Jeremy Barretto

Why I am voting for Naheed Nenshi and Zak Pashak

I met April before she graduated from my law school in Toronto. She is in her mid-twenties and loves the arts, music and dressed up like Stephanie Kaye from Degrassi for Halloween. April is also from Calgary. We talked about the usual ex-pat Calgarian subjects: Joel Otto face-offs, the catchy 1988 Olympic instrumental and the thrill of getting your birthday announced by Buck Shot.

“Calgary is basically one big suburb” was April’s abrupt answer when I asked if she was moving back home. I wanted to challenge her, to point out all the things that I love about Calgary, to accuse her of becoming an ironic Toronto hipster who boycotts Wal-Mart while sipping a Starbucks latte. But in my heart of hearts, I knew she was right.

Naheed Nenshi believes making Calgary a great city will attract young professionals like April and businesses. He has detailed plans to deal with sprawl and create vibrant communities centred on better transit. I am excited about some of Nenshi’s small ideas (radically, getting transit to give you change) and also like his big ones (making developers pay the cost of their developments). Nenshi studied government at Harvard, wrote a book on cities, attended every City Hall meeting for the Herald and is accomplished in business. Shockingly, he is not qualified to be Mayor; he is over-qualified to be Mayor. At an event, someone thought that I was Nenshi. If he is elected Mayor, I will exploit this passing resemblance and have incredible power.

Zak Pashak is the best candidate for Ward 8. Many talk about increasing independent businesses and culture downtown, Zak has done it: he is the founder of the Sled Island Music Festival and owner of music venue Broken City. Zak will make it easier to get around the inner city with dedicated transit, separated bike lanes and a pedestrian environment not dominated by unfinished condos. Zak is an ardent advocate of density and establishing an independent Auditor General. He also lives on my block which will make complaining about City Hall super easy.

I am not writing this to be critical of other candidates but I will make one comment: choose substance over celebrity and the future over the past.

I want to proudly tell people like April that I live in a vibrant and sustainable city. I don’t want to leave this city when the price of oil drops again. That is why I want Naheed and Zak running my city. Remember to vote on October 18. Contact me if you need any assistance making your decision.


Why the Airport Tunnel is the only road to Airport LRT

Thus far, the defining issue of the Calgary 2010 municipal election has been the proposed airport tunnel. But the airport tunnel issue is not just about road access or convenience for northeast Calgarians. I contend that the airport tunnel is our last best chance to connect the LRT to the airport.

The Calgary Airport Authority (YYC) is constructing a new parallel runway which requires closing Barlow Trial north of McKnight Blvd NE. The proposal is for a tunnel can be built extending Airport Trial east of the new runway. Unless a tunnel is built, Deerfoot Trial will be effectively the only route to the airport. Northeast Calgarians, who ironically live closest to the airport, would be the most inconvenienced. The figure below shows the new runway with the proposed tunnel.

Cities around the world have rushed to connect their airports to their downtowns with rail transit. Most recently, the Canada Line opened in Vancouver to whisk Olympics athletes and visitors downtown.  Aéroports de Montréal-Trudeau, which processes 12.2 million passengers just like YYC, has plans to connect to downtown Montreal by train.

But what is Calgary’s plan to connect our downtown with our airport? Based on current plans, there isn’t one.

The Calgary Transit Network Plan maps out the proposed growth for Calgary’s LRT system. Many believe that the future North-Central LRT line will eventually connect to the airport. But the Transit Network Plan does not show this line traveling east of Deerfoot. The proposed 96th Avenue station is by my measurement 2km from the airport. Moreover, the (underfunded) 18 station 26 km Southeast LRT line would have to be built first before the (unfunded) 8 station North-Central LRT line is started. Even if the North-Central LRT alignment is moved closer to the airport, the completion of this line is likely decades away.

The absurdity of this situation is illustrated by the fact that you can see the airport from the existing Northeast LRT line.  The airport also employs around 18,000 workers and it is reasonable to assume that many of these workers live near the airport in the northeast and take transit to work. Building a new line from downtown would be expensive and fail to serve the needs of Northeast Calgary.

I agree that the airport tunnel should be built. But the Northeast LRT should be redirected through the tunnel to provide Calgarians with LRT access to the airport. But where is the Northeast LRT planned to go? An photo of the proposed Country Hills station supposedly in the “communities developing north of 80th Avenue NE” shows nothing but empty farmland.

The choice is clear. We can either be a city with the vision to prioritize its infrastructure resources for maximum economic, social and environmental benefit. Or we can  be a city with no vision and a community shuttle to a place where 12.2 million passengers pass through each year. If built, the airport tunnel will result in a new road, but that road should lead to airport LRT.

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