CTrain - A

CTrain is a light rail rapid transit system in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. It began operation on May 25, 1981 and has expanded as the city has increased in population. The system is operated by Calgary Transit, as part of the Calgary municipal government's transportation department. As of 2017, it is one of the busiest light rail transit systems in North America, with 306,900 weekday riders, and has been growing steadily in recent years. About 45% of workers in Downtown Calgary take the CTrain to work.
The CTrain system has two routes, designated as the Red Line and the Blue Line. They have a combined route length of 59.9 kilometres (37.2 mi). Much of the South leg of the system shares the right of way of the Canadian Pacific Railway and there is a connection from the light rail track to the CPR line via a track switch near Heritage station.
The longer route (Red Line; 35 km (22 mi) serves the southern and northwestern areas of the city. The shorter route (Blue Line; 25.7 km (16.0 mi) long) serves the northeastern and western sections of the city. Most track is at grade, with its own right-of-way. The downtown portion is a shared right-of-way, serving both routes along the 7th Avenue South transit mall at street level. This portion is a zero-fare zone and serves as a downtown people mover. The tracks split at the east and west ends of downtown into lines leading to the south, northeast, west and northwest residential neighbourhoods of Calgary. Six percent of the system is underground, and seven percent is grade-separated (elevated). Trains are powered by overhead electric wires, using pantographs to draw power.
In the first quarter of 2015, the CTrain system had an average of 333,800 unlinked passenger trips per weekday, making it the busiest light rail system in North America. Ridership has declined slightly since reaching this peak, coinciding with a recession in the local economy. In 2007, 45% of the people working in downtown Calgary took transit to work; the city's objective is to increase that to 60%.
Four car trains
In late 2015 Calgary Transit began operating four-car LRT trains on the CTrain system. The lengthening of trains was done to alleviate overcrowding as the system was already carrying more than 300,000 passengers per day, and many trains were overcrowded. The lengthening of trains increased the maximum capacity of each train from 600 to 800 passengers, so when enough new LRT cars arrived to lengthen all trains to four cars, the upgrade increased the LRT system capacity by 33%. Since the platforms on the original stations were designed to only accommodate three-car trains, this required lengthening most of the platforms on the 45 stations on the system and building new electrical substations to power the longer trains. To operate the new four-car trains, the city ordered 63 new cars, although 28 of them were intended to replace the original U2 LRT cars, which have as many as 2.8 million miles on them and are approaching the end of their service lives. Many of the older stations were also worn out by high passenger traffic, and the platforms needed to be rebuilt anyway.
The idea of rail transit in Calgary originated in a 1967 Calgary transportation study, which recommended a two-line metro system to enter service in 1978. The original plans had called for two lines:
  • a northwest-to-south line (on a similar routing to the present-day Northwest and South lines) between the original Banff Trail station (at Crowchild Trail and Northland Drive, between the present-day Brentwood and Dalhousie stations) and Southwood station (at Southland Drive, roughly at the location of the present-day Southland station, with five stations in downtown underneath 7 Avenue; and
  • the west line, which ran from downtown to the community of Glendale, primarily along the 26 Avenue SW corridor.
  • A fourth line, a north central line running from downtown to Thorncliffe mostly along Centre Street was also envisioned, but was thought to be beyond the scope of the study.
However, a building boom in the 1970s had caused the heavy rail concept to fall out of favour due to the increased costs of construction, with light rail as its replacement. LRT was chosen over dedicated busways and the expansion of the Blue Arrow bus service (a service similar to bus rapid transit today) because light rail has lower long-term operating costs and to address traffic congestion problems. The Blue Arrow service ended in 2000.
The present-day CTrain originated in a 1975 plan, calling for construction of a single line, from the downtown core (8 Street station) to Anderson Road (the present-day Anderson station). The plan was approved by City Council in May 1977, with construction of what would become the LRT's "South Line" beginning one month later. The South Line opened on May 25, 1981. Oliver Bowen designed the CTrain system.
Though the South Line was planned to extend to the northwest, political pressures led to the commission of the "Northeast Line", running from Whitehorn station (at 36 Street NE and 39 Avenue NE) to the downtown core, with a new downtown terminal station for both lines at 10 Street SW, which opened on April 27, 1985.
