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Calgary: Canada’s transport of delight!

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Calgary: Canada’s transport of delight!

CMW runs the rule over Calgary’s transportation and logistics vertical


In November 2019, Canadian hosted the Canadian Urban Transit Association (CUTA) Annual Conference and Transit Show. It was a shining example of Alberta’s stampede city’s strong transportation and logistics vertical that is attracting increasing attention of event organisers keen to tap into the strong knowledge base.

CUTA connects hundreds of professionals dedicated to transit and integrated urban mobility and its November show was a packed event with a Young Leaders Summit, technical tours, the UITP International Rail Forum, Data Blitz, Canadian Transit Show, a Leadership Awards ceremony, CEOs Unplugged and Safety & Security Roundtable. All show elements were strong evidence of a thriving sector. This was also reflected in the delegate numbers: Such was Calgary’s pull that over 800 transit aficionados made the journey to Western Canada to attend.

The Data Blitz was a new element of the show in November and part of CUTA’s work to innovate in the data storytelling space by making this research more dynamic. The hot discussion was how General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS) data could be leveraged to advocate for public transit in Canada.

A local case study provided inspiration: The data from before and after of an ambitious transit network redesign undertaken by Calgary Transit in 2018 was presented and Blitzers were able to examine the data and challenge conventional wisdom on how they would evaluate the efficacy of the network redesign, including finding new locations that could be reached in under 15 minutes.

Delegates also heard how, as custodians of our cities’ breathable air, transit systems were continuing to move towards fleet electrification and greener technologies to combat climate change.

And Calgary is able to introduce real-life experience of operators making that transition to green fleets: the ‘It’s Electrifyin’ discussion at the conference helped bring out that information and share widely.

One lesson was that, while buying an electric bus may be the easy part, the real challenge starts with having upgraded power infrastructure by engaging local utilities at the start of the process. Here Calgary has experience to share and Pierre Zivec from Transdev was one of the speakers sharing Calgary pearls of transportation wisdom: “It’s not about switching from combustible engines to electric ones. It’s about how-to re-design your networks and services,” he noted.

The lessons of the Canadian R&D appear to be filtering down into the community consciousness, with CUTA research showing that transit ridership across Canada was up 2.4% in 2018. That translates to 50 million more linked trips than in 2017.

The Young Leaders Summit demonstrated the sector has no shortage of talent, ideas and creativity.

Marco D’Angelo, CUTA President & CEO, pointed out that Calgary is also bringing together a lot of the best practices from other cities across North America and about to launch a fourth line of their Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). “There is a brand new CNG garage; the 17th Avenue Southwest Transitway is being built; there is a pilot programme for Lime and Bird; and, of course, the biggest project, the Green Line Light Rail Transit (LRT),” D’Angelo added. Calgary is working to reduce the commute times of citizens any way it can and it is also increasing passenger capacity at the same time through investments that had been made at the provincial level.


Coming to Calgary

The future pipeline of international conferences lined up for Calgary in the transportation and logistics sector includes the Open Source Geospatial Foundation – FOSS4G 2020, August 2022. A thousand delegates are expected for a conference that will demonstrate just why Calgary is a leader in autonomous systems. In fact, 2,300 companies in the autonomous systems cluster call Calgary home, while the wider province of Alberta is home to 25% of Canada’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), geospatial and navigation companies, most of which are based in the Calgary region. Anchor firms such as Lockheed Martin, Novatel and Raytheon, and emerging companies including Aerium Analytics, Veerum and Microhard have operations in Calgary.

Calgary also boasts a labour force of 17,200 people in this cluster and its workforce for surveying and mapping is three times the concentration compared to the rest of the country.

Calgary also has a high concentration of talent doing custom software development and the highest concentration of engineers per capita of any Canadian city.

World-class research and low set up costs

Meeting planners bringing their conferences to Calgary can access world-class research and development institutions, including the University of Calgary, which offers research and training programmes in geospatial science and engineering, integration with autonomous mobile systems (vehicles, drones and robots) and related technology for autonomous systems (sensors, sensor fusion, software). Research productivity and international collaborations in geomatics are the highest of any institution in Canada.

Other prominent centres include SAIT, which provides a curriculum including communication, navigation, mapping and data collection, while The Centre for Innovation and Research in Unmanned Systems (CIRUS) leads industry-partnered applied research in unmanned systems.

And entrepreneurs looking to move their technology from proof of concept to manufactured product can partner with the Alberta Centre for Advanced MNT Products (ACAMP), a specialist industry-led product development centre.

The TECTERRA geomatics technology centre is another expert hub and has supported over 100 Alberta-based SMEs and generated CAD$200m in economic impact to date.

The low cost of doing business was highlighted by a recent study conducted by EY, which placed Calgary at the top of the least expensive cities to establish and operate a drone or communication and navigation equipment manufacturing facility. Low tax and utility rates are key to this, and it is estimated to be 70% cheaper to do business in these areas than in Silicon Valley.

Calgary is also the first major city in North America to allow mass testing of commercial drones and recent regulation also allows for the testing of autonomous systems technologies on city owned land.

Lockheed Martin, in partnership with SAIT and NASA, ACAMP and Takemetuit, is one company already testing technologies in the city.

Calgary also shares close proximity to Canada’s largest Beyond Visual Line of Sight (BVLOS) testing site, the Foremost Centre for Unmanned Systems, and the Canadian Armed Force’s largest military research centre.

Winter Road Congress

Another big congress booked in to Calgary is the World Road Association’s International Winter Road Congress, scheduled for February 2022 and expected to attract 1,500 delegates.

Due to Calgary’s location in the foothills of the Canadian Rocky Mountains and the chinook winds that come with it, Calgary’s winter is in a constant warm/freeze cycle which produces unique challenges for road maintenance. Such challenges also breed innovative solutions.

For further information on Calgary’s transportation and logistics industry, visit: https://www.calgaryeconomicdevelopment.com/industries/focus-areas/aerospace/

YYC Calgary International Airport

Another key element of Calgary’s convention attraction is its YYC Calgary International Airport – gateway for Canada’s prairie region. YYC has invested significantly in air cargo and logistics infrastructure and facilities and is ideally located at the crossroads of significant north-south and east-west intermodal transportation infrastructure. The Global Logistics Park at YYC is an enormous trade development site which occupies 330 acres of land comprising; a business centre for cargo handling, general aviation, operational support services, and distribution and logistics commercial activity.

The aerodrome – Alberta’s busiest and Canada’s fourth busiest – is also home to WestJet’s home office and the airline’s largest hub.

YYC has over 80 daily non-stop flights and connections to over 140 destinations – that includes both passenger and cargo flights.



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