Home Canadian News ‘Overstayed its welcome’: City paves over last remaining bus traps

‘Overstayed its welcome’: City paves over last remaining bus traps

‘Overstayed its welcome’: City paves over last remaining bus traps

Popularized in the 1970s, the traffic-restricting barriers intended to prevent motorists from entering bus-only lanes and short-cutting through neighbourhoods

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The days of cars getting stuck in Calgary’s bus traps are officially in the past, after city crews paved over the final one last weekend.

The traps, which were essentially pits in the road engineered to prevent vehicles other than transit buses from passing over them, were used in Calgary for nearly 50 years as a traffic control device.

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Popularized in the late 1970s, the traffic-restricting barriers intended to prevent motorists from entering bus-only lanes and short-cutting through neighbourhoods.

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But the traps brought backlash over the years, as they would often result in cars getting stuck — ironically disrupting the flow of public transit.

After direction from administration in 2022, the final seven pits were decommissioned in January and February of this year. The last one — located at Centre Street and Beddington Trail N. — was paved over last weekend.

Troy McLeod, director of mobility, said the city spent $25,000 to decommission the final seven traps. He added crews also installed new signage and below-ground detectors in the asphalt that will be able to monitor if vehicles accessing the lanes are compliant or not.

This solution means that police and other emergency responders can use the lanes if needed.

“If we have any compliance issues, the Calgary Police Service will support us with enforcement if required,” McLeod said.

Resident has mixed feelings about removal of bus trap

A long-time resident of Beddington Heights who goes by “T.C.” said she has mixed emotions about losing the trap in front of her house.

While she said it was becoming tiresome to see vehicles get stuck, she worries not having the barrier anymore will result in more cars driving in the bus-only lane.

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Having lived in Beddington Heights since 2005, T.C. said she has witnessed cars getting caught in the trap “very frequently” over the years.

In speaking to the drivers who fell victim to the trap, T.C. said it was usually a case of negligence, as there is a large sign warning of the barrier ahead.

“I think it was more that they weren’t paying attention,” she said. “We’d go out and they’d say, ‘Well, this is what it said on my GPS.’

“The sign can’t be any clearer. It’s a great big sign that says, ‘Danger, do not enter,’ and then it shows a vehicle trap embedded in the roadway and shows a car going down (into the pit).”

The recently paved over bus trap at Centre Street and Beddington Trail N.W.
A camera monitors the recently paved over vehicle trap at the Calgary Transit access point on Centre Street and Beddington Trail N.W. on Thursday, February 22, 2024. Gavin Young/Postmedia

Calgary’s use of the bus traps dates back to at least the mid-1970s — four of the traps were installed between 1975 and 1979, according to McLeod.

Despite being used for nearly 50 years, the traps often received negative feedback from residents who lived near them. The city received “several” reports a month of cars driving into the traps, McLeod said.

Vehicles that got stuck in the traps would have to be hauled out by a tow truck, at the driver’s expense. The driver would also receive a ticket for entering a traffic-restricted area.

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“There’d be damage to the vehicle, so that’s obviously a cost the driver had to incur as well,” McLeod said.

Councillor wants to see other traffic control technology

In 2022, Ward 10 councillor Andre Chabot submitted an administrative inquiry, asking city staff if there were better ways to prevent cars from accessing transit-only lanes.

That summer, a memo to city council from general manager of operational services Doug Morgan recommended decommissioning the remaining traps, claiming they were an outdated method of controlling traffic.

On Thursday, Chabot said he’d prefer to see other traffic control technology used for these accesses, such as automated gates that only bus drivers would be able to open.

Chabot said the removal of the bus traps is overall positive, though he acknowledged some residents would have preferred to see them remain in place.

“It’s not a bus trap, honestly, it’s a car trap,” he said.

“It’s an old technology that has overstayed its welcome.”

Some bus-only lanes in Calgary have implemented this type of barrier, but McLeod said the drawback is they don’t allow emergency service vehicles to pass through and are a more costly technology to maintain.

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