Living and moving customers in a winter city like Calgary means always being prepared for any eventuality. Given the city’s close proximity to the Rocky Mountains, Calgary experiences significant temperature swings in the form of “Chinooks” which can moderate temperatures as much as 30 degrees within a couple of hours. On Calgary’s light rail transit, called the CTrain, light rail vehicles are well designed for cold conditions. It is not unusual for the city to experience freak weather at any time of year. Calgary Transit has a severe weather program that kicks into action and weather forecasts are closely monitored 12 months a year.
Most trains are stored indoors but some are stored outside because of indoor storage space constraints. For trains that are stored outside, the pantograph is connected which allows Calgary Transit to run auxiliary heaters for the interior.
Also, the power allows the traction container and other vital electronics to be under current. This generates enough warmth to facilitate the needed functionality of the components. For the most part, the mechanical components have to brave the cold, hence in severe conditions the startup is sluggish until these components warm up.
In severe cold and heavy snow conditions, a train bulletin is issued to drivers to reduce maximum speed from 80 to 60 km/hr. This allows for more reaction time for the motormen when visibility is limited. The track system has a series of gas-fired heaters that melt the snow in interlocking areas to facilitate switching operations on the right of way.
On the downtown 7th Avenue transit corridor, switches are equipped with electric heaters. From time-to-time, all switches may not be able to handle severe winds and cold. These switches must be scraped and kept free from ice and snow manually until the weather subsides. The open track areas of the system are plowed with various speedswing attachments that plow snow that falls and drifts into the system. This is accomplished at night when track time becomes available. Graders are also brought in to clear snow on 7th Avenue when required. During heavy snows a great deal of labor is required to clear pedestrian crossing areas and to dig out non-heated, non-vital switches on the system.
Both bus and CTrain operators are trained to operate in ever-changing winter conditions. The City of Calgary’s Roads Department removes snow from streets on a priority basis with transit routes receiving top priority.
During cold weather, customers receive updates via the Calgary Transit Web site, the automated teleride system that can be called by customers for the latest information and the customer service call center.
The weather can create some significant challenges, but Calgary Transit is up to the task! In almost 100 years of providing top quality customer service to Calgarians, Calgary Transit has never shut down operations due to weather.
While winter weather conditions in Duluth, Minn., may qualify as unique on a national scale, on a local basis anything less than a 12-inch snowfall or an overnight temperature higher than 10 below zero, sometimes hitting 30 below, is considered a normal winter occurrence. However, these conditions prevail from November through May, and the accumulation of the ice and snow coupled with the steep hills of the lakeside service area, do present challenges.