Perceptions of safety on Calgary Transit improving, new survey shows

Following focused investments by Council, Calgarians say they feel safer now than six months ago in and around Calgary’s transit system, according to a perspectives survey on safety from The City of Calgary.

 Of those surveyed, 72 per cent said they feel safe riding a CTrain during the day, up from 67 per cent in May 2023 when the survey was last conducted. Also up are the percentage of people who said they feel safer waiting at a CTrain station during the day (70 per cent in November compared with 64 per cent in May).

The survey results also show an increase in people feeling safe while riding a CTrain after dark (39 per cent in November compared to 33 per cent in May) and while waiting for a CTrain after dark (34 per cent in November compared to 27 per cent in May).

“Calgarians want and deserve the very best – and safest – experience using our transit system, whether riding our LRT, buses or shuttle vehicles,” says Kay Choi, Community Safety and Wellbeing Lead, The City of Calgary. “I’m encouraged to see we have been able to move the needle on safety, and recognize we still have a long way to go to help Calgarians feel safe in and around our CTrains.”

When it comes to people feeling safer using the transit system overall, Calgarians continue to say they avoid taking the bus or CTrain due to safety concerns (49 per cent). These stats stayed relatively on par with those gathered in May of 2023 (47 per cent). Of note, Calgarians say they feel safer using our transit buses than riding the CTrain (75 per cent).

More encouraging are the results from the same survey showing that 71 per cent of respondents continue to agree Calgary is an overall safe city. More specifically, 95 per cent feel safe walking alone in their community during the day; 75 per cent at night, and two-fifths (40 per cent) of Calgarians say Calgary is ‘more safe’ when compared to other large Canadian cities.

"By investing $15 million annually, Council has already seen progress towards improved safety on transit,” says Mayor Jyoti Gondek. “Together with community and law enforcement partners, we continue to work collaboratively to address safety concerns in our growing city.”

In June 2023, Council approved $8.7 million in one-time funding to add 39 peace officers to the Transit Public Safety team. The peace officers hired through this recruitment program increased the frequency of public interactions with officers and improved uniformed officer visibility on the transit system. The investment also went towards enhanced cleaning of stations, infrastructure improvements and more frequent partner patrols. This funding was in addition to $5.9 million in emergency funding approved by Council in July 2022 which was used to hire 28 transit community peace officers and recruit 31 security guards to patrol the transit system and provide customer service. Six Calgary Transit ambassador teams were also added to assist with wayfinding and to be a visible presence for riders.

In October 2023, City Council then approved Public Transit Safety Strategy. The City developed the Strategy in line with the Canadian Urban Transit Alliance recommendations to help address social disorder and reduce the number of incidents on Calgary’s transit system. During budget adjustments to The City’s service plans and budgets in November 2023, City Council voted to make a meaningful investment of $15 million annually and $2 million in 2024 one-time funding in their public safety priority area.  

“Council’s ongoing focus and investments in public safety is helping us move in the right direction,” says The City’s Chief Administrative Officer, David Duckworth. “Safety is a high priority for The City. We will stay focused on this to ensure Calgary remains one of the most livable cities, and has a safe, reliable and welcoming transit system that people want to use.”

Along with perception of safety trending in the right direction, the number of reported incidents caused by social disorder (i.e. disturbances such as verbal fighting/insults, open drug use, overdoses/drug poisonings) on CTrains are also down. Between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15, 2023, a total of 3,450 social disorder incidents were reported compared to a total of 4,146 incidents reported between Oct. 1 and Dec. 15, 2022.

“This is due to the coordinated community emergency winter response we have with our partners, like the Calgary Homeless Foundation and Calgary Police Service,” says Choi. “Gatherings at transit stations have so far decreased this winter over last winter by approximately 56 per cent, even with the extreme cold weather we just experienced.”

As part of Calgary’s Coordinated Community Emergency Winter Response, The City provided additional support towards the Emergency Shelter Shuttle. With the additional support, the shuttle was able to expand its operation to run seven-days a week rather than only operating in colder weather (-20 degrees Celsius). Full operation of the shuttle started Dec. 1, providing transport to available shelter space for individuals sheltering along the LRT line daily between 10:30 p.m. and 4 a.m. Since Dec. 1, there were 1,024 transports to emergency shelters from LRT stations.

Making our transit network a safer place to ride is a shared responsibility between government partners, law enforcement, social sector agencies and riders. By working together, we can make Calgary’s transit system as safe as possible, and a transportation mode of choice.

The Perspectives on Calgary Survey, with a focus on safety, has run three times in the past two years: July 19-28, 2022; May 16-26, 2023; and most recently, Nov. 13-23, 2023. The survey, which gathers information from 500 randomly selected Calgarians, covers topics pertaining to the perceptions of safety in Calgary, including one’s own community, downtown and Calgary Transit. As a random and representative survey, it has a margin of error of ± 4.4 percentage points, 19 times out of 20. The next survey is set to take place Spring 2024.