War on Speed.
They've already installed playground zone speed reductions arounds schools which are in effect even when schools are closed. They've also made use of aggressive photo enforcement in these playground zones - a real cash cow for a City addicted to spending.
Some Councillors have suggested that, since many drivers will likely exceed the proposed reduced speed limits, the City should engage in more photo enforcement, and lower the speed threshold for when a speed camera takes a photo.
In other words, be prepared to say cheese and open up your wallet to give even more of your hard-earned tax dollars to City Hall.
It seems pretty clear that what the City is waging isn't really a War on Parking, a War on Commuting, a War on Convenience, or a War on Speeding.
They're engaging in a War on the Car, and they won't stop until every Calgarian has abandoned their personal motor vehicle - either because it is too expensive or because it's too inconvenient to keep driving in Calgary.
It's time the City stopped trying to socially engineer their vision of a car-less Calgary.
We're aren't a highly densified European city with a moderate climate and culture of transit and bicycle commuting.
Tell your Councillor that you expect Calgary to listen to the needs of its families and businesses, and starting planning their transportation around the reality that Calgary is and will continue to be a car-centric city.
In the meantime, buckle up as the City looks for new ways to make driving a car even more costly and frustrating in the future.
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