To some Calgarians, taking transit has become a much different experience than before the pandemic.
Incidents surrounding train lines have become a continuous cause for concern for some CTrain riders, Calgary Transit, and the Calgary Police Service (CPS).
Attention has been called to safety issues downtown in recent years as downtown Calgary faces major occupancy issues, with some citing this emptiness as a green light for unsafe activity to take hold.
However, this issue has continued to be exuberated by the COVID-19 pandemic, as Calgary Transit continues to see record low numbers of riders. Compared to its pre-pandemic numbers, Calgary Transit is operating at 75% of its capacity and is seeing 30% of the amount of transit it did before COVID-19.
This decreased ridership has also resulted in increased visibility of undesirable behaviour, as noted by Shaundra Bruvall, communications manager at Alpha House in Calgary.
“I would say it’s tough to conclusively say, one way or the other, whether it’s increased or whether it just feels like it’s increased because of the visibility of it,” said Bruvall.
Calgary’s Downtown Outreach Addictions Partnership Transit (DOAP) Team works in partnership with Alpha House and Calgary Transit.
The impact of decreased ridership was noted by Calgarian Jordan Kool, who often takes the CTrain into downtown Calgary to attend Flames games.
“When there’s a flames game you feel safer because there’s more people and more of a crowd,” Kool said.
Kool also noted that he often worries for his girlfriend’s safety when taking transit, following a few incidents she’s had while taking transit.
Speaking to one particularly memorable incident, Kool said, “For that to happen in that area, which is known as being safe, [it] really freaked her out and was enough for her to get off the train.”
Calgary Police increased their presence at train stations in July of 2021.
“We are concerned about the recent spike in violence, and we are actively engaged with our partners to make it stop,” said CPS Chief Mark Neufeld to the Calgary Herald at that time.
Calgary Police declined a request for an interview but provided a written statement.
“We are committed to working with our partners with Calgary Transit to address the concerns around public safety on and around transit properties. Violence in our city will not be tolerated. Full stop.”
The statement also noted that, “We are also continuing to encourage our officers to proactively patrol these areas in the interests of preventing and addressing crime and disorder.”
Winter brought along another aspect to public safety, with many seeking shelter during the cold snap on relatively empty CTrains and stations.
“I would say it’s tough to conclusively say, one way or the other, whether it’s increased or whether it just feels like it’s increased because of the visibility of it.” – Shaundra Bruvall
The City of Calgary addressed this the week of Jan. 10, prompting the closure of several CTrain stations across the city.
Mayor Jyoti Gondek addressed the issue alongside Calgary Transit on Jan. 11, 2022
“One of our biggest concerns last week was the nature of violence… perpetrated against people in vulnerable positions,” said Gondek on a Global News broadcast.
“This is why the program is so important,” said Bruvall, referring to the DOAP program.
“So that those safety concerns are addressed, and the safety of the individuals using is addressed.”