Risky Green Line Gamble
On June 15th, City Council will decide whether or not to proceed with the LRT Green Line in its current form.
It remains the single largest and most expensive project ever undertaken by the city, with an unprecedented level of complexity.
With a final Phase I price tag of nearly $5 billion (assuming everything happens on budget) and a build time of six years (assuming everything happens on schedule), this project will eat up every last dollar the City has (and a lot more they don't).
Other cities which have attempted LRT projects of this size have run into serious problems.
Both Edmonton and Ottawa have encountered huge problems getting their new LRT lines up and running. Costs have soared, deadlines have been missed by years, and in the end the systems still aren't running properly.
The sheer size and scale of these LRT lines makes them inherently risky, and Calgary's proposed Green Line is as risky as it gets.
Instead of pursuing lower risk options, such as splitting the line into two sections and avoiding the underground portion through the downtown core, Green Line zealots have barrelled forwards.
They've labelled anyone who raises concerns or even legitimate questions about the Green Line as transit haters.
Nothing could be father from the truth.
Sensible transit is an important part of building a successful city.
When built prudently and operated in-line with customer demand, transit can help people commute to work, frequent local businesses, and visit popular attractions like the Calgary zoo, McMahon stadium, and the Calgary Stampede.
Good transit promotes economic mobility, reduces congestion, and helps keep a city moving.
But in the rush to get this project underway, there has been a serious lack of sober second thought.
Prudent decision-making has been replaced with blind boosterism, which sees the construction of transit mega-projects as an end in and of itself.
But Calgarians need to understand the risks they are facing if this project is approved in its current form.
As has been pointed out by the Mayor and others down at City Hall, Calgary is losing money every week as a result of Covid-19.
The situation was already pretty grim before the pandemic forced businesses to close across the city, with a third of downtown office towers completely empty.
The provincial and federal governments have both spent an unprecedented amount of money to support people during the coronavirus. It has plunged both governments into record levels of debt
Alberta is on track to hit the $100 billion debt mark in the next few years and Ottawa could well reach the $1 trillion debt mark by the end of the year.
Neither level of government has any extra cash lying around if Calgary's Green Line project runs into the same problems as other LRT expansions.
That means that any and all cost overruns, budget increases, or added project costs will be borne solely by Calgary taxpayers.
Property tax bills landed in homeowners' mailboxes this week. Many of them included major tax hikes.
If the Green Line LRT expansion goes just 10% over budget, that's $500 million in additional costs.
That works out to an extra $1,000 tax bill for every home in Calgary.
Is that a cost you and your family can afford to pay?
And that's only a small cost overrun.
An analysis by the World Bank on major projects which use the "everything goes according to plan" model often see far larger cost overruns. In four major studies, they found that cost overruns averaged between 45-86%, with many projects seeing overruns exceeding 100%.
If that were to happen here in Calgary, it would financially devastate our city.
Shawn, with our city reeling from the coronavirus and thousands of businesses on the brink of bankruptcy, are we really ready to gamble on the risky Green Line project?
For months, we have been urging the City to stop rushing ahead with this project and to go back to the drawing board to craft a smaller, less complex, more manageable LRT expansion.
They haven't heeded our warnings.
If the choices are between a massively expensive and technically unwieldy Green Line which has the potential to devastate our city, or no new LRT expansion for the next while, then we believe the choice is clear.
Tell City Council, it's time to flatline the Green Line.
P.S. Unlike many of the groups out there promoting the Green Line, Save Calgary doesn't receive a dime of taxpayer money for its work. We rely on the support of concern Calgarians like you who believe we can and must do better. To donate to Save Calgary, please visit our website at www.SaveCalgary.com!
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