Mayor Nenshi and his collection of supportive mushrooms on Calgary city council are madly scrambling to set the “Green Line” boondoggle in stone before fiscal reality has a chance to scuttle their legacy project. The $5 billion dollar project has already been a gong show for years and has gone 100 percent over budget before it has even begun. How can this be? Well, while the inept city administration under the guidance of an incompetent city council pissed around over this mega-project for years, the costs simply kept exploding. Rather than admit that they blew the budget however, they simply cut the size of the project in half. That is another way of doubling the cost without the dollar figure changing. Rest assured that dollar figure will continue to explode if this ridiculous transit expansion goes ahead.
We are entering a period of austerity and every level of government has to examine what is a need or a want.
The green line is certainly not a need and in light of changes to things during the pandemic, not many people really want it anymore either.
Lets look at why Calgary’s downtown is in decline and why it won’t be coming back any time soon.
CROWDED OFFICES ARE OUT OF STYLE AS PEOPLE SHIFTED TO WORKING FROM HOME
The days of crowded cubical living are gone. This trend has been happening for years as modern communications took away the need for people to come into a common office space. With tens of thousands in Calgary having shifted to working from home in this last month, we can rest assured that they won’t be moving back to those offices.
Companies are saving money, people have found a better quality of work life and with new fears of infectious diseases, folks are no longer keen to work in close quarters with hundreds of others.
Calgary’s downtown offices had already been at 30 percent vacancy due to the slump in demand for fossil fuels and massive city taxes. That number will likely rise to 50 percent as oil demand remains low and people don’t return to their old offices.
That means tens of thousands fewer commuters going downtown. Why on earth should we spend $5 billion on expanding transit services downtown then?
DENSE URBAN LIVING HAS GONE OUT OF STYLE
Who wants to live in a densely packed building where you share countless surfaces which need touching along with being crammed into elevators and possibly even communal laundry services?
In light of the misery of trying to “socially distance” for this last few months, I suspect that many many people are looking to move to the less costly and far cleaner living options provided by suburban living.
How long will this lockdown last? How long will the next one last? Who will be the next person infected?
Demand for sardine can living downtown will drop. The lack of downtown jobs will contribute to this as well.
In light of that, why spend $5 billion on expanding transit downtown?
PUBLIC TRANSIT USE IS OUT OF STYLE
Riding on public transit was rather gross and unsettling even before the pandemic hit.
Now the thought of being jammed body to body on a train or bus with hundreds of other breathing, sweating, coughing, farting people holds less appeal than ever.
Private vehicles and rideshare were already the most popular means of transportation in Calgary. Demand for those options will only grow.
Funds are going to be tight. It will be tough for the city to maintain fire and police service, much less build a massive transit project which is meant to service a demand in decline.
Nenshi is upset in having lost his billion dollar Olympic vanity project. He won’t let go of this trophy easily.
The time to speak up is now. There is no justifying the green line at this time. Calgarians have to let the Mayor and council know that there will be a political price to pay if they lock taxpayers into this boondoggle when it is so clear they we don’t need it.
Will enough folks speak up though? I wish I could say I was confident that they would.