Driving in Calgary: Rush Hour, Traffic Tips & Public Transit Options

What to Know About Driving in Calgary

Calgary’s diverse road networks, changing weather conditions, and heavy traffic flow require drivers to be alert, confident, and well-prepared. Whether you’re new behind the wheel or a seasoned driver, a long-time resident or moving to Calgary, knowing the ins and outs of driving in the city can help you navigate the city's roads seamlessly.

From Stoney Trail and Highway 1 to the city’s vast pathway and bikeway system, let’s explore some of the key things you need to know to drive safely and comfortably in Calgary.

Calgary Rush Hour

During rush hour in Calgary, traffic congestion peaks between 7:00–9:00 a.m. and 4:00–6:00 p.m., causing significant delays on major roadways and public transportation routes. During these times, students are heading to and from school and workers are commuting to and from their jobs in Calgary, and congestion can make it challenging to reach their destinations on time. Major roads like Deerfoot Trail, Crowchild Trail, and Glenmore Trail are particularly prone to heavy traffic during these peak hours.

It's helpful to know public transportation options like the C-Train and bus services to avoid traffic as much as possible. However, these routes may also experience higher volumes of passengers during rush hour. To minimize the impact of rush hour congestion, consider planning your travel outside these peak times. By adjusting your schedule to avoid the busiest hours, you can minimize delays, reach your destination more efficiently, and experience a smoother commute.

Major Roads & Highways in Calgary

Calgary has several major roads and highways crucial for efficient transportation around the city. These include Stoney Trail, Deerfoot Trail, Glenmore Trail, and Crowchild Trail. These highways serve as vital connections within the city and to surrounding areas. Understanding their layout can significantly help in navigating the city efficiently. Each highway caters to different parts of the city and may be more suitable for specific destinations, so it’s essential to familiarize yourself with their routes to streamline your travels.

Stoney Trail (Highway 201) encircles the city, providing a convenient way to bypass the core when travelling long distances. Deerfoot Trail, a segment of Highway 2, is Calgary's primary north-south route and experiences heavy traffic during peak hours. Beyond Calgary, Deerfoot Trail runs north and turns into the Queen Elizabeth II Highway before hitting the Airdrie area; to the south, it joins with the Macleod Trail near the De Winton community before heading to Okotoks

Glenmore Trail (Highway 8) runs east-west through South Calgary, providing access to key areas like the downtown core and Chinook Centre. Crowchild Trail links the north and south sides of the city, making it a crucial artery for commuters.

Calgary Public Transit

When navigating Calgary's public transit system, you'll encounter two train lines—the Red Line and the Blue Line—as well as a range of buses. It's worth familiarizing yourself with Calgary's fare-free zones, too, which can help you get around the city more efficiently during your commute.

Red Line

The Red Line is a convenient and efficient mode of public transportation in Calgary, whether you are heading to work, exploring the city, or enjoying leisure activities. One end of the line is in Northwest Calgary, and it runs through downtown and into South Calgary

Along the Red Line, designated interchanges allow passengers to transfer seamlessly to other C-Train lines or bus routes. Notably, the line features a free fare zone in Downtown Calgary, enabling passengers to travel within this area without cost. It also operates on a dedicated light rail track, providing a reliable route for commuters. As it passes through Downtown Calgary, you can easily access some of the city’s best attractions and amenities.

Blue Line

Traversing Calgary's urban landscape becomes effortless when you board the Blue Line. This route, part of the C-Train system, connects West Calgary with the city’s Northeast quadrant.

The Blue Line provides a convenient and cost-effective mode of transportation, with frequent service and stops at key locations along its efficient route. If you're travelling within the downtown core, you'll benefit from the free fare zone, making it accessible for your central area journeys.

Calgary Buses

Calgary Transit’s bus fleet provides convenient and accessible public transportation throughout the city. With over 160 routes, it's easy to navigate Calgary for a fare of $3.50 per adult ride, which includes transfers.

If cycling is your preferred mode of transportation, you can easily combine biking with public transit, as buses have bike racks. You can stay up-to-date with bus schedules online or through the Calgary Transit App, which provides real-time updates on arrivals and departures.

Calgary Transit buses ensure accessibility for all passengers, including those with disabilities. Whether heading to work, exploring the city, or running errands, Calgary buses provide a reliable and efficient way to get around.

What Are Calgary Fare-Free Zones?

