With a population of almost 1.1 million, Calgary is quickly becoming Sprawlgary. It seems like a personal set of wheels is pretty much essential to conveniently making it to all the commitments in our family schedule. Despite how compelling convenience can be, we’ve slowly developed the habits of stacking errands, carpooling, taking public transit and walking to the nearest shopping centre if we need to pick up a few groceries or run errands. Those simple measures mean that in a typical month, we avoid more than 30 car trips and get some modest exercise! Using a good mix of transportation modes helps keep fuel and other operating costs down, too.
This month’s theme made me realize I don’t have a good handle on how many car trips we still make each month. I do know there’s room for improvement. So thanks PJ, for prompting me to take another look at my modes of transport.
1. My Own Two Feet
My first preference (where practical) is for self-powered transport. For me, that means walking or hiking. No running – my knees can’t take it! It’s that time of year when it’s time to designate last year’s waterproof, low-rise “boots” as this year’s gardening shoes and break in a new pair of walkers for urban walks and light hikes. I’m sticking with my long-time favourite brand/model – the Keen Targhee II Light Trail Shoe.
I’m strictly a fair-weather cyclist. Calgary has an extensive network of paved bikeways (approx. 550 km) and a few parks with great mountain biking trails. My urban wheels are the MEC Chance (great on the paved routes, not so great on hilly dirt tracks). Mr. GeoK and I hope to get out for our first urban ride of 2013 later this week – along the Bow River Pathway to do a little geocache maintenance. It’s fair to say my mountain biking skills are still “developing”. The boys really push me to the limits of my capabilities when we’re on our mountain bikes on the trails in and around Canmore. I don’t quite understand why there are so many bike locking stands along the paved pathways in Canmore, but they do make for an interesting photo!
3. LRT (Light Rail Transit)
With the December 2012 completion of the West LRT, public transit instantly became one of my preferred modes of transport. I enjoy the 2 km walk to/from the nearest stations (the 69th Street and Sirocco stations are pretty much the same distance from home) and the stress-free, twenty-minute ride to the heart of downtown. The $3 one-way fare seems a little pricey, but once I factor in parking, vehicle operating costs and the higher level of stress that comes with driving my own vehicle downtown, I think the value proposition is pretty good. For those who make more than 30 trips/month on Calgary public transit, the monthly pass (at $94) is an even better value.
4. Personal Vehicle
It’s hard to beat the convenience of a personal vehicle. The odometer on my 2007 model year AWD currently reads a little over 120,000 km (just under 75,000 miles). A lot of that is highway mileage, including a trip a few years ago to Geowoodstock in Seattle and lots of trips to Canmore, to get out hiking in Kananaskis Country and the Canadian Rocky Mountain Parks. Family wheels = freedom to explore. In the city, it’s great for hauling dirt and plants home from the local nursery, supplies home from Costco, and family members to/from school, taekwondo and whatever else is on the calendar.
5. Planes and Trains
Despite the fact that we haven’t taken many exotic vacations over the past few years, there’s a small – but significant – role for planes and trains in my personal transportation mix. Contrails are a regular feature of skyscapes in the Bow Valley, and every time I see a plane flying over I wonder who’s on board and whether they’re traveling for business or pleasure. Our last big trip was in February 2011 and a plane was essential to traveling all the way around the world in 23 days (check February 2011 archive for details). Writing this, I think it’s time to start planning our next big trip. Suggestions?