The Northwest Line, the extension of the South Line to the city's northwest, was opened on September 17, 1987, in time for the 1988 Winter Olympics. This line ran from the downtown core to University station, next to the University of Calgary campus. Since then, all three lines have been extended incrementally, with most of the stations commissioned and built in the 2000s (with the exception of Brentwood which opened in 1990, three years after the original Northwest line opened):
LRT extensions
Date Stations              Line
August 31, 1990 Brentwood     Northwest Line
October 9, 2001 Canyon Meadows Fish Creek–Lacombe South Line
December 15, 2003 Dalhousie Northwest Line
June 28, 2004 Shawnessy Somerset–Bridlewood South Line
December 17, 2007 McKnight–Westwinds Northeast Line
June 15, 2009 Crowfoot Northwest Line
August 27, 2012 Martindale Saddletowne Northeast Line
August 25, 2014 Tuscany Northwest Line
The West Line, the extension of the Northeast Line, opened for revenue service on December 10, 2012 as the first new line to open in 25 years. The line runs for 8.2 km from Downtown West-Kerby station on 7 Avenue at 11 Street SW at the west end of Downtown, westward to 69 Street station located at the intersection of 17 Avenue and 69 Street SW.
Rolling stock
Fleet numbers Total Type Year Ordered Year Retired Number of units Retired Exterior Interior Origins Notes
2001–2083, 2090 83 Siemens–Duewag U2 1979–1985 Started 2016 44 Calgary Transit U2 Interior.jpg Düsseldorf, Germany 1 Unit formed from other Units (see below)
Retired units are up to date as of March 24, 2020
2101-2102 2 Siemens–Duewag U2 AC 1988 2016 1 Calgary Transit U2 AC (#2101) Interior of a Calgary Tranist U2 AC (#2101) Düsseldorf, Germany Use AC traction instead of DC traction
Former demonstration trains
2101 is now an asset inspection train named Scout. It inspects the wires and tracks.
Only variants in the world
2201–2272 72 Siemens SD-160 Series 5/6/7 2001–2006 - Interior of a Calgary Transit SD160 (#2212) Florin, California Refurbished 2009–2010 in-house.
32 to be refurbished by Siemens.
2301–2338 38 Siemens SD-160NG Series 8 2007 - Interior of a Calgary Transit SD160NG (#2306) Florin, California 2311 retired due to an accident (see below)
2401-2469 69 Siemens S200 2013-2018 - Calgary Transit S200 Interior.jpg Florin, California
2401-2463 built and delivered between 2015 and 2019; 2464-2469, 2019-2020
Some units are out of service for temporary use as parts vehicles
The system initially used Siemens-Duewag U2 DC LRVs (originally designed for German metros, and used by the Frankfurt U-Bahn. The slightly earlier Edmonton Light Rail Transit, and the slightly later San Diego Trolley were built at approximately the same time and used the same commercial off-the-shelf German LRVs rather than custom-designed vehicles such as were used on the Toronto streetcar system and the Vancouver Skytrain. U2 vehicles constituted the entire fleet in Calgary until July 2001, when the first Siemens SD-160 cars were delivered. Eighty-three U2 DCs were delivered to Calgary over three separate orders; 27 in 1981, three in 1983, and 53 in 1984 and are numbered 2001 – 2083. As of March, 2020, 39 out of the original 83 U2 DCs remain in service, plus car 2090. The success of the first North American LRT systems inspired Siemens to build an LRV plant in Florin, California. Siemens now supplies one-third of North American LRVs and has supplied over 1000 vehicles to 17 North American systems. This will include 258 vehicles for Calgary when the current order of Siemens S200 vehicles is completed.
The following LRVs have been retired:
Retired Units
Car      Number Type Year       Retired      Reason Status
2001, (2002), 2004, 2006, 2008, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017, 2022, 2023, 2026, 2029, 2033-2037, 2040, 2042, 2043, 2045, 2049, 2052, 2055, (2064), 2065, (2066), 2067, 2069, 2072, 2074-2079, (2080), 2081, 2083. U2 2016-present Retired as a result of newer S200 LRVs. Retired. Being salvaged for parts and scrapped.