Major Roads in Calgary, AB

Calgary Transit provides Fare-Free Zones for public transportation in the downtown area, enabling passengers to ride the C-Train for free within specific boundaries. These zones cover the area from 3rd Street East to 11th Street West and from the Bow River to 9th Avenue South.

The primary objective of these zones is to encourage the use of public transportation, reduce traffic congestion, and promote sustainable transportation options in Calgary. Passengers can easily explore City Centre Calgary by taking advantage of Calgary’s Fare-Free Zones.

Taxis & Rideshare in Calgary

Taxis and rideshare services in Calgary offer convenient transportation options for travellers looking to navigate the city efficiently. Associated Cabs hold exclusive pick-up rights from Calgary International Airport (YYC), with additional airport transportation surcharges. Uber operates in Calgary under specific regulations, providing another convenient way to get around. Various taxi companies are available for airport transport, but travellers should be aware that additional airport taxes may apply.

When travelling from YYC, it's important to note that paid transport services incur extra charges, so it's advisable to budget for these additional costs. Despite the fees, taxis and ride-sharing services remain popular among locals and tourists due to their accessibility and convenience. Whether heading to your hotel from the airport or exploring the city's attractions, these transportation options can help you reach your destination comfortably.

Parking in Calgary

Finding parking in Downtown Calgary can be convenient and cost-effective for both visitors and locals. Although most of the parking options in the area are paid, the rates are lower during evenings and weekends. If you're looking for free parking, street parking is available after 6:00 p.m., on Sundays, and on holidays, giving you an opportunity to save some money and lower your cost of living in Calgary. Park Plus machines in Calgary accept credit cards for parking payments, making transactions quick and hassle-free.

For RV travellers, valuable tips and RV-friendly routes are available to facilitate parking in Calgary. However, it's important to be mindful of the parking regulations in downtown areas to avoid fines. Understanding and following the parking rules will ensure a smooth parking experience without any penalties.

Scooters & Biking in Calgary

Is Biking Easy in Calgary?

Calgary has a vast network of approximately 900 kilometres of pathways and bikeways, ideal for exploring on scooters and bikes. This offers a fun and eco-friendly way to navigate the city's bike-friendly paths and lanes while ensuring a smooth and safe ride. To promote responsible biking practices, major thoroughfares feature designated bike lanes, and it's important to note that biking on sidewalks is prohibited in Calgary. 

For those who don't own a bike, rentals are available at an average cost of $40 per day. The Lime bike-sharing system also provides a convenient and cost-effective alternative, with rentals starting at just $1.

Is Calgary Walkable?

Exploring Calgary on foot is feasible, particularly within the downtown core. The area has a pedestrian-friendly design with clear wayfinding signage and an elevated walkway system called Plus 15, which makes it easy to navigate. Plus 15’s indoor walkway system is especially convenient in the winter, shielding you from the elements.

While most of Calgary’s best neighbourhoods are walkable, the city covers a large area, so walkability between certain neighbourhoods and quadrants can be low. However, it's worth noting that while C urban sprawl makes walking outside the downtown core more challenging. Alternative modes of transportation, such as cycling or public transit, may be necessary to explore the city's outskirts. Despite this, many key locations in Calgary are within walking distance of each other in the downtown area, making it convenient for both visitors and residents to get around on foot.

What Is the Plus 15 Skywalk?

The Plus 15 Skywalk is an indoor pedestrian system spanning over 18 kilometres and linking more than 100 buildings in the heart of the city. It connects major shopping centres to office buildings, hotels, and more. The walkways are elevated 15 feet above the street, hence their name, providing pedestrians with a unique vantage point as they travel from Point A to B.

The Plus 15 Skywalk offers a sheltered passage, shielding individuals from the rain and snow. This is particularly beneficial during Calgary's cold winters. Whether heading to work, exploring the city, or running errands, the Plus 15 Skywalk offers a practical solution for getting around comfortably.

Easy Driving in Calgary: Insider Tips

Now that you’re more familiar with Calgary’s walkability and the Plus 15 Skywalk, it’s worth noting that driving in the city can also be manageable if you plan ahead. Remember that rush hour traffic can be heavy, so it’s best to avoid driving during those times whenever possible. Additionally, Calgary has a one-way street system in the downtown core, so pay attention to signs and plan your route accordingly. With a bit of preparation, driving in Calgary can be a convenient way to explore the city’s many world-class attractions, parks, and trails.

Are you ready to move to Calgary? Call Justin Havre with eXp Realty at (403) 217-0003 to talk with a local real estate agent who can help you find your dream Calgary home.

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