Cowboy hat, check. Cowboy boots, check. $1.5 billion dollars for Alberta’s largest transit project, check.
The hype for the Green Line LRT project which found politicians using words like ‘monumental’ and ‘transformative’ is understandable given how critical infrastructure is for low-income individuals. In a city dubbed the most expensive for low-income people to live in, the Green Line LRT is exactly what we need.
Calgary, like many other cities, chose to sprawl outwards instead of upwards and is known more car friendly than transit friendly. But buying a car, used or new, is often not an option for low-income individuals or families who frequently spend nearly two-thirds of their income on housing. For those looking for more affordable housing, they are faced with either accessibility or affordability.
A map from United Way Calgary provides some greater detail about where poverty lives in Calgary. The Green Line will make communities with the greatest poverty density more accessible and consequently ensuring individuals have greater access to services and employment.
Those who are experiencing poverty will be able to move through the city with greater ease and access supports that previously may have been inaccessible. The access is affordable and enables low-income individuals to focus their spending on other needs. We are beginning to take steps to make this great city affordable with new projects like the Green Line in combination with a reduced transit pass for low-income earners.
Women, in particular, are among the most vulnerable when living in poverty. Women are more likely to be poor than men, face an income gap along with significant barriers to employment like accessible childcare. Which is why women often work part-time or with flexible arrangements often earning minimum wage. In turn, those lower wages make many women “captive” transit users. To close these gaps, we need accessible and affordable transit.
Mass transit removes barriers for women by connecting them to better paying jobs, better education opportunities, health care and childcare options while reducing emissions. Using public transit doesn’t require identification which allows individuals without identification to access the city along with having the lowest price for commuting around. Plus, public transit investment actually yields very high rates of economic return (yes, economists generally agree).
Those who use public transit will now have access to a system that connects them more closely to their jobs, reduces commuting time and perhaps allow more flexibility in their employment. The reality is people in Calgary need to move around and with our continued outward sprawl, the best solution is through public transit projects. As YW embarks on a two-year project that will take our core facility out of downtown, we applaud the Green Line that will provide access for our clients, our team and the community to be better connected to critical services for women and their families.
A massive public transit project like the Green Line needs to begin somewhere and we are thrilled it begins in some of the most impoverished communities.