2002 U2 May, 1981 / September, 2019 Collided with car 2001 in May, 1981; A-end written off. B-end later received a new A-end and was retired at end of life in 2019. Retired; disposed of in 2020. A-end was scrapped, B-end was sold to a private owner, who is creating a piece of street-art using it as a part of a thesis project.
2010 U2 March 27, 2002 Collided with a truck at the 4 Avenue SW crossing as it was leaving the Downtown. Retired. Used as spare parts.
2019 U2 April 2007 Collided with a flatbed truck in the intersection of Memorial Drive/28 Street SE near Franklin Station. Retired. One end is used as spare parts, the other end was combined with the good end of LRV 2027 to form LRV 2090.
2027 U2 May 2008 Damaged when it hit a crane in the median of Crowchild Trail near Dalhousie Station Retired. One end is used as spare parts, the other end was combined with the good end of LRV 2019 to form LRV 2090.
2050 U2 October 2007 Collided with a vehicle at the 58 Avenue SW crossing near Chinook Station. Repaired in 2010; currently active
2057 U2 Summer of 2009 Damaged when it hit a backhoe that was being used in the construction of the new 3 Street W station on 7 Avenue downtown. Retired. Used as spare parts.
2064, 2066, 2080 U2 Summer 2018 Sold to Edmonton Transit Service after they were retired at end of life, used for parts, and have since been scrapped.
2101 U2 AC Early 2016 Taken out of service. Converted to track inspection vehicle (named SCOUT)
2102 U2 AC August 8, 2016 Taken out of service. Retired in early 2017. Used as spare parts for 2101, has since been scrapped.
2311 SD-160NG September 20, 2016 Departed Tuscany Station into the tail track, and overshot the end of the rails crashing into the tail fence and a metal power pole at the end of the rails. Retired, scrapped.
Note: units in parentheses in the first row in the above table were retired at end of life, but are also listed in rows below.
In 1988, the Alberta Government purchased from Siemens two U2 AC units, the first of their kind in North America, for trials on both the Edmonton and Calgary LRT systems. The cars were originally numbered 3001 and 3002 and served in Edmonton from 1988 to Spring 1990. These LRVs came to Calgary in the summer of 1990 and in September, Calgary Transit decided to purchase the cars from the Province and then applied the CT livery to the cars (they were previously plain white in both Edmonton and Calgary). They retained their original fleet numbers of 3001 and 3002 until 1999, when CT renumbered the cars 2101 and 2102. Initially, these two cars were only run together as a two-car consist as they were incompatible with the U2 DCs. In 2003, Calgary Transit made the two U2 ACs compatible as slave cars between two SD160s and have been running them like this ever since.
In July 2001, Calgary Transit brought the first of 15 new SD160 LRVs into service to accommodate the South LRT Extension Phase I and increased capacity. Throughout 2003, another 17 SD160 LRVs were introduced into the fleet to accommodate the NW Extension to Dalhousie as well as the South LRT Extension Phase II. However, demand for light rail has exploded in recent years. In the decade prior to 2006, the city's population grew by 25% to over 1 million people, while ridership on the CTrain grew at twice that rate, by 50% in only 10 years. This resulted in severe overcrowding on the trains and demands for better service. In December, 2004, city council approved an order for 33 additional SD-160 vehicles from Siemens to not only address overcrowding, but to accommodate the NE extension to McKnight–Westwinds and the NW extension to Crowfoot. These new SD160s started to enter service in November, 2006. In December 2006, CT extended the order by seven cars to a total of 40 cars, which had all been delivered by the spring of 2008. This brought the total of first-generation SD 160s to 72 cars numbered 2201 – 2272. These cars were all delivered without air conditioning, and retrofitted with air conditioning between 2009 and 2011.
In November 2007 city council approved purchasing another 38 SD-160 Series 8 LRVs to be used in conjunction with the West LRT extension (2012) and further expansions to the NE (Saddletowne 2012) and NW legs (Tuscany 2014). These are new-generation train cars with many upgraded features over the original SD160s including factory equipped air conditioning and various cosmetic and technical changes. These units started to enter service in December 2010 and are numbered 2301–2338. As of May 2012, all had entered revenue service.
