Complete Streets for Canada

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Complete Streets Guide, Calgary, Alberta

Photo Credit: 
City of Calgary

In April 2012, the Toronto Centre for Active Transportation (TCAT), a project of Clean Air Partnership, released the Complete Streets Gap Analysis: Opportunities and Barriers in Ontario. The report included case studies on three Canadian municipalities that have made progress towards adopting Complete Streets: Thunder Bay, Waterloo, and Calgary. These case studies highlight that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to achieving Complete Streets, rather a variety of different strategies may work depending on community context. This research was made possible with funding from the Ontario Trillium Foundation.


Geography and Government: 

The City of Calgary is an Urban Municipality. The Calgary Census Metropolitan Area (CMA) was the fastest growing CMA in Canada between 2006 and 2011 (12.6%). There are 5007 km of maintained municipal roads in the City of Calgary (Municipal Affairs, 2012). In 2007, City Council directed that an integrated land use and transportation plan be created. The outcomes of Plan It Calgary were the integrated Municipal Development Plan (MDP) and the Calgary Transportation Plan (CTP). These Plans articulate a long-term vision for sustainable growth, development and transportation in Calgary over the next 60 years (City of Calgary, 2012).

Transportation Policy Context: 

Calgary has achieved many milestones en route to making Complete Streets part of the City’s planning and engineering culture. Specifically, Calgary’s approach has focused on Complete Streets design guidance first, followed by implementation, to set the framework necessary to guide future on-the-ground change. In 2005, Calgary began the Plan-It-Calgary process designed to gather detailed qualitative and quantitative information to inform the development of high-level policy documents. During this process, Complete Streets were identified as a key policy direction and were subsequently integrated into the Calgary Transportation Plan and the Municipal Development Plan, both officially adopted by Council in September 2009. Together these plans won the Award of Merit at the 2011 Alberta Professional Planners Institute (APPI) Conference for their bold and progressive language.

Since then, Calgary has focused on developing detailed design guidance to create consensus around how to actually implement Complete Streets on-the-ground. The City completed its first Interim Complete Streets Guide in 2010 to facilitate the planning, design, and construction of Complete Streets on new and existing streets. The City released its second Interim Guide in February and published its final Complete Streets Policy (TP021) and Guide in 2014.  

To facilitate this process, the City appointed a Complete Streets Project Lead in the Transportation Planning Department to coordinate the development of the Guides and ensure that the City’s established Complete Streets vision moved towards implementation.

Barriers to Complete Streets: 

Despite an impressive engagement process, Calgary faced some barriers with Complete Streets. For example, developers were concerned about the potentially higher costs associated with Complete Streets, which the City proposed to fund through the renegotiation of their Oversized Levy Agreement with the Urban Development Industry. On the other hand, some developers requested to build Complete Streets into their projects, even before the guidelines with the design and approval process were completed and approved. 

Other barriers involved updating bylaws, revising policy documents, and creating new guidelines to align with the goals of the Complete Streets Guidelines. Several municipal and provincial bylaws created barriers for incorporating Complete Streets features into designs (e.g., cycle tracks) and needed to be revised. Secondly, Calgary’s Environmental Capacity Guideline Policy and the Residential Streets Policy required Complete Streets supportive updates to ensure uniform implementation. 

Opportunities and What's Next?: 

As part of its transportation planning milestones, Calgary has established a comprehensive cycling strategy that includes a list of indicators that they are working to achieve by 2020, such as increasing on-street bikeways from 355 km to 600 km, and increasing the percentage of female cyclists from 21 to 40 percent (City of Calgary, 2011).   Annual reports track progress towards these goals.  A number of pilot projects have been undertaken, including establishing cycle tracks on three downtown streets.

Calgary has encouraged consensus on City’s development practices through an extensive and participatory envisioning process (e.g., Plan-It-Calgary and Imagine Calgary). This has helped foster an approach where all stakeholders (e.g., planners, engineers, members of the public) are included up-front in the beginning of a new project. The City of Calgary must maintain this standard of participation in the planning process to help avoid future roadblocks to Complete Streets projects.

Involving planners, engineers, designers, and the development industry in the process has helped Calgary gain more universal support for Complete Streets. Listening to concerns, discussing solutions to these concerns, and using this experience to produce guidelines will allow for more seamless progress in the future.



Statistics Canada (2012). Calgary, Alberta (Code 4806016) and Division No. 6, Alberta (Code 4806) (table). Census Profile. 2011 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-XWE. Ottawa. Released May 29, 2012.
(accessed August 22, 2012).

The City of Calgary (2011). “2011 Cycling Strategy”. The City of Calgary.  (accessed May 12, 2016).


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