Summary

Calgary Transit operates a fleet of buses, trains, and shuttle buses.

The backbone of the system is the  C-Train, an LRT (light rail transit) train system. (Outside of North America, similar transit systems are often called trams.) In Calgary, the terms C-Train and LRT are used interchangeably. 

There are currently two LRT lines. Route 201  (shown in red on LRT system maps) connects Somerset/Bridlewood in the south, through downtown, to Tuscany in the northwest.  Route 202 (in blue on maps) connects the NE Saddletowne station to City Centre (downtown) and then to west Calgary (69th St station next to Westside Rec Centre).

C-Train stops in the downtown core consist of elevated sidewalk platforms, but C-Train stops in the suburbs are much larger stations. They generally consist of a large parking area; a bus loop next to the station building or station accessway, where riders transfer between their local feeder bus and the LRT; a Kiss 'N' Ride zone near the station, where cars can pick up or drop off passengers; a large heated/air conditioned station building, with escalators, elevators, and stairs to take passengers up over the tracks and down to the platform, which is located between the inbound and outbound LRT tracks. The station platforms are outdoors, but are somewhat sheltered from the weather by glass walls.

Some stations only have at-grade access, but still have shelters and seats.  

In 2014, Calgary Transit completed a project to extend all older platforms and stations to accommodate 4-car trains. It is expected that the first 4-car trains will start running in late 2015, providing a much-needed increase of the C-Train system's capacity, particularly at rush hour. 

The LRT system is supplemented by a network of buses.

The Calgary Transit fleet is 100% accessible 


Table of Contents

This TripAdvisor Traveller Article on Calgary: Public Transportation includes the following sections:

Fares

Frequency

7th Avenue transit corridor

Wheelchair access

Pets

Bicycles

C-Train doors

Attractions accessible by transit

Airport service

Customer Service Centre

Stampede Service

Statutory Holiday Service

Airdrie Transit

 


 

Fares 

Some visitors' comments on TripAdvisor mention the "free" train in Calgary. The C-Train is not free, with the exception of the free fare zone on 7th Avenue in downtown Calgary (details below).  Access to the C-Train is on the proof-of-payment ("honour") system, so you don't need to pay to go through a gate or a turnstile to get to the platform. But you must buy a ticket from a vending machine on the platform or inside the station. Large signs are posted to remind you of this.

A one-way fare to access Calgary Transit's bus and train network is C$3.15 for an adult, C$2.10 for a youth (age 6-17), and free for children under 6 (as of Jan 2015). A day pass, good for travel on the whole system for a full day, is C$9.50 for adults, C$6.75 for youths. The fare is a flat rate. Calgary Transit does not have a system of zones which require further payment; one fare will get you to any destination in Calgary.

One-way tickets can be purchased from bus drivers, vending machines at LRT platforms and stations, and from selected vendors .  Vendors also sell 10-ride ticket books, which are useful if you expect to make extended use of the transit system. Day passes can be purchased at LRT platforms and stations, and the airport bus terminal, from the same ticket machines that sell one-way tickets; the machines take coins,  debit cards, and credit cards. Note that the ticket machines seem to be at an acceptable height for wheelchair users, but it may be hard to use the debit/credit card keypad as it seems uncomfortably high.

Bus drivers will not give change for cash payments; you must have the exact fare, or overpay and forfeit any change.

If you will be transferring from a C-Train to a bus, save your train ticket and hand it to the bus driver.  If you will be transferring from a bus to another bus or to a C-Train, ask the driver of the first bus for a transfer.  When you board the first bus, just say  "Transfer, please."  A transfer is valid for 90 minutes from the time it's cut, and can be used anywhere on any vehicle for the time it's valid.

Access to the C-Train is on the proof-of-payment ("honour") system, so you don't need to pay to go through a gate or a turnstile to get to the platform. Instead, you buy a ticket from a vending machine on the platform or inside the station. 

In the suburbs, platforms are part of a larger C-Train station. Station platforms are "restricted fare areas"; you must buy a ticket from a machine at the top of the stairs/escalator before you go down to the platform. 

Randomly, uniformed ticket inspectors will board the LRT and everyone will have to show their C-Train tickets, monthly passes, or bus transfers to the inspector. If someone can't show that they have paid for their trip, they will be issued a ticket for riding the train without paying. People waiting on station platforms must show proof of payment to ticket inspectors, because they are in a restricted fare area. (Restricted fare areas are indicated by large signs.) Always save your ticket until you have left your last stop, as the officers will sometimes check your ticket as you get off the train. The fine for not having a valid fare is $250.