In September 2013, Calgary Transit ordered 63 S200 LRVs to provide enough cars to run four-car trains, and to retire some of its Siemens-Duewag U2s, which are nearing the end of their useful lifespans. Some of the 80 U2 cars were 34 years old, and all of them had traveled at least 2,000,000 kilometres (1,200,000 mi). The first of the new cars arrived in January, 2016 and delivery was expected take two years. The front of the new cars is customized to resemble a hockey goalie's mask, and they include such new features as heated floors for winter and air conditioning for summer. They also now have high-resolution video cameras covering the entire interior and exterior of the vehicles for security purposes.
On November 18, 2016, Calgary Transit announced the retirement of the first CTrain purchased, car 2001. Some of the Siemens Duwag U2 cars will be phased out as the new Siemens S200 cars come online.
Work cars
Car# 3275 – shunting/switcher locomotive
In 2001, the CTrain became the first public transit system in Canada to purchase all of its electricity from emissions-free wind power generation. The electricity is generated by Enmax operating in southern Alberta. The trains are powered from the same power grid as before; however, an equivalent amount of electricity is produced at the southern wind farms and "dedicated" to the CTrain. Under Alberta's deregulated market for electricity, large consumers can contract to purchase their electricity from a specific vendor.
On February 18, 2009, Calgary Transit announced that the CTrain had carried one billion riders in the 28 years since the start of service on May 25, 1981. The trains were now carrying over 269,600 passengers every day, higher than any other light rail system in Canada or the United States. Mayor Dave Bronconnier stated that more vehicles were on order to deal with crowding, the northeast and the northwest legs were being extended, and construction of the new west leg was due to start later in the year.
In the following section preliminary timelines for construction of future stations are referenced. For example, construction of a north CTrain line is not expected until after 2023. The city has, on several occasions, accelerated construction of CTrain expansion due to demand and available money. For example, the McKnight-Westwinds station, which opened in 2007, was, as recently as 2002, not planned until beyond 2010. Similarly, the timeline of construction of the south line extension was also pushed up several years due to increasing population and traffic volume. There are plans to develop new routes into the centre north and the southeast of the city.
Rides taken solely within the downtown are free. This is known as the 7th Avenue Free Fare Zone and encompasses all CTrain stations along 7th Avenue.
Route details
There are two light rail lines in operation: the Red Line running from the far southern to the far northwestern suburbs of Calgary (Somerset/Bridlewood–Tuscany), and the Blue Line running from the northeastern to the western suburbs (Saddletowne–69 Street). The routes merge and share common tracks on the 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) downtown transit mall on 7th Avenue South, which also allows buses and emergency vehicles.
Downtown Transit Mall
  • As part of the construction of the original South leg, nine single-platform stations were built along the 7th Avenue South transit mall, which formed the 7th Avenue free fare zone. All nine stations opened May 25, 1981. The tracks run at grade in a semi-exclusive right of way, shared with buses, city and emergency vehicles. This is a free-fare zone intended to act as a downtown people mover. Fares are only required after trains exit the downtown core.
  • Westbound stations used to consist of Olympic Plaza (formerly 1 Street E, renamed in 1987), 1 Street W, 4 Street W, and 7 Street W. Eastbound stations consisted of 8 Street W, 6 Street W, 3 Street W, Centre Street and City Hall (formerly 2 Street E, renamed in 1987).
  • When the Northeast leg opened on April 27, 1985, two stations were added: 3 Street E serving Westbound Blue Line trains only and 10 Street W, a centre-loading platform, which served as the terminus of both Red and Blue lines, until the Northwest leg opened in 1987, after which it was the terminus for the Blue line only.
  • As part of Calgary's refurbishment project, 3 Street E and Olympic Plaza stations have been decommissioned and replaced by the new gateway City Hall station in 2011. 10 Street W was decommissioned and replaced with the Downtown West–Kerby (formerly called 11 Street W) station in 2012.
Downtown station refurbishment
In June 2007, the City of Calgary released information on the schedule for the refurbishment of the remaining original downtown stations. The plan involved replacing and relocating most stations, and expanding Centre Street station which was relocated one block east (adjacent to the Telus Convention Centre) in 2000, to board four-car trains. The new stations have retained their existing names (with the exception of 10 Street W becoming Downtown West–Kerby in 2012); however, they may be shifted one block east or west, or to the opposite side of 7th Avenue. The refurbishment project was completed on December 8, 2012, when the Downtown West–Kerby station was opened to the public in conjunction with the West LRT opening event.
  • 1 Street SW – new platform relocated one block east opened October 28, 2005.
  • 7 Street SW – new platform relocated one block east opened February 27, 2009.
  • 6 Street SW – reconstructed in original location. Original platform closed April 7, 2008 and new platform opened March 27, 2009.
  • 8 Street SW – new platform relocated one block east opened December 18, 2009.
  • 3 Street SW – reconstructed in original location. Original platform closed April 20, 2009 and new platform opened March 12, 2010.
  • 3 Street SE – permanently closed May 3, 2010. Replaced by new dual-platform City Hall Station opening July 6, 2011.
  • 4 Street SW – reconstructed in original location. Original platform closed January 7, 2010 and new platform opened January 21, 2011.
  • City Hall – original Eastbound platform rebuilt with new Westbound platform to replace 3 Street E and Olympic Plaza. Original platform closed May 3, 2010 and new dual-platform station opened July 6, 2011. Olympic Plaza was closed permanently at this time. Eastbound platform re-closed following the 2011 Stampede to finish construction and officially opened September 19, 2011.
  • Olympic Plaza – permanently closed July 6, 2011. Replaced by new dual-platform City Hall Station.
  • 10 Street SW – permanently closed and removed on September 15, 2012. The new station replacing it, which opened on December 8, 2012, has dual side-loading platforms and is located one block west. This project was initially proposed to be undertaken in 2006, following the opening of the new 1 Street W station. However, the City of Calgary decided to defer the project to coincide with the opening of the West Line and continue on with refurbishment of the other stations. This new station was initially called "11 Street W" up until the Summer of 2012 when it was renamed to Downtown West–Kerby.

This required that the stations be closed during demolition and reconstruction. The new stations feature longer platforms for longer trains, better integration of the platforms into the sidewalk system, better lighting, and more attractive landscaping and street furniture. This project was shortlisted for the New/Old category in the 2012 World Architecture Festival in Singapore.

Red Line
  • Also known as Route 201, this route comprises two legs connected by the downtown transit mall: the South leg (17.3 kilometres (10.7 mi)) and the Northwest leg (15.7 kilometres (9.8 mi)). There are eleven stations on the South leg and nine on the Northwest leg. Total length of the line: 33 kilometres (21 mi).
South leg
  • This was the first leg of the system to be built. Seven stations on this leg opened on May 25, 1981, as the first light railway line to serve the city. From north to south, they are Victoria Park/Stampede (renamed from Stampede in 1995), Erlton/Stampede (renamed from Erlton in 1995), 39 Avenue (renamed from 42 Avenue in 1986), Chinook, Heritage (also the site of the Haysboro LRT Storage Facility), Southland, and Anderson (also the site of the Anderson LRT Yards). The original South line was 10.9 km long. On October 9, 2001, the line was extended south 3.4 km and two new stations were added: Canyon Meadows and Fish Creek–Lacombe, as part of the South LRT Extension Phase I. On June 28, 2004, Phase II opened adding 3 km of track and two more stations: Shawnessy and Somerset–Bridlewood. A further three stations – Silverado (most likely in the area of 194th Avenue SW), 212th Avenue South, and Pine Creek (in the area around 228th Avenue SW) – are planned once the communities adjacent to their location are developed, likely beyond 2020.
Northwest leg
  • This was the third leg of the system to be built. Five stations on this leg opened on September 7, 1987. From the most central to the most northwesterly, they are Sunnyside, SAIT/AUArts/Jubilee (the station name in full is "Southern Alberta Institute of Technology/Alberta University of the Arts/Jubilee Auditorium"), Lions Park, Banff Trail, and University. The original Northwest leg was 5.6 km long. On August 31, 1990, the line was extended 1 km and Brentwood station was opened as the new terminus. On December 15, 2003, the line was extended 3 km again and Dalhousie station was opened. On June 15, 2009, the line was extended 3.6 km and Crowfoot (formerly Crowfoot-Centennial) was opened. It was extended further by 2.5 km to Tuscany Station on August 25, 2014.
Blue Line
  • Also known as Route 202, this route is composed of two legs connected by the downtown transit mall: the Northeast leg (15.5 kilometres (9.6 mi)) and the newer West leg (8.2 kilometres (5.1 mi)). The Northeast leg has ten stations and the West leg has six stations. Total length of this route: 25.7 kilometres (16.0 mi).
Northeast leg
  • This was the second leg of the system to be built. Seven stations opened on April 27, 1985, from downtown to the northeast. They are: Bridgeland/Memorial, Zoo, Barlow/Max Bell, Franklin, Marlborough, Rundle, and Whitehorn. The original Northeast line was 9.8 km long. On December 17, 2007, the line was extended 2.8 km further north to an eighth station – McKnight–Westwinds. On August 27, 2012, another 2.9 km extension of track opened and added two more stations – Martindale and Saddletowne. Additional stations are proposed for development, likely beyond 2023, at 96th Avenue, Country Hills Boulevard, 128th Avenue (north of Skyview Ranch) and Stoney Trail (in the Stonegate Landing development), as those areas are developed for future LRT infrastructure.
West leg
  • This was the fourth leg of the system to be built, although it was included in the original plans for the system. It was built last because it was anticipated to have lower ridership and higher construction costs than the previous legs. Construction of the 8.2 kilometre (5 mile) leg began in 2009. It opened on December 10, 2012.
  • The City of Calgary began a review process in late 2006 to update the plans to current standards, and Calgary City Council gave final approval to the project and allocated the required $566-million project funding on November 20, 2007. Funding for the project was sourced from the infrastructure fund that was created when the Province of Alberta returned the education tax portion of property taxes to the city. Construction of this leg began in 2009. It was constructed at the same time as further extensions of the NE and NW lines of the LRT system that were approved in November 2007.
  • The West LRT leg has six stations (from east to west): Sunalta (near 16th Street SW), Shaganappi Point, Westbrook, 45 Street (Westgate), Sirocco, and 69 Street (west of 69th Street near Westside Recreation Centre).
The updated alignment from the 2007 West LRT Report includes the line running on an elevated guideway beginning west of the Downtown West–Kerby Station, running along the CPR right of way to Bow Trail SW, and then to 24th Street SW. The line then runs at grade past Shaganappi Point Station and drops into a tunnel to 33rd Street SW. The tunnel then runs under the Westbrook Mall parking lot, and the former site of the now-demolished Ernest Manning Senior High School. The line then follows the north side of 17th Avenue SW past 37th Street SW below grade to 45 Street station. Past 45th Street the line runs at grade, and approaching Sarcee Trail SW moves onto an elevated guideway that passes over the freeway. The line then runs at grade to Sirocco Station, then proceeds to drop below grade and pass under eastbound 17th Avenue SW at 69th Street SW and return to grade on the south side of the avenue. The line then terminates at 69 Street Station located to the west of 69th Street SW.
Three of the new West leg stations are located at grade. Westbrook, 45 Street, and 69 Street stations are located below grade, while Sunalta is an elevated station. On October 5, 2009, the city council announced approval of a plan to put a portion of the West leg into a trench at 45th Street and 17th Avenue SW, a move welcomed by advocates who fought to have it run underground. The change cost an estimated $61 million; however, lower-than-expected construction costs were expected to absorb much of the change.
The cost for the project is, however, over budget by at least C$35 million and the overall cost could be more than C$1.46 billion because of soaring costs of land used and the integration of public art into the project. The public art aspect of the project was neglected in its initial form. Because City Hall regulations for big construction projects require incorporation of public art, City Hall had to find the money. Therefore, the West LRT project cost C$8.6 million more than expected.
On October 29, 2009 city council announced that the contract to construct the West LRT had been awarded to a consortium led by SNC Lavalin.
Future extension of the West leg to Aspen Woods Station (around 17th Avenue and 85th Street SW) has been planned, and future extensions further west to 101st Street SW may be added as new communities adjacent to 17th Avenue SW are built.
On May 15, 2012, testing of the leg began with two LRT cars. As the construction of the leg moved towards completion, four LRT cars were used, until revenue service began on December 10, 2012.
In its first year of service, 69 Street served an average of 32,400 boardings per day.


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