Use of the train is free in the downtown core, along 7th Avenue.  But if you are catching a train downtown to go to the Stampede or anywhere else outside of 7th Avenue (after City Hall for Somerset/Saddletowne trains, after 7th Street SW for Tuscany trains, and after Downtown West/Kerby for 69 Street trains), you will have to buy a ticket before boarding.


 

Frequency

At rush hour, trains are about every 3-6 minutes. Outside of rush hour trains are about every 10 minutes. After 10 pm, trains are about every 15 minutes.

Buses typically are less frequent than trains. Intervals of 15 minutes during rush hour and 30 minutes during off peak hours are not uncommon for feeder bus routes in the outerlying communities. Typically mainline bus routes (Routes 1, 3, 7, 301, etc) have a frequency similar to the C-Train, but it all depends on the route. Pocket schedules (route brochures) are a big help. 

Tip: During rush hour (6:30 a.m. to 9:00 a.m., 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m.) trains are crowded. You will find the centre of the second car is usually the least crowded.

Calgary does not have 24 hour transit service, except for the C-Train during Stampede. If you plan to be out late, know the times of the last bus and train. 


7th Avenue

In the downtown core, 7th Avenue S. is restricted to C-Trains, buses, emergency, and Calgary Transit vehicles only.

To ride the C-Train on 7th Avenue is free but to ride the buses on 7th Ave you must pay the regular fare.

7th Avenue is the only section of the LRT system where C-Train Routes 201 and 202 overlap and where you can catch a train for either route.  If you need to change from a Rte 201 train to a Rte 202 train, you will do it along 7th Avenue S. 

Each platform has a display that shows the destination and approximate arrival time of the next three trains ("Somerset" for southbound trains, "Tuscany" for NW trains, "69 Street" for westbound trains, and "Saddletowne" for NE trains). These signs are not always correct, so always stay well behind the yellow line and pay attention to the destination on the front of the train itself.


Wheelchair access

C-Trains and buses are wheelchair-accessible; the last inaccessible bus was removed from service in December 2014. 

All C-Train stations are accessible with either ramps or elevators. To use the elevators, press the red "help" button beside the elevator and ask the operator to use it. The only exceptions are at 69 Street, Westbrook, Sunalta, and Whitehorn stations, where you do not need to press the help button to use the elevators. 

Access Calgary operates buses that offer door-to-door, shared ride service for transit riders who cannot use Calgary Transit due to a disability.  The one-way fare is C$1.95.  Books of 10 tickets can be purchased from Handibus operators and from Calgary Transit ticket vendors .   Access Calgary provides bus service to visitors for a maximum of 14 days per calendar year.  To register for the service, call (403) 537-7770.


Pets

 Pets are allowed on the system for free. Dogs must be on leashes and under the owner's control. All other pets must be in carriers.


Bicycles

Bicycles are allowed on the C-Train outside of rush hour (weekday mornings 6 am to 9 am, weekday afternoons 3 pm to 6 pm), for no additional charge. Bikes are not allowed on board buses. The only designated bus route for bike racks is Route 20 Heritage/Northmount, but there are many buses scattered throughout the city equipped with them. See Calgary Transit's Bikes on Transit guide for details. 


C-Train doors 

If you take the train, be aware that the train entrance/exit doors are connected to an automatic braking system; if someone is blocking the ankle-high "electric eye" unit that senses that someone is standing in the doorway, the doors won't close and the brakes will not disengage. The train driver will then make an announcement asking people to clear the doors; if you're standing next to an open door, squeeze in a little further so that the sensor is cleared, the door can close, and the train can move.  


Attractions accessible by transit 

Some popular tourist attractions outside of the downtown core that can be accessed by public transit include Stampede Park (Somerset Train to Victoria Park / Stampede Station or Erlton / Stampede Station), Calgary Zoo (Saddletowne train to Calgary Zoo Station), Heritage Park (Somerset Train to Heritage Station and then Bus #502), and Canada Olympic Park (routes 305 and 408), just to name a few.


Airport Service

There are three bus routes that serve Calgary International Airport. 

Route 300 BRT Airport/City Centre is an express route running along Centre Street that takes you directly downtown from the airport. It has limited stops. There are special fares involved for departures from the airport bus terminal only. Monthly, senior, and day passes are accepted for airport boardings. Transfer from routes 100 and 430 are also accepted. However, if you do not have one of these, you must purchase a "Calgary Transit Boarding Pass" for $9.50. These are available for purchase from the ticket vending machines located at the bus terminal (Bus Bay 7, across from Meeting Place A). The "boarding passes" act as day passes once purchased. 

Route 100 McKnight-Westwinds/Airport connects to C-Train 202 Blue Line at McKnight-Westwinds station. You can go downtown or further NE to Saddletowne from there. Regular fares apply. Note: the last 1-2 buses on weekdays will not meet a downtown-bound train, depending on the schedule, so be careful.

Route 430 Sandstone/Airport connects to Sandstone and North Pointe bus terminals. You can catch the 3 Elbow Drive downtown from Sandstone. You can catch the 301 BRT North downtown from North Pointe Terminal. Regular fares apply. Note: the last 1-2 buses will not meet a downtown-bound bus, depending on the schedule, so be careful.

Note:Monthly passes, packs of 10 tickets, etc. can be purchased from the Mac's store in Meeting Place A.


 Customer Service Centre

If you need any further information, individual route brochures, transit fares, retrieval of lost property, or anything else, you can visit the Calgary Transit Customer Service Centre at 125 7th Avenue SE, which is right on the Centre Street statiion platfrom. They are open Monday-Saturday 10am-5:30pm. Also see www.calgarytransit.com 


Stampede Service

Calgary Transit has extra service during Stampede. Select mainline buses run an extra hour after they normally stop running (last buses leaving downtown at 1:20am instead of 12:20am). The C-Train runs at an increased frequency during the day, and then runs overnight every 30 minutes. The route 304 Stampede North express runs from the Stampede Grounds up Centre Street North, ending at North Pointe bus terminal. 

Tips for riding during Stampede

  • There are two stations for the Stampede grounds: Victoria Park/Stampede and Erlton/Stampede. See which station will get you closer to the attraction you want. Victoria Park/Stampede is closest to the BMO Centre, Scotiabank Saddledome, Weadickville, and the Big 4 Building. Erlton/Stampede is closest to the Indian Village and Stampede Grandstand (rodeo, chuckwagon races, evening show). The two main entrances to the Stampede grounds are next to these two stations.
  • Trains are often jam-packed during Stampede. See if you can take buses (except on Parade Day) to avoid the train. Route 10 Home Road/Southcentre runs parallel to the C-Train for much of its journey and stops at both Stampede stations on MacLeod Trail/1st Street SE.
  • For Parade Day, always try to get downtown before 7am, when the parade route roads and crossroads are closed, especially if taking a bus. C-Train service continues while the parade is taking place, even though many downtown roads are closed.
  • Always wait at the middle of the platform; most people stay in large groups near the platform entrances.
  • C-Train station vending machines have a "multiple tickets" option, so that you can buy tickets for your whole group/family in one transaction
  • When returning home, the Stampede C-Train stations have change machines, so that if you have bills, you can put them in the change machine and get coins for the ticket machines 
  • When going to the Stampede grounds from downtown, you'll have two choices of trains from the eastbound platforms, Somerset (Rte 201) and Saddletowne (Rte 202). Although you might think a Saddletowne train would take you to the grounds, where the Saddledome is, this is not the case. NEVER take a SADDLETOWNE train to the Stampede grounds, as they go to the NE and not to the Stampede. Take a Somerset train to get to the grounds 

Enjoy the Calgary Stampede! 


Statutory Holiday Service

On statutory holidays, Calgary Transit runs with a modified schedule. Most holidays buses and trains run on a Sunday schedule, but there are exceptions.

Remembrance Day service is on a Saturday schedule

Christmas Eve and New Years Eve service is on a per-day-of-week schedule (A Saturday Christmas Eve service would run on a Saturday schedule, a Wednesday New Years Eve service would run on a Weekday schedule, etc.)

Christmas Day service runs on a "skeleton schedule". As of Christmas Day 2014, only routes 1, 3, 14, 20,72/73,100, 300, 301 and the C-Train run.


Airdrie Transit

 Airdrie Transit is a service operated by the City of Airdrie to the north of Calgary, and it's separate from Calgary Transit. They are not associated with Calgary Transit, so to ride their buses to Airdrie and CrossIron Mills Mall and within Calgary, you must pay their fares and abide by their rules. See www.airdrietransit